The Curse: Green Queen
January 12, 2024 12:31 PM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Months later...

Asher and Whitney's marriage struggles with their most profound disconnect yet.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not what I was expecting. Any sort of resolution to the previous plot points would be kind of antithetical to the whole show, so doing something totally different makes sense. The falling up stuff had many funny bits. As odd as it was, all the characters acted exactly how one would expect them to act in the situation.
posted by snofoam at 6:43 PM on January 12

¡ou 'ɹǝɥs∀
posted by yonega at 7:13 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

Very Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In retrospect i don’t know how else it could have ended.
posted by supercres at 10:28 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

posted by lillielillie at 11:06 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

You wil believe a man Can Fly
posted by QDeesp at 12:51 AM on January 13

Is Asher going to God? I hate/loved this. I didn't love every episode but this one will haunt me. It's not as simple as they didn't know how to end it and they threw this at the wall. I can't help but think this ending was known before they shot episode one. It's kind of brilliant.
posted by Stanczyk at 5:06 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Loved this ending, so great. It reminded me of that thing you do when you’re little and you look at the ceiling upside down and imagine it’s the floor. I knew he was going to fly away.
And the whole beginning part of the episode was so good, those Rachel Ray type shows are fucking excruciating and that they were forced to sit there smiling through the whole thing was delicious torture.
posted by chococat at 6:05 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

When Asher told Whitney he'd go away and vanish if she ever wished it in the prior episode, was this the result?
posted by chainlinkspiral at 6:42 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]

I can't wait for season 2!!!!
posted by snofoam at 4:00 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Good God, please forgive me for posting this long of a comment in this thread, but I let it gestate for a couple of days and it wound up sprawling out of control. Christ, I loved this show so fucking much. Okay, here goes:

While I love a lot of the wild theorizing going around, and while the people writing those theories are digging up some fascinating connections across episodes, my interpretation of the ending is a lot simpler.

The Curse never hid what it was about: a bunch of privileged outsiders coming to Espanola, pretending to care about its residents while actively working to make it worse for the people who lived there (and in ways that didn't fool the residents even a little).

Assuming that the show didn't just magically stop caring about that in the final episode—and the fact that it includes a final scene with Abshir implies that it didn't—then the two questions I immediately have about the finale are as follows:
  1. Why does this happen to Asher, and not to anybody else?
  2. Why does the finale give us the specific scenes with Espanola residents that it does, before pivoting full-time to Asher's fate?
For Question #1, I don't mean, why, plotwise, Asher winds up on the ceiling. I mean: why did it make sense to make this happen to Asher, especially given that the show is so focused on the plight of Espanola?

But let's start with Question #2.

The finale gives us two scenes with Espanola residents before Asher wakes up on the ceiling. The second one—and the last real scene that we get before the real horror starts—involves Freckle and another construction worker doing work at Ash and Whitney's behest. Asher has two quick interactions with Freckle. First, he gets a little aggressive while Freckle's joking about Whit's house (in that way that Asher does), flinches when Freckle feints a punch his way, then half-heartedly pretends like he was in on the "joke" all along. Second, when Freckle's employee makes a very straight-faced joke at Asher's expense, Asher flat-out freaks out, to such an extent that Freckle promises the new guy is fired.

The implication is pretty clear, especially because this is a dynamic that we've seen with Ash before: he pretends to fit in, he's desperate to fit in, but he really, really doesn't. And everyone in Espanola who he talks to will halfheartedly play along, mostly to placate him, but none of them forgets who he really is for a moment. If you make a joke that he doesn't get, he will get your ass fired. If you make a comment that he doesn't like, or ask a question that he doesn't want asked, he will go ballistic on you. (And if you work with him, and are friendly enough with him to invite him out bowling, he'll still try and ruin your life if it suits him in any way.)

The other early finale scene that involves a resident is the moment that Asher lets Abshir know that he and Whit are giving the house to Abshir and his daughters. And to his disappointment, Abshir does not respond with a little minstrel show where he thanks Ash and Whit for being such good fairy godparents to him. His first thought is of property taxes. And ironically, every question that he asks after that involves him articulating a way that Ash and Whit could genuinely help him: they can give him concrete documentation, they can pay him in cash, they can help improve his credit. You know, all things that will materially improve his life that won't just burden him with tax payments that he probably can't make.

The punchline of the scene is that Asher was recording all of this—not even for the show, but as a gift to Whitney. Because his real gift wasn't the act of charity: it was him trying to give her a documented moment where someone breaks into tears and tells her what a thoughtful, caring person she is. You know, the only thing that Whitney wants to hear from anybody, ever—and the thing that only Asher ever really tells her.

But Asher's also the one person who Whitney doesn't care to hear that from. Because for all that Whitney is a human mood ring (to quote Emma Stone directly), Asher's even more of one. And unlike Whitney, who's doing all of this so she can launder her reputation, the stakes for Asher are a lot more existential: he tries desperately to say and do the things that everybody wants to hear from him because nobody on the fucking planet cares about, shows interest in, or loves Asher, full stop. And every single person, Asher included, knows it, even if none of them will dare to say it out loud.

