Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix
We’re almost there! One more hour of insanity until the Rayburns finally get that pier dedication! (That’s more important to this family than it sounds, even considering the drama at hand.) The penultimate episode was equal parts wildly thrilling and logistically tiring. Because of the flash-forwards introduced at the beginning of the series, it felt like there were some gaps that had to be force-filled to make the present and future threads link. Even so, despite the predictable nature of these last few episodes, Danny and the havoc he wreaks continue to be the most exciting (and terrifying) aspects to consume. This guy, who reached peak crazy last episode, has devolved exponentially, and he’s picked at his morals like they’re scabs. Now he’s raw.
John and the rest of the Rayburn clan (the non-delusional ones, anyway) are still reeling from the subtle threat Danny dealt Janey. The anxiety we saw glimmers of in the first few episodes are now coursing through this show’s every scene, full force. We’ve reached the part in the horror flick where the ghost-busters have come and the protagonists are realizing they’re ineffective. Only something drastic, involving self-sacrifice, is the way to wholly vanquish this show’s demon.
It’s so easy to root for that moment in the prototypical horror film, but less so here. I felt like I was sitting on the edge of my seat not for the excitement that the Rayburns would work things out and that the antagonist would lose, but more because, as Danny points out here: Everybody’s at fault. This show has a perverse quality to it that makes hoping for karmic retribution one of its most addicting elements. Everybody here deserves some sort of comeuppance. The other difference is Danny’s not a powerful, terror-wielding demon; he’s a parasitic one. At this point, he’s fighting for his life, but his is so attached now to those around him that everybody’s recoiling out of fear. He has people after him for drugs and drug money in two different cities. His only real family, Eric, leaves town after his cage is rattled by a dark kick from reality. It seems everybody’s bound to lose in a game that could’ve been won decades ago had this family maintained a semblance of backbone and humanity.
I enjoyed watching Ben Mendelsohn’s turn as a brother who was, for all intents and purposes, a nagging ghost. All his confrontations with his siblings were a treat to watch. “Did you ever file that paperwork?” he reminds Meg, with slits for eyes and a voice devoid even of fake love. “Of course not.” Everyone seemed like they were caught with their pants down. Kevin falters when he stumbles upon his brother at the gas station. “If you hated me half as much as you hate yourself, you’d have used it,” Danny tells Kevin, when the youngest brother bravely shows Danny his gun. (Nice try, Kev.) Despite being out of the family for so long, Danny has his siblings figured out to a near sociopathic level.
When the family begins to slowly break the Danny news to Sally, she has that deer-in-the-headlights look we’ve seen so many people wear throughout the season. That one that at once says, “How could he?” and, “How could I?” “I understand you feel badly for Danny about the past,” John tells her. “But this isn’t the past — this is now. And Danny isn’t a kid anymore; he’s a grown man, and he’s dangerous.” He’s just repeating the same emotional painkiller this family has been prescribed for years. They’ve vilified their brother to the extent that they would have themselves believe there was never any other option but ripping out the tenuous sutures that bind them all together. I was as scared and heartbroken as Sally here.
John, whose golden knight hues significantly dimmed this installment, was so close (so he thought) to exiling Danny and restoring the peace the Rayburns once obliviously enjoyed. John looks like a kid whose Jenga tower has been destroyed when Danny surprises everybody at the house. “Since I used to bring the drugs through [here], now you’re all in danger,” he says, after using his fist as a gavel. The shoulder shrug at the end of this revelation is nothing short of something the Joker would do. Watching Danny’s emotions switch from calm to manic to terrified was like watching a one-man ping-pong match for 70 minutes. He snarls at his family members; they’re liars, and he’s never once felt safe in their presence. “You’ve finally lived up to your father’s expectations,” Sally yells as he leaves — the single worst thing Danny needed to hear before one last nosedive.
It was tough to watch John lie through his teeth about Danny’s assassination attempt. It was toughest to watch him drive away as Death was knocking on the motel room door. “Part 12,” unfortunately, finally showed us both Danny’s and John’s self-destruction. What Danny did to John was like sticking one’s head into the open mouth of a lion and taunting the beast. You won’t bite? “When’s it gonna end?” he yells, iterating over and over how he wanted to ensure his family’s safety. When he got no assurance, he snapped his maw on Danny’s neck and drowned him facedown by the mangroves.
The last few shots of this episode were poignant, poetic. Carl Franklin’s direction spiced up what could’ve been, plot-wise, a straightforward episode and made it feel like something much heavier. I loved the dirty, over-the-shoulder shot of John staring out at his brother’s floating body. It reminded me of what the siblings had blamed Danny for doing to their father so harshly near the beginning of this series. The tables have turned, however, and I’m unsure where justice is in all of this. Clad in their seersucker suits for the pier dedication, we know John and Danny will have one last moment. It’ll just be a lot less touching than it sounds.
-Sally’s most crushed that her son hates her. Goodness, Sally. Come. On.
-I really want to know what that toast said.
-Watching the flash-forwards in the present was not as rewarding as I thought it would be. Felt kind of obligatory.
-A few days ago Netflix announced this show would have a season two. That should change how you interpret all these events because there will be an aftermath. Ruh-roh. (E.g.: Marco’s trust in John is now nonexistent, which is very enticing given everyone’s future in the town.)
-Would’ve been nice to see Danny ninja-kill that Agent Smith wannabe.