Season 1, Episode 3: “Black Stockings”
Directed by Thomas J. Wright
Written by David Chiu & Patrick Wall
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Echoes” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Passing Notes” – click here
June 2009, Ithaca, NY. A couple were running on a wooded path. Suddenly, the husband started believing his wife wasn’t her anymore, that she was an “impostor” who was trying to “destroy him.” He had Capgras Syndrome. He cut his wife’s throat, killing her. Hearing Aaron Mahnke narrate is one thing, hearing the killer himself and seeing his picture is another thing altogether.
100 years before, that wasn’t so crazy, to think somebody could take another’s place. This takes us back to Ireland for another episode of Lore.
In 19th century Ireland, “magic and superstition” were often the cause. Specifically, the changelings. We go to 1895, Ballyvadlea, a village in Ireland. Bridget Cleary (Holland Roden) was what you’d call a “modern woman.” She lived with her husband Michael (Cathal Pendred) who worked for the local creamery. She sewed, tailoring clothes that helped she and her husband do better than most in their area.
Of course, back then, a woman like Bridget drew rumours. That she was stepping out with another man. Her own husband listened to them, too. But that was no bother, she was her own woman. Michael worries about the changelings, that she’s temping them by going to a place linked with her mother, that they could take her away. Not only that, he’s quite possessive, as men so often get. Also, that’s part of the Irish cultural tradition: a man owned his wife.
However, the changelings are powerful, they can take who they want.
Mahnke fills us in about them. Changelings take abducted humans to places where there exists “fairy rings,” or portals, linking the human world to another realm. They can take on the appearance of their target, sending the real person to that realm. All sorts of symptoms could give way to belief that changelings had taken you off. In addition, methods to try figuring out if such was the case. Like holding people over fire, forcing someone to drink foxglove, and other nastiness. And sure as shit, this led to autism, many illnesses mental or otherwise, all becoming reasons to believe the changelings were at work.
There’s only 9 days from possession until a person is lost forever to the other realm.
Bridget shows up back home to her Michael and her father, Patrick Boland (John Byner), looking sick, falling over. She doesn’t seem to even recognise her husband. When Michael does a quick test with an iron cup, he fears the worst: they’ve got her. So Doc Crean (Darren Darnborough) comes, and other people in the village find out, wondering if a changeling had taken hold of Bridget. Although the doc says “bronchitis and nervous excitement,” others aren’t so sure.
Things don’t go too well. Father Ryan (Mark Ashworth) drops by to offer what comfort religion can in times like these. When he does, Michael asks him to bless a bit of medicine from a fairy doctor. The priest tells him to forget the “Old Irishery” and its folklore; all the while peddling Jesus Christ, sort of ironic. Regardless, the husband believes what he believes. You can see where this is headed.
It also involves the threat of sensual, powerful, strong women. Mahnke talks about Julia Margaret Cameron, a British photographer who took incredible pictures of women; rare for a woman in 1863. We also see, Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond, he took pictures of women, as well. In asylums. Where women could be committed by their husbands, their fathers, the patriarchy who wanted to shut women up. “Moral insanity” a.k.a infidelity was one cause for being committed. Amongst many misogynist reasons. Diamond took pictures believing women seeing themselves in the photographs would have a positive effect. Or maybe it’d only mirror their anxieties.
Lots more superstition surrounding Bridget, driving Michael further into the belief his wife’s been stolen by the changelings. Jack Dunne (Richie Stephens) and the others do nothing to deter that belief. Meanwhile, Bridget’s terrified they’re turning her into a fairy herself. As it is with misogyny, we learn of the man’s prior abusive tendencies, like nearly burning her face with a poker from the fire once. Her husband is sure this is the eighth day, one more to go.
What will he do? Oh, you know.
“There are no such things as fairies. And if Ireland is ever going to become a part of the world, they need to go away.”
The men plan to force feed Bridget a cure. They hold her down, even dear ole dad, and Michael asks the changeling to let his wife free. All gripped by folktales and cultural misogyny. When it won’t work, they decide on using a remedy meant to be used on the verge of day nine.
So Bridget pleads with her husband, playing to his superstitious mind, saying anything she can to try thwarting him and the patriarchal plans of the village men. Anything to save herself. Ultimately, day nine came, and Michael had untied her. Father Ryan came around for a bit of mass. They tried relying on faith.
Except the husband wasn’t strong enough to have a strong woman such as Bridget as a wife (unlike Annie Oakley, whose husband Frank was beyond loyal to her and proud, too). He couldn’t handle her free spirit. It wasn’t long until he reverted to the superstitions.
He beat her, slamming her around the house. Then he lit her on fire in front of everybody, burning her while she was still alive. The Fairy Trial put Michael in the international eye, giving way to ugly Irish stereotypes.
“Are you a witch? Or are you a fairy? Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?”
Another fantastic slice of Lore! God, they do such justice to Mahnke’s podcast and accentuate the strongest elements of his narration, adding in the scenes, plus those bits of montage from pictures to animations and everything else. One of my favourite new shows.
“Passing Notes” is next.