People treat Asher the way that he, Whitney, and Dougie treat Espanola. They'll pay lip service to caring about him. They'll say and do the things that will get him to do what they want him to do—even when what they want is, mostly, not to have to think about Asher or acknowledge that he exists. How many moments in the show involve someone briefly making it clear that they wish he wasn't there? Even in the first episode, when he goes to tell Whitney that he'll be talking to the reporter soon, she literally shuts the door on him rather than let him into the van. (In the same episode, when he tells her how much he loves her, she briefly pretends to reciprocate his feelings—and then the smile leaves her face the moment he's not looking. She's not upset about what he said, she just literally doesn't care.)

Throughout the entire run of the series, we literally never once see anyone do a single thing for Asher that's out of genuine affection for him, interest in him, or concern for him. It's always either out of fear of how he'll respond OR it's to minimize the extent to which they have to pretend to care. Everyone, down to his coworker, the news reporter, and the comedy instructor, treats him this way. And the only hints we get at his past is that this has literally, always, at every moment in his life, been the case. There's no suggestion at any time that any person has ever once taken interest in him, seen appeal in him, felt sorry for him, or loved him.

And all Asher can do is what everybody else does to Asher, at every moment in every scene: he pretends like that's not the case. He does have friends. His wife does love him. People like him, and maybe even think he's funny. He's okay. Everything's okay. He's not so desperately sad and lonely that he can't even fantasize about one-upping his coworker, or standing up for his wife, without turning it into a fantasy of his coworker fucking his wife.

Nobody believes his pretense. Not for a second. They pretend like they do... but they don't try very hard, do they? Asher doesn't believe them, really. Deep in his heart, he knows. But as long as nobody says it out loud, he can pretend there's a chance, right? He can pretend that Whitney's marriage to him was about more than her appropriating his last name for her benefit. He can pretend that Dougie isn't just keeping him around because Asher's the only kicked puppy who's needy enough for affection that he won't cut Dougie—himself a pretty pathetic human being—out of his life. He can keep on pretending, as he's begging everyone he meets to tell him that he's anything to them. And maybe, if he keeps it up, he'll get something out of somebody, even if everyone involved knows that it's a sham.

And isn't that what everybody in Espanola is doing with Whit and Ash and Dougie? They know these people aren't here to help them. They know these people won't care. When Fernando gets fired from the sham coffee shop, he doesn't even sound angry at Whit: he just assumed the job was for the TV show, because of course it fucking was. Cara knows that Whitney neither cares about nor understands her art, and that her $20,000 payout is literally for her to give Whit's show a stamp of credibility—just like she knows that her audience is oohing and ahhing at the "authentic Native experience," not because they like her art enough to buy it.

Nobody outside of Espanola cares about it. Whitney can afford to pretend to care, but she'll side with some random shoplifter over Fernando's warnings that she's just financing a crime spree. And everyone involved with Fliplanthropy knows that the real plan is to make Espanola famous enough to start flipping houses in it.

Here's one last question about the finale, and about The Curse in general:

Why was it important to give Abshir such a similar name to Asher's? What do these two men have in common? What don't they have in common?

I've been pointing out their most common trait: they are unseen, uncared about, and shown "kindness" only when someone intends to exploit them. Asher only takes interest in Abshir because he recognizes Nala as the girl that cursed him: if he hadn't known her, he would have tossed her out of her own house without a second thought. When Whitney visits, she pulls the same performative bullshit that she performs with Cara, and tries to show "cultural interest" in him and his... uh... hot dogs. And Dougie, because he's Dougie, only visits Abshir because he has a blatant interest in Nala's magic curse powers, and basically just barges in and terrorizes his kids.

There's the part that Asher and Abshir have in common. The difference between Asher and Abshir, of course, is that Abshir has kids and Asher doesn't. Their family is in a precarious position—his kids' mother never appears, Nala's bullied by her classmates and disregarded by her teachers—but at the very least, they have each other. Abshir has two kids that love him, two kids for whom he provides a home. And for all that he's living in extreme poverty, this means that he has something in his life that Asher would just about kill for. Ash is rich (through his wife), he's on HGTV Go (though his wife), he can afford to pay for five figures' worth of shoplifted jeans (though his wife's parents), but Abshir has children and Asher doesn't.

And Asher is desperate for kids. Everybody knows it. He hounds his wife about it constantly; he tries to become "Uncle Asher," when he visits Abshir's home to make repairs. Asher is desperate for kids, because if he could just have a child, then at least somebody would love him, for the first time in his life.

I don't think it's a coincidence that offering the house to Abshir is the last major thing we see Asher try to do to win Whitney's affections. Home ownership is the middle-class dream: to have a house, and a family, is what it means to be happy. Asher tries to buy Abshir this dream, using his wife's money, as a gift—but the gift isn't for Abshir, it's for his wife. He's trying to offer Abshir the same fantasy that Whitney offered him when she married him. And just like the house isn't really for Abshir (and presents a lot of complications that Asher didn't think about once), Asher's marriage isn't really for Asher. Whitney goes out of her way not to tell Asher that she loves him: she's given him the trappings of a life he's desperate to live, and absolutely none of it is actually his.

