“You know who I wish would write a book? Your dad”. It’s a line uttered by Irene in the first episode that echoes in my head louder with each passing episode. As fascinating as I find the series and getting to know each of the children, it’s clear that Hugh has the most insight to what unfolded inside of Hill House and I’m dying to know what he knows. With the opening scene of “Eulogy” taking place in a interrogation room, one might believe it’s finally time for us to hear that story but where would the suspense be if they just laid it all out like that?
What we do get in the police station is the sheriff doing his best good cop sans bad cop routine laying out what we already know. At some point in the night, Hugh Crain took his five kids, dropped them off at a motel, went home for several hours before returning back to the hotel. Well almost everything we already know. There’s the mention of a second corpse being found in the house and my ears perk up like an excited dog that’s just heard the word “treat”. Sheriff Beckley cleverly appeals to Hugh’s knack for fixing things and comes across like he just really wants to help Hugh clean up this huge mess. Before we can find out if this tactic works the sheriff insists on going to get Hugh some cream and sugar for his coffee but reminds him he’s free to leave. The visual representation of the officer of the law blocking the open door to freedom says otherwise.
Cut to present day and we see Hugh talking to himself, or more like someone we can’t see based on the phrasing, about what he should wear to the funeral. When he gets to Shirley’s, his granddaughter sits in disbelief he’s actually their grandfather. It’s a pitiable question that conveys that not only is he not around, these kids probably don’t ever hear anything about him. Before he can come up with an explanation as to why they’ve never met, Kevin walks in wanting to talk. Shirley has no time for it because she wants to fix something, in this case the flowers for the service. I must have been desperate for a chuckle because his quick resignation to go help her instead of taking a shower actually amused me. Hugh tries to get Shirley to open up but she treats him as visitor whose arrived to early to the service and tells him to go lecture Theo. It’s then we see what we already guessed, that Hugh’s conversations are taking place with Olivia.
Rather than go straight to Theo’s we travel to the past and through the house the day after the storm to assess the damage. Hugh’s still very capable of lying to himself to explain the phenomena happening at Hill House, reaching for scientific explanations that don’t really back up what he’s trying to sell. Steve points out that the walls are squishy so Hugh and Mr. Dudley begin to go room by room marking Xs over all the ones that are going to need to be replaced. He’s still convinced he’s going to fix it despite every wall tested getting all 3 floors down getting an X. Olivia’s mentioned before that houses are like living beings, but Hill House is revealing itself to be a rotting corpse. Hugh makes a hole in the wall of the basement and takes a snapshot. As soon as its opened, we all hear the sound of scraping and even without seeing inside, I know Mr. Dudley is wrong about it being rats. The photograph shows what appear to be a man, and if you look long enough he even looks like he’s wearing a bowler hat. Hugh’s too distracted though by what he thinks it the sounds of rats gnawing through his family’s money. Out loud he worries that the house could ruin them and it’s depressing to know how thoroughly right he is.
Modern Hugh goes to join Theo over in the dog house, oops, I mean guest house. He fumbles his words in trying to suss out what is worrying her, insulting her without meaning to. But in a surprising turn of events, Theo apologizes for not making more of an effort to sustain their relationship. I guess it’s not so shocking when you consider that Theo’s gift is essentially a very heightened form of empathy, plus she’s a shrink. Understanding people is a fundamental part of who she is. Another thing working in Hugh’s favor is that his daughter has been spending her morning regretting the actions the night of the wake. I probably should have mentioned it in yesterday’s recap that Shirley walked in on what looked like Theo trying to make out with her husband. It just kind of seemed inconsequential at the time because of the weight of everything else but it’s clear that those actions have a substantial impact for all involved.
A brief flashback to the past shows Olivia and Hugh working together to find out what the root of the problem is in the house. It reinforces the two as a team in all their matters in life. That teamwork is still going strong in the present as she reassures him that they were solid role models for their children. He goes to speak to Steve’s estranged wife, Leigh, once again trying to assess damage but she’s not really open to discussing anything.
