Apple TV+’s Lisey’s Story comes to an end with an episode titled, well, “Lisey’s Story,” and yet the main question that haunts this disappointing show is how much it lived up to that double title. It felt more like Scott Landon’s story or even Jim Dooley’s. Even in the final chapter, after Lisey Landon has vanquished her foe and seems ready to write her own story, Stephen King and Pablo Larrain flash back to another chapter from young Scott’s life. Of course, they would argue that Scott’s story IS Lisey’s story — that the point is that he wouldn’t have been able to survive, much less become a famous author, without Lisey. And there’s a sense that the end of this story is only the beginning of Lisey’s, that now she will be able to live her own story. One just wishes her voice emerged organically through this eight-episode arc instead of being so filtered through that of her husband. It really is this story’s fatal flaw.
“Lisey’s Story” opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “A flower blossoms for its own joy.” Who is the flower? Lisey? It sure isn’t Jim Dooley, who has been transported to Boo’ya Moon, the creative oasis for his favorite author, Scott Landon. Jim and Lisey see the monstrous Long Boy on the horizon, and Jim looks particularly terrified. Lisey hits him in the head with her trusty shovel, and the two fight. A head butt. Another. A broken hand that Jim bites. Lisey screams and the Long Boy draws closer. As Jim head butts a shovel, the Long Boy is above them. Lisey stabs her husband’s No. 1 fan in the neck with a syringe and the Long Boy grabs Jim. First, he throws him to the ground, but he picks him up again, and Jim Dooley is basically absorbed into the mass of arms and legs as Maria Callas sings on the soundtrack. As Lisey stares on, Scott Landon’s biggest fan becomes merely part of the lumbering mass that rolls through the place that inspired, saved, and arguably destroyed her husband. Deep.
Jim Dooley is gone, but the episode has 45 minutes left. Instead of a true epilogue, it almost feels like King returns to an old chapter instead, revisiting a formative series of events in young Scott’s life. But first Lisey Landon has to dispose of a body. It turns out that Jim’s destruction in Boo’ya Moon leaves a decapitated corpse in Lisey’s pool. She reports the death of Officer Beckman, but the news story reads that Jim, his killer, is still on the loose. Dashmiel looks appropriately guilty and concerned; Beckman’s superior has a wink-wink conversation with Lisey about how Jim’s body is unlikely to be found.
Lisey Landon is alone again, hearing Scott talk about Bool Hunts in her head. Is hers not done? There’s a sound bite of Amanda saying that this is Lisey’s story. How does she end it? She sends Scott’s papers off to the University of Maine, and there’s a nice beat where a fan finally expresses empathy instead of ownership, which feels important to this story. She says, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Jim had none of that, always considering the loss his own instead of Scott’s widow’s.
Lisey senses that Scott Landon is stuck on the shores of Boo’ya Moon, one of the Shrouded Ones who can’t move on. Amanda tells her they’re dead, holding on for a while before the next phase of existence. And so Lisey marches into her pool again to end Scott’s story and really start her own. She finds a rope that leads her to a box and a note that says “Bool! The End!” There’s a notebook with pages for a book called, you guessed it, “Lisey’s Story.” As Lisey reads, we hear Scott’s voice, again digging into his own past, filling in what happened to his dad after they murdered Paul Landon.
It’s the final Landon family flashback. There wasn’t much to life after Paul’s death, leaving Scott alone with his abusive father Andrew. Scott made dad a sandwich with moldy bread and was forced to eat it. Dad is convinced that Paul is still alive and coming for him, but Scott insists that he buried him deep. Dad tells him to be brave, and that he’s not going back to work. When someone comes looking for him, he nearly gets a shotgun to the head.
As “Lisey’s Story” continues to be about Scott’s childhood, dad tells his son that one of them is going to die, sending him on a final Bool Hunt, one that includes some of Paul’s clues from previous games. Increasingly haunted, Andrew Landon is nearing his end, chewing on a shotgun as he’s haunted by his demons. He chugs a bottle of booze and passes out, leaving a note for Scott to kill him. The poor boy does exactly that, but he can’t take him to be buried with Paul. Maybe he just didn’t belong there. He uses a tractor to drag dad’s body to the well, which is an admittedly powerful image in a show that often felt a bit too light on unexpected imagery.
Scott left Lisey a hunt to save Amanda and in case “someone like Cole” came after her. Now that she knows ALL of his story, she can go on and write her own. There are no more secrets, no more dark past, nothing more to say. A nice montage of her love with Scott follows before Lisey picks up her shovel one last time. She gives it to the Long Boy, and the creature lets her pass. She goes to Scott, who is more shrouded than ever and marching into the water, ready to move on. He calls her Babyluv, and there are more flashes of their past, reminding us of the strong chemistry between Owen and Moore, who were very believable as a longtime couple. “Stories were all I had, but now I have you,” he says. “You’re every story.”
There’s a gorgeous shot on a beach with both Landons in silhouette when Scott walks off-camera, leaving his wife alone. “Lisey, I love you,” he says. And that would have been a great final image, but Larrain cuts back to Boo’ya Moon, where Scott descends into the water and disappears, traveling to whatever is next. Lisey sits and suddenly sees the Hollyhocks. Is she now trapped there like Amanda? Is she accessing a part of her memory and imagination that she couldn’t before? Trapped memories at Boo’ya Moon haven’t been great for Amanda, but the show smartly cuts to the actual memory instead of just the recreation of it on the water. Lisey closes her eyes. Cut to a running sink. Lisey turns it off. She’s home. She’s ready to write her own story.
And another image that would have been a great final one (Lisey turning off the sink to reveal she’s home) turns out not to be, as Lisey tells her sister that Scott is gone now, “but I’m not.” She says aloud that she will be okay. The lighthouse spins and turns off. Lisey goes out to eat with her sisters. They probably have a lot to talk about.
• The score by Clark was legitimately great, reworking some of the same themes through all eight episodes. When it really kicked in during the final scene as Lisey walked to her sisters, I realized how much I’ll miss it. It’s a show where the craft was often better than the writing, and that was true of the score too.
• The University of Maine employee says that Scott’s papers will have a good home at “the Fogler.” He’s referring to the Raymond H. Fogler Library in Orono, Maine. There’s probably a whole lot of Stephen King in that library.
• Who was your MVP? Honestly, the show had few standouts, but Michael Pitt made the most unexpected decisions. I’d pick him.
• Thanks so much for reading!