Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
The black-sheep prophecy has been fulfilled, and you have reason to fear. “There’s something off about (Danny),” Diana says. “You don’t see him clearly.” That’s John’s problem, and maybe it has been ours, too. Maybe we’ve given him too much credit. Written by Arthur Phillips, “Part 8” shows a Danny who’s lost in the depths of his decadence. When he stares down Diana in her living room, there’s a look in his eyes that would have you believe he’s a stranger. The way Danny barges into John’s home, wakes up his family, and throws his drunk brother under the bus is almost sociopathic.
I was floored by some of the darker moments in this episode (directed by Dan Attias), mostly because Danny seems like he’s reached the point of no return. Mendelsohn’s behind-the-beat lines and drawn-out scenes this episode reinforced that uncomfortable notion — that some insidious plant is blossoming inside him. We can see that forcing his way back into the will is probably the lowest goal on Danny’s to-do list of depravity. He keeps saying he wants to claim what’s his, but what does that mean for him? When John tells Danny at the bar that he stood up for him and asked that he be given a cut of their father’s estate, Danny says, “And that makes everything else okay?” It’s a mike-drop that’s as cryptic as it is malicious. What began as such a malleable, three-dimensional character has now become a singular vehicle ripping down the highway toward vengeance.
Can you blame Danny? Two episodes ago, Danny truly did seem like the ultimate victim of his family and their almost perverse obsession to please and protect their father at all costs. But his behavior feels extreme now. The nonchalance with which Danny acknowledges he was the one who made the call on Kevin’s robbery is unsettling. And then at the family meeting, when he eggs his brother on by saying the attack definitely seemed personal? Cringe-worthy. Danny feels like a pin getting shoved underneath your fingernail. You can feel this discomfort through Meg and her client (Carlos), the most obvious of his pawns. You can hear the unabashed malevolence in his voice when he tells John he could’ve fucked his wife. Maybe you also thought it was gut-wrenching to see Danny feign interest in the family business by overhauling the menu and testing out new vendors — only to find out that it’s so he can set up his drug-trafficking operation. Danny has wrested control from his mother, sister, and two brothers, and set everybody on that course to imminent despair we’ve seen so many times in the flash-forwards.
If this show began as a Rubik’s Cube, with the chunks of its different-colored yarns scattered about, Phillips & Co. have deftly begun twisting and turning everything into place. What I loved most about this episode were the mini-revelations that Meg’s client was connected to the bad guys who are now directly connected to Danny. Classic small-town happenstance, ya know? Those same bad guys are the villains our white knight John is after. Everybody’s eventually going to bump into each other, and it’ll be less a bump and more a nuclear reaction.
Diana’s right: John has become blinded by his desires to naïvely forget the past and hope that the future will be okay. If we were to measure everybody’s blindness on a sliding scale, though, John would have to be in the middle. Meg has become well aware of the threats her brother possesses. Kevin’s, on the other end of the spectrum, is still oblivious. The ending of “Part 7” came out of nowhere and felt too cruel to be real. It showed, however, that Danny’s done feeling threatened by his family members; he’s ready to be the threat. His role has reversed in all his relationships — with Eric too. No longer is he waiting to be acted upon, Danny’s on the move, Danny’s got something on everybody. He’s got the story that a wasted, stressed-out John took some PYT’s phone number at a bar, he’s got the truth behind Kevin’s robbery, he’s got Meg’s blackmail from episode three, and he’s got his mother’s blind consent to use sketchy vendors. It’s terrifying how you can see the manipulation slowly working its way to an eventual ultimatum that could have Danny siphoning his family for all they’ve got. The ultimate revenge for decades of lies and abandonment? It all almost seems too drastic for Danny, but it’s not like this show hasn’t surprised us.
For “Part 7,” I wrote that maybe Danny had changed or that he truly had wanted to come home and make things right with everyone. Now I’m less sure that was ever the case. We still don’t know where Danny’s sending all this money to, and why he needs it so quickly. He seemed most alarmed and galvanized into action when Eric told him they had no more illicit work to do. Compare that to his subdued reaction to the fact he was officially cut out of the will and it’s clear there are still a couple of missing pieces we’ll need to fully understand who Danny is and what he wants.
Like a bucket of ice-cold water, this episode was a cruel rousing from whatever hypnotic spell Danny had us under. If you thought you knew him, this seemed to say you didn’t. The ancillary characters in this show are helpless witnesses to all this drama, much like we are, as viewers. When Danny slurs to his niece, “Good night, Janey. Sleep tight, Janey,” she — maybe like us — leaves the scene knowing that’s hardly possible. Not with this shade of Danny around.
- The flash-forwards are back, but they’re more engaging than frustrating because the present and the future in this show are almost one. BLESSED.
- When I say stranger, I mean Albert Camus L’Étranger, stranger. This is the kind of realm we’re in now.
- Danny’s darkest scenes here all felt like the drug-induced paranoia hallucination from a couple of episodes ago, #unreal.
- Holy shit, Meg and Marco are getting married. What impeccable timing, guys!
- The thought that John could now uncover a drug ring operating through his family’s business is too ironic. He would spontaneously combust on the spot. I would, too, probably.
- The scenes with Danny and John alone together are so eerie, but so good. These actors are incredibly fun to watch. More of these one-on-one scenes, please.
- Unbelievable that Mama Ray didn’t wash Kevin’s mouth out with soap when he yelled “mother fuck!” in front of her. She is a saint.
- RIP to Kevin’s business as well as his sanity.