Hugh then goes to talk to Luke, trying to congratulate him on his sobriety, but Olivia astutely points out that Luke doesn’t want to make today about him. Theo comes to join them and there’s some brief bonding over hangover cures before Theo’s Club Lady (seriously, what is this lady’s name) walks into the parlor. It’s a sweet gesture that she showed up after finding the obituary but Theo clearly doesn’t want her there and I can’t blame her for that either. At the time my brother died, the guy I was seeing at the time didn’t come to his funeral and all of our friends tried giving him shit for that. I quickly told them to pipe down because I didn’t want him there either. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want him to see me at my lowest (although that played a part) but that I wanted someone in my life who was completely removed from that entire situation who I could go to for a distraction from all the pain and I suspect Theo needs the same thing.
Hugh doesn’t need an explanation on who Club Lady is as he reveals Olivia had figured out Theo was gay back when she was 8 years old. Before he can’t share more we finally get an introduction to Aunt Lydia. She’s been seen in the background before at Nell’s wedding, but this is the first we’re getting confirmation it’s her. I expected her to be cold to Hugh since afterall, another they both loved is dead, but she expresses nothing but sympathy.
The funeral starts off with Shirley reading the poem by James Whitcomb Riley “She Is Just Away”. I wanted to be annoyed that Shirl does something so cliche but the poem itself is completely apt and I find my eyes are getting a bit misty. It’s also incredibly difficult to begrudge her going with the words of someone else when just getting up to talk is a feat of strength I wouldn’t be able to manage.
Luke’s turn at the dias is much more personal and even charming. We learn that Nell really was the baby in the family by a mere 90 seconds. Despite letting Luke have his way their whole life when he argues he’s the big brother, she was always someone he looked up to like a big sister. We cut to see Hugh looking down as if he’s about to cry, perhaps from his son’s words or perhaps from the image in his hands of Nell’s wedding portrait.
Instead of sticking with the funeral, the show goes back once more in time to Hugh and Mr. Dudley working on the basement. After glimpsing over the newest blueprints from Olivia that have bizarres patterns drawn all over it, we finally get to hear more than 5 words come out of Mr. Dudley’s mouth. Up to this point the Dudleys have been tight lipped about why they don’t go into the house alone…in the night….in the dark. He worries it’s not his place to say anything but he needs to tell his story. Robert Longstreet has one of those voices just perfect to capture and hold your attention, a gravitas if you will, and by hearing so little from him up to this point, when he finally opens up you are captivated. First he speaks of how the house affected his mother, describing something like the fugue state we’ve seen from Olivia, although he calls it scattered. She also carries on conversations with people unseen. Mrs. Dudley’s experience was quite different and much more horrifying. Pregnant with their first child, she worked day and night right up to her delivery which took place in the house. Sadly though that child was a stillborn and while he doesn’t lay blame on Hazel or Hill House, its symbolic to the idea that life doesn’t flourish inside those walls.
Clara (Mrs. Dudley) didn’t take time off to grieve her child. She threw herself back into work but then the house started taking its toll on her as well. It all came to a head on one night while cleaning upstairs she heard a baby crying. No matter what room she went the noise followed her so she ran home and told her husband. A skeptical Mr. Dudley returned to the home and he too heard it and knew it to be the sound of his stillborn daughter who never got her chance to be heard. Now we know that the opening sound of the series was actually that of the first Dudley child and not that of Nell. After this disturbing event the no Hill House at night rule got enacted. By virtue of spending less time in the home, Clara was able to get better and stronger, so that’s why Mr. Dudley advises to get Olivia out for a while. He’s even careful to make sure Hugh knows that its the house she needs a break from, not him or the family.
Before we can find out if Hugh took his advice to heart, we’re back to the funeral or at least in a parking lot on the way to the cemetery. Shirley refuses to get in the limo with Theo and Steve fails in trying to point out how ridiculous she is being. Lucky for Shirl, her dad opted to not go in the limo either. It’s possible he’s trying to give Steve a wide berth, but I’d prefer to think he anticipated what she would do and saw an opportunity to be helpful. In the car, over the objections of Ghost Olivia, Hugh does a shoddy job trying to convince his daughter to mend fences with her family. As Olivia says he “put his hand right into the fan” and the next cut to the past promises to show its not the first time.
