The Fall of the House of Usher: The Black Cat
October 19, 2023 5:48 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Leo adopts a black cat who soon brings evil--and a mysterious woman--into his home, while Roderick struggles with terrifying hallucinations.

"What does Verna want, exactly? She seems to be the personification of cosmic justice. Whatever deal she cut with Roderick and Madeline back in 1979, the punishment seems to have fallen to their heirs — though watching each of his children die is a pretty brutal punishment for Roderick as well."—from Scott Meslow's three-star recap on Vulture.

"It’s my kind of catty, my kind of blunt, my kind of gross, my kind of show."—Sean T. Collins for Decider.

“Satin is silk for poor people, and no one should be wearing it to a funeral unless they died in it.”—Napoleon "Leo" Usher

Cordelia: “Right there, zoom in on that.”
Xander: “It’s a videotape.”
Cordelia: “So? They do it on television all the time.”
Xander: “Not with a regular VCR, they don’t.”
Oz: "What's that? Pause it.""
Xander: "Guys! It's just a normal VCR. It doesn't... Oh, wait, uh, it can do pause."—from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in 1999.
posted by bcwinters (15 comments total)
So this is the show where Carla Gugino shows up to quote wikipedia at people before they are killed horribly?
posted by Catblack at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

Got it in one.

I was afraid to watch this episode because I didn’t want to see another cat get hurt, but I have since learned that the second cat was a demonic entity and the first cat was fine. Leo just lost track of her when he was high and hallucinated about it.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

"Dr. Acula" levels of subtlety naming the Carla Gugino character Verna.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 5:56 PM on October 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure why I'm enjoying this silly little show, but I watched "The Tomb of Ligeia" earlier this week which features Vincent Price also wrestling with a fake stuffed cat and losing, so I was pleased to see that particular storied Poe adaptation tradition upheld.

I also loved the fake-out shot of the fancy sports car in front of the building at the end. Look, he's going to land on the fancy car! [lands heavily next to car] Or not.
posted by phooky at 5:57 PM on October 20, 2023 [7 favorites]

"Dr. Acula" levels of subtlety naming the Carla Gugino character Verna.

This went totally over my head. What is "Verna" a reference to? When I google I get a hundred Hyundai hits.
posted by Mogur at 2:53 AM on October 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Mogur, put the letters in a different order. Nevermore, like.
posted by minsies at 5:08 AM on October 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

… Dammit
posted by Countess Elena at 5:29 AM on October 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

posted by Catblack
Are we still doing eponysterical

Look, he's going to land on the fancy car!
Once I saw that they were reusing a 90s Sabrina the Teenage Witch cat puppet I knew that car was going to survive the episode
posted by bcwinters at 5:55 AM on October 21, 2023 [6 favorites]

posted by Mogur at 7:34 AM on October 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

Me, too, Mogur. Me, too. It's like I'm caught in a Poe story called "The Dope and the Weightless Penny" about somebody who realizes with horror that their brain no longer works because they watched an entire Netflix series and somehow managed to miss the most obvious anagram in the history of anagrams.

a 90s Sabrina the Teenage Witch cat puppet
Yes! Also: bad CGI cat. At least couldn't they have sprung for a real cat + cat wrangler for the very last bit where the cruelly indifferent cat hops up on the corpse for a quick stroll? It's like two seconds. Cat hops on body, takes two steps, hops off body. Too much trouble? Really?
posted by Don Pepino at 9:33 AM on October 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

All the performances were fantastic. (And hey, a chance to see Rahul Kohli play a not-great person!) But I really struggled with this one thematically.

In Red Death we saw that Perry was not just incompetent - he was a bad person. (Holding the fork to the guy's throat over the eggs, the idea to blackmail his guests.) During the series we saw that Camille was hypercompetent but negatively obsessed with her sister and also used her position to take advantage of people sexually and generally be awful. (And she was on to something with her sister! But she was also clearly not going after her because of ethics, but just because of some bitterness.)

This one, as compared to those, was thematically a disaster. We don't really see that Leo is a terrible person, I don't think. (Granted, I really like Rahul Kohli, but I don't think it's just that.) There is the "getting sucked off by a random chick while playing video games," but it does not rise to the level of Perry or Camille's bad behavior. Not even close. If we had seen that this was repeated behavior, and that he was using his power over people to get that, it might be different. We see that he is broken up about the death of his family members – apparently the only one who is – and that he copes with it in an unhealthy way, by using lots of drugs. He says an unkind thing about his stepmother, but even as he exits you can see that he regrets it.

If we've established that the cat was actually fine and he hallucinated the corpse (and that explains why the gouges over his eye in Red Death suddenly went away), then what exactly is he being punished for? Hiding things from his partner, I guess? (The fellatio and the cat death - which we later learn was a hallucination?) Drug abuse? Yes, he was about to dump his boyfriend for calling him out on his drug use. But his punishment wasn't related to that; nor was it related to the fellatio from the random chick. And he wasn't an animal abuser. If he was being punished for not adopting a cat that was about to be put to sleep - well, he did say, "I'll adopt all of them," and then give a generous donation. That may not have been him being kind to a specific cat, but it is the kind of largesse that extends all of their lives.

The other episodes offer a clear jumping off point for the character. Here, I'm confused. Was the jumping off point supposed to be "bring home another cat, admit that you brutally murdered the first one during a blackout, and then the first cat comes home after your boyfriend leaves you in disgust?" I just didn't get it.
posted by rednikki at 12:34 PM on October 25, 2023 [4 favorites]

I mean I don't have any empathy for someone who thinks they killed a cat while blacked out drugs and instead of checking themselves into rehab decides the best course of action is to lie to their partner and then use their money to get another cat who as far as he knows he could also kill. I'm not sure how such a person isn't terrible. He wasn't an animal abuser but he thought he was capable of animal abuse and did nothing to stop himself from doing it.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:34 PM on October 25, 2023 [3 favorites]

I was nervous about this one but it turns out I needn't have worried. Flanagan just reused some of the cat puppets he had on the beach in Midnight Mass, another scene which could have been very upsetting if the cats had looked in any way real.

I liked Leo the best, partly because of Rahul, but he was still an arsehole. It probably helped that I reread the Poe story just before watching: that is a truly nasty piece of work.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:07 AM on October 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

I thought this episode was pretty weak.

He wasn't an animal abuser but he thought he was capable of animal abuse and did nothing to stop himself from doing it.

I get this point, but then again it was literally the same week his family member died, and he was broken up about it. Just logistically, he probably hasn't had time to go to rehab, even if he is considering it. And I don't think the show strongly established that he thought he killed the cat. Someone or something else at the party could have. All we know for sure is he was ok with replacing the cat.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

I don't think Verma cares whether the individual kids deserve to be killed or not. She just wants to punish Roderick, and what better way to do that than by methodically slaughtering his children one by one?
posted by Paul Slade at 6:14 AM on November 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

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