The penultimate episode of Lisey’s Story is basically split in two, the first half centering the story of Scott’s death and the second half centering the story of Jim’s pending demise. The lengthy flashback to the passing of one of the most famous writers in the world is an interesting narrative trick. Yes, it gives Clive Owen and Julianne Moore some emotional heft near the end of the season, but wouldn’t that have anchored the story better if it had come in, say, the second episode? Again, structure feels like the season’s biggest problem. It’s a flaw of the source material, but the fractured story line casts a different spell on the page than it does on the screen. Still, this episode is tighter than the last several thanks to fewer flashbacks within flashbacks.
Scott is at an event. He emerges from his car coughing, meaning this is probably the end. A fan gives Scott a homemade magic wand and says that the writer changed his life. Scott seems threatened at first, but he shouldn’t be. The cough is much scarier, especially when it soon becomes bloody after Scott ducks into a bathroom. Suddenly the wound from his shoulder, the one he healed after being nearly assassinated, is bleeding again. Is the healing power of Boo’ya Moon limited? Does it expire?
As someone knocks on the door, he keeps coughing, and the coughs sound bloodier. The sinks go on and the toilets flush, summoning Scott to his healing place. But before his assistant can break down the door, Scott’s in the hall, looking almost 100 percent. He goes onstage like a rock star to do a reading from his new book. First, there’s some back-and-forth with the audience, and Scott wants to talk about how a novel comes into being. Then he coughs again. Uh-oh. His wounds return more quickly than last time, he mumbles to call 911, and then he spews water everywhere before passing out onstage.
They get Lisey to the hospital just in time. Whatever Scott has is going to kill him, and soon. The doctor’s never seen anything like it. He’s held on with a 106-degree fever, but doesn’t want to be kept on a ventilator. He just wants to talk to Lisey one last time. He tells her about how Paul cut him on the stairs and starts using past tense with her: “How I loved you” and “I was lost in the dark and you found me.”
Why did Pablo Larraín shoot this emotional good-bye with half of Owen’s face obscured? The camera is behind Lisey, looking over her shoulder. Does it increase the privacy of the moment? Not really. Does it highlight their closeness? Maybe a little. Scott dies, and the episode meanders a bit from here as Lisey talks to her dead husband as she cleans up his stuff, about riding his mystery train and where he is now. It’s an awkward monologue that works better on the page, despite Moore’s best efforts. “No light, no spark,” she intones, resigning herself to darkness.
Flash-forward to the present, and the darkness is about to get worse. The inept Officer Dan has the kind of “funny feeling” that means he’s doomed as Darla and Amanda huddle under an umbrella in the woods, looking very serious. They have a hockey stick and Amanda is ready to use it. The rain intensifies as Lisey reveals her thin plan: tackle Jim Dooley and get him to Boo’ya Moon. Lisey wants to know more about what Amanda remembers from Boo’ya, especially the Shrouded Ones, but sis isn’t ready to talk. She does, however, remember something from the last time she went dark: This needs to be Lisey’s Story. If only the show remembered that, too.
As they come up with a code word (“Greenlawn”) and Darla confronts Lisey about her lack of a plan — “Sometimes you have to let the story tell itself” is fine for fiction writing, less fine for killing an attacker — Jim lurks outside. He sneaks up on the useless cop and shoots him through the window. Subtle. Darla, Amanda, and Lisey are waiting for him. Suddenly, Jim is in the garage. He goes to the circuit breakers, cutting the power to the house. Let’s go! Jim puts on night-vision goggles and goes to the study. He tells Lisey he can see her, but can’t make out if she has a gun in her hand. He says he has other business than an exchange. He’s there to kill her.
Lisey reminds Jim that every character has to be used twice, but that Cole, the young man who tried to assassinate Scott, was only used once. Until now. It’s revealed that Jim and Cole knew each other from their time in a mental hospital. She’s getting to him. As she demeans his fandom, he loses more of his focus. And then the lighthouse goes on, overpowering Jim’s night-vision goggles.
Lisey gets a jump on the blinded Jim and all hell breaks loose. Darla and Amanda join in, swearing and screaming and swinging. It’s hard to make out what’s happening as bodies hurl into each other. There are moans, shouts, and punches as Jim gets on top of Lisey, choking her while he yells, “Respect!” As the life drains from Lisey, the room suddenly starts producing rain, covering the Landon wedding photo in water. Jim barely pauses until he senses his location has changed. And then he stands up, revealing that he’s not in Kansas anymore.
Does Jim Dooley know right away? Does Scott Landon’s No. 1 fan know he’s in a place that fueled and even healed his idol? As they slowly move around the forest, the moaning sound of the Long Boy can be heard coming to life. They yell at each other as Lisey quotes her husband again. “Reality is Ralph,” she says, the dog that returned after long thought gone. Stories tell themselves. And this one will merge Scott Landon’s past with the man trying to kill his widow.
“Why won’t you share?” Jim yells. “Share with the world!” The idea that an author has to share everything about his life with his fans is one of the most interesting ideas in Lisey’s Story, but it’s one that the show can’t quite develop. While Jim is spinning in another rage spiral, Lisey yells. She wants to introduce him to her shovel or the Long Boy or both. Then she sees the monstrous creature on the horizon and says three simple words: “There you are.”
• It’s mentioned that the hockey stick that Amanda wields was signed by Patrice Bergeron. If you’re wondering, he’s a real center who has been playing for almost two decades for the Boston Bruins. He won a Stanley Cup with them in 2011 and was on the 2010 and 2014 Olympic teams.
• Awesome song choice in the montage after Scott’s burial: “St. James Infirmary” by the great Dave Van Ronk.
• This might be a stretch for a show that has been relatively thin on Easter eggs, but the name Hudson Hill Memorial Hospital, where Scott dies, is so prominent in frame that one wonders if it’s not a nod to Mr. Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, whose first short story was set in the Hudson Valley.