In the basement we see Hugh has started work on trying to treat the black mold. Loose tarps drape over the walls with fans blowing them out, begging us to try to get a glimpse of whatever might jump out from behind them. Hugh is also curious about what lies behind the flapping curtains, but instead of seeing a ghost jump out what we see is a better look at the mold man who is more clearly defined with the wall exposed. He so drawn into to what he’s looking at that he doesn’t even double check to make sure Steve has unplugged the fan he needs to work on. Instead he stick his hand right in the fan. Its an injuring we had clues do in several of the flashbacks seeing him with a dirty bandage encasing his hand. I actually got squeamish and looked away as the camera closes in on the gash that surely needs some stitches if it’s ever going to heal. But Hugh doesn’t run to the ER (he likely can’t afford to), he goes to take his frustration out on the Red Door they’ve been unable to open I was wondering what it was going to take for the Crains to finally break down this door, but as it turns out, no amount of beating on it, fiddling with its screws, or trying to pry it open with a crowbar is going to help him gain entry.
If there was a graveside service for Nell, we’ve been spare that as we return to the moment the Crains go to throw earth on Nell’s casket before she is lowered to the ground. Hugh grumbles when Aunt Lydia sobs and refers to her as her little girl, but Olivia’s quick to remind him that she did raise her. Luke kneels down to apologize and toss his handful of dirt when he is halted by a vision of Bent Neck Nell telling him don’t. Before he can respond to what she is saying, he’s pulled down by the hand of his decaying mother. It’s a bizarre bid to try to get Luke to come home because it’s not exactly an inviting look. Luke struggles against his mom’s pull and Steve rushes to his aid. Despite this very public showing, Steve insists that he didn’t see a thing and that Luke is just succumbing to his family’s curse of insanity.
One of the things I really got from this episode is that Hugh is pretty damn good at being a patient man or at least trying to be. He almost always catches his profanity, he’s not quick to lose his temper or quit. No scene is better evident of this kind of patience than when he wakes up to his wife straddling him and holding a screwdriver to his throat. In a demeanor far calmer than most people would be, he wakes his wife and takes the makeshift weapon out of her hand. Olivia is so confused as to what is going on, hell, she doesn’t even bother to get off of him while protesting that nothing is wrong. He’s no longer able to ignore this wife’s declining mental stability and takes her to see the blueprint she handed to him earlier in the day. He’s figured out that she’s taken the footprint to their forever home and drawn it over and over again into the design of Hill House. It’s a foretelling that their dream of forever is going to have to fit the confines of their current estate, but it’s still too early for them to understand that.
Even confronted with proof of what she is doing, she can’t reconcile that these are her actions. Hugh suggests she take some time away. She starts to come around to the idea of visiting her sister but she’s afraid to leave her family and more afraid that she’s losing her mind. My chest tightens when she bursts out with “it just snuck up on me” but that tightness goes from sadness to worry when she very quickly regains her composure, tucks her hair behind her ears and says “I’ll sort it out”. I’m nervous because in that fast of a moment, I think we see someone that’s not Olivia taking helm of her body. We’ve already seen the house give Hugh two very strong warning not to mess with it. Slicing his hand opened didn’t do the trick so it used Olivia to show him that he’s a whole lot easier to open up. I’d be relieved he was finally heeding the warnings if I didn’t already know it’s too late.
In the most disheartening moment of the hour, a present day Hugh looks around the room of the funeral parlor at his children and Olivia tells him that he doesn’t have to see his family again for years if he doesn’t want to. And that is how life works. If you don’t put in the effort to make time for one another, odds are that the next time you convene as a family it will be to put one of them in the ground.