Similarly, I don't think it's a coincidence that the first signs of Whitney's contractions start as they're leaving Abshir's house, or that Asher finds himself on the ceiling the morning that Whitney goes into labor. I don't think it's a coincidence that his final exchange with Freckle happens in his unborn son's future bedroom. The entire finale, from the attempt to get Rachel Ray to acknowledge Whitney's stomach to the final metaphorical severance of Asher's umbilical cord that launches him into space, revolves around the pending birth of Asher's son—and around the fact that, as far as we know, Asher did not experience a single second on this Earth where he was genuinely cared for.

(Where are Asher's parents in all of this? Who are Asher's parents? Whitney's parents are scummy, and the way they show their love for her is misbegotten at best, but at least they're there, and at least they try and show her some love. As far as I can recall, Asher's parents aren't mentioned even a single time. It's as if they don't exist.)

Until the shit hits the fan Asher hits the ceiling, though, he's not in material danger. The void at the center of his life isn't literally killing him. Espanola's residents are dying of cancer, fired from their jobs, kicked out of their houses, and denied the right to their own land, but Asher always comes home to a pre-prepared meal, even if sometimes it's missing the chicken. It's only when he wakes up on the ceiling, when Whitney leaves him to give birth, when her doula yanks him out of the figurative womb of his own home, and when the fire department ignores him to cut him from the face of the Earth, that anything about his life has any stakes. Suddenly he's dead within the hour.

The final sequence of the show isn't of Asher up in space. It's bookended by two shots of doors.

First, it exits the doors of the hospital where Whitney's given birth.

It crosses a bridge.

It passes a stretch of abandoned buildings.

It drifts through the strip mall whose stores were half invented by HGTV.

It turns down the road to Whit's house, where Dougie's talking to a cop, describing what happened, sounding like the kind of person whose colorful, fantastic rants you'd watch a YouTube clip of.

We get a close-up of the cop, clearly not believing a word he says.

Then we get the locals, all of whom watched a man die, all of whom are discussing it dispassionately, as if it's just a special effect on TV.

And then, finally, the camera drifts into the house, looking more than ever like a womb. But there's nothing and nobody in it. It's inert, sterile, barren, unwanted, devoid even of electricity. "Passive living."

It doesn't even look like itself. It's just a pale, distorted reflection of everything around it, mirroring people, trees, life, as if mimicking what's around it will somehow give it life in kind. Just like Whitney literally mirrors Espanola and its residents. Just like Asher literally mirrored everything, because he didn't know how to be anything, because he hoped that someone would tell him that he was something.

Perhaps The Curse opens and closes with a cancer: first with Fernando's grandmother getting tears brushed underneath her eyelids, and finally the house that Whitney thought would birth a newer, better Espanola, and that Asher thought would birth a family and a home and a reason for him to be here on this earth. But nothing, nothing—no life, no love, no family, no community—could ever have been grown in this tumor of a house. The cord is cut; the womb is barren. All that's left is death and property taxes.
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 6:48 PM on January 14 [26 favorites]

the final metaphorical severance of Asher's umbilical cord that launches him into space, revolves around [...] the fact that, as far as we know, Asher did not experience a single second on this Earth where he was genuinely cared for.

Lol thank you for this comment. Nathan Fielder's character so repellant to love, that the love of a child ejects him into space seems exactly correct.
posted by fleacircus at 9:18 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]

This show really took off at the end
posted by whir at 7:32 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]

Holy crap.
posted by signal at 6:07 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

Benny Safdie on The Curse | Episode 10
From the Film at Lincoln Center series.
posted by Stanczyk at 2:32 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]

Here's Fielder and Safdie in conversation with Christopher Nolan about this show. They seem to be speaking fairly early in the season aired and so don't discuss the finale.

Some tidbits:
  • Part of the genesis of the show was that Fielder was asked for money in front of a supermarket and didn't have any, and the woman who asked him said "I curse you."
  • Fielder: when you have the tone right, everything falls into place.
  • The homes being mirrors was a last-minute change. They burned brown lines in the surrounding foliage and eventually had to be tarped during the day.
  • Fielder: we enter a place and we're like, we don't understand it, and your instinct might be like, "take that away, it's confusing..." We're like, that's great, we don't understand what that is, put it in the frame.
  • Safdie: Emma Stone thought of her character as a "human mood ring."

posted by whir at 9:47 AM on January 28

i dunno the ending was a little telegraphed i think
posted by bombastic lowercase pronouncements at 8:29 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]

I just watched a movie called Something in the Dirt, and I was stunned to see it ended with one of its characters floating off into the atmosphere. Difference is that character then suddenly plunged back to earth as a frozen corpse that crumples upon landing. It dated to well before The Curse, so if there was borrowing, it was likely Safdie doing the borrowing. That movie was released in 2022 and very much had an "indie made by friends over Covid" vibe. It didn't suck. But two different victims of broken gravity?
posted by Stanczyk at 4:05 PM on March 15

But two different victims of broken gravity?

I haven't seen it, but I've heard that The Whale could be included in this microgenre.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 5:11 PM on March 15

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