Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities: The Outside
October 28, 2022 5:31 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

An awkward woman tries a new skin-care routine in order to better fit in with her co-workers.

Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, previously); based on the webcomic Some Other Animal's Meat by Emily Carrol (previously). The episode stars Kate Micucci of Garfunkel and Oates and features Martin Starr and Dan Stevens.
posted by whir (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This didn't land for me. I'm still not sure what "moral lesson" I was supposed to walk away with. "Nice guys finish last", I guess?
posted by SPrintF at 11:08 AM on October 31, 2022

I had similar thoughts, SPrintF. It was aesthetically interesting (what the heck decade was it supposed to be set in? It was like a mashup of the 70s, 80s and 90s, but all the computers and TVs were modern flat screens), and most of the story worked OK despite being a tad predictable. But I'm not really sure what to make of the final scene and the protagonist awkwardly voguing at the camera for what felt like much longer than it actually was.

There were also bits of continuity that missed the mark for me. The list of side effects included sexual dysfunction and a loss of interest in things that once brought joy.

The former wasn't something we really even saw -- the marriage appeared potentially sexless even though it was clear they cared for each other in the beginning -- and the latter just didn't happen. I mean, hell, in the end:
[Click for spoiler]she taxidermies her husband! It seems like she was still interested in her primary hobby, right up until the end.

posted by asnider at 8:25 AM on November 1, 2022

I kind of got the idea that the woman only saw superficialities, literally only skin-deep (hence the connection to taxidermy). Her husband's fate didn't really change the way she saw or interacted with her husband. But what was the takeaway from the ending? Was she looking at herself in that way, like a skin with nothing but styrofoam inside, I guess? I don't know.
posted by SPrintF at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

My favorite thing about this episode is that it sets us up for tropes and then does the unexpected: we dread that the awkward girl invited to the popular girls' party is going to be humiliated somehow, but actually they're nice. We're conditioned to expect the miracle skin goo to be some kind of monkey's paw scenario that will backfire horribly, but actually it gives the protagonist exactly what she wants. The scene where the husband gets axed would have fit perfectly if he was an abuser getting his comeuppance from a meek and abused partner, but actually he's supportive and quite rightly concerned with her health, so his death is just kind of sad. There's no moment at the end where she realizes the horrible price of achieving her desire.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:05 PM on November 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

My favorite thing about this episode is that it sets us up for tropes and then does the unexpected

I was thinking the same thing. Ordinarily we'd see some kind of karmic punishment for the protagonist choosing to fit in with the work ladies instead of "being herself" and listening to her husband, who does seem to genuinely care for her and accept her for who she is. But here, not so much. She axes him and doesn't really seem to feel any particular remorse for it, and in the end her life seems to improve and she's happy at finally fitting in with the girls, though that last scene kind of suggests that she's maybe gone crazy.

I'm still not sure I actually liked this episode, but I did find it refreshing not to get an explicit moral lesson out of it. It sort of zigged where I thought it would zag. I thought the weirdo direction with all the fish-eye lenses was interesting too.
posted by whir at 6:24 PM on November 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Lot of complex feelings about this one. It really resounded with me at times, in part because this slightly happened to me -- I got a glycolic acid treatment that was too strong for my face and neck, and it burned and embarrassed me for days afterward.

The thing was, it was a lot harder to see what Stacey longed for when she had such a kind and loving husband who seemed to appreciate her appearance and when the women at work were so vacuous. You didn't see, for example, a lifetime of exclusion and mockery or some other underlying need. At the end, she did seem to be going mad with the realization that she'd traded everything for nothing, but maybe that was just my read.

Also, they pulled the usual TV/movie trick of casting an attractive actress and exaggerating a few of her features, along with dowdy outfits, to make her "ugly." Aside from her crooked teeth, everything in her final makeover was already something she could have done anyway. Still, Micucci gave an excellent performance (though for half the time I was sure it was Kristen Schaal).
posted by Countess Elena at 11:25 AM on November 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

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