We find out moments later as Hugh talks to Luke that the Olivia he is speaking to isn’t a ghost that haunts him but a coping mechanism that he’s clung to for the past 26 years. I guess at this point I’ll start referring to her as Internal Monologue Olivia. He brings her up to try to reassure Luke that his episode in the cemetery is perfectly normal and before he can finish his thought, Luke throws back those words for many moons ago about big boys knowing the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. It’s enough to stop him from doling out more advice but he does tell his son one last time how proud he is. Luke walks off and Hugh looks down to see an open purse sitting on a chair and it reveals that this wasn’t a moment of a father trying to help his son. Hugh was talking to him to assess the damage. He must have seen Luke tempted by whatever was inside and used the proud line to discourage him from doing anything stupid.
The episode can’t end though til we get back to the basement to find out what is behind those walls. I’d been bracing myself from the minute that hole appeared in the wall to find something to reach out from behind it. There were multiple chances that Hugh stuck his face wayyyyyy too close for comfort but the show subverts that expectation and instead forces us to look inside that hole. What we see is the shriveled corpse that crawled to Luke in “The Twin Thing” and mentioned by Beckley at the top of the hour, complete with cane and what appears to be an old fashioned trowel.
We learn from the friendly sheriff that Hugh solved one of the town’s oldest cold cases: the disappearance of William Hill from 1948. Whatever William saw in that house scared him so much he literally bricked himself into his basement and the scraping noises we’ve been hearing throughout the hour is an echo of him trying to claw back out to freedom. The sheriff proves to be of a generally friendly nature when he informs Hugh he’s not required by law to disclose when selling the hell that there was a death on premises. It’s confirmation that Hill House is located in Massachusetts and that I need to go look up the laws in my state to make sure they’re required to give me a heads up.
Hugh attempts to say his goodbyes to his children who are just as ready to bid him adieu and Internal Monologue Olivia proves that Hugh knows the right things to say but he’s just unable to. Just as he’s ready to leave, Shirley goes to get her wallet to pay the caterer and discovers her wallet is missing. As if on cue, Theodora (as Shirley is now calling her in a very pissed off mom way) comes in to inform everyone that her car has been stolen. It’s amazing that no one immediately jumps to the conclusion it was Luke, but Hugh finally speaks up to say he saw Luke near the purse. Shirley stomps off in a huff and Steve goes to look for him outside, and Theo sticks around because she’s smart enough to know Luke is long gone.
Theo notices a stain on the floor leading into Shirl’s office. What looks like dirt as first glance looks more and more like the black mold as they get inside. Theo also discover’s Shirl’s model forever home has been smashed to pieces. As she goes to pick it up, an even more messed up looking Olivia doing her best impression as the girl from The Ring crawls out from behind the desk , a gash on the corner of her forehead like in Theo’s vision from “Touch”. Theo jumps back into her father’s arm, bracing for when Ring Olivia grabs her but disappears into the ether when Shirley walks in and complain about her broken model home. She demands to know the who did it.
Hugh stammers for an answer that doesn’t involve the words “your dead mom” but before he can spell that out we are right back into the interrogation room. Hugh’s had 26 years trying to perfect his lies but he’s actually gotten worse. He’s resolute when telling Beckley that his wife fell to her death and that the 3 hours he failed to call the cops was due to shock. If it weren’t for the sheriff, we’d have no more information on that night. Luckily for us he starts question why he lied and said his wife had gone to her sister’s when Lydia refutes it or why Shirley said she found her in the kitchen that evening before the dad followed her up to The Red Room. The departing shot of the hour is showing that the door has finally opened and Hugh is heading and damnit, of course it cuts to the credits because this is Netflix and now of course I’m not going to stop it from autoplaying cause I WANT ANSWERS!!!
Breaking up the episode with these flashes to the past removes the tone of solemnity that I was expecting during the funeral episode. I can’t even rightly call that a complaint as “Two Storms” had emotionally drained me. Funerals act as a symbol of closure and in this case Nell in the ground is the ending of Act II for this woeful tale of suspense. Getting back to supernatural horror actually comes as a relief at this point. As much as I have loved the deepening family drama, I’m well aware that we have only 3 episodes left and so much more that needs to be covered so I’m buckling up for what promises to be a wild ride.