Hulu’s Into the Dark
Season 1, Episode 4: “New Year, New You”
Directed by Sophia Takal
Written by Takal & Adam Gaines
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Pooka” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Down” – click here
End of the year got you down? Working on a resolution?
Could always be worse.
Danielle (Carly Chaikin) talks in a video about her Very Very Vegetable juices. She’s giving advice for people looking to “start fresh” after New Year’s Eve. You can do ANYTHING if you only want it. “I control my own destiny,” Danielle speaks through the screen like a mantra. Alexis (Suki Waterhouse) watches, listening to Danielle recite her bourgeois mantra. We soon realise they were old high school friends. We also see the deep scar on Alexis’s face, hearing about a career in acting she was once poised for before whatever happened to her happened. She’s all but consumed by Danielle, seeing their paths as wildly divergent.
Alexis goes back to her parents’ home finding the power out. She resets the breakers then goes about stocking the fridge with champagne. She’s continually haunted by memories, like they’re present in her daily life. Are they memories? Or things yet to occur? Are you catching all the particular shots focused on the golf clubs, the knives…? Oh, we’ll see them in action later!
Her other friends, Kayla (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Chloe (Melissa Bergland), are on the way when they break down in the rain. There’s a sense the friends haven’t been together in a while, and also that something bad happened in that house. The friends get underway with their New Year’s Eve celebration. Kayla and Chloe are sure Danielle will come, though Alexis doesn’t think she will. Things go well, mostly. Alexis references her recent “nervous breakdown,” Kayla avoids touchy subjects, and Chloe can’t stop hypothesising about how much Danielle makes.
Soon enough it turns out that Danielle actually does turn up for their New Year’s party, to the surprise of everybody, not the least of which is Alexis. All the old friends are together again and ready to have fun. Danielle’s brought “all natural” and “cruelty free” gifts for her ladies, constantly on-brand. She documents their get-together for her social media circus. The women get to the rest of their night, making food and chatting about their lives. Danielle whines about her awesome Instagram lifestyle because it’s so tough, to the point Alexis is distracted, cutting her hand while chopping avocado. The host of the party goes to clean up in the washroom, where she smashes the mirror while looking at her distorted face staring back.
Before dinner, Danielle asks her ladies to join her discussing their accomplishments for 2018. Kayla talks about dealing with a disabled kid at work. Chloe gives a toast to surviving another year in spite of a not so great life, which prompts Danielle to offer kind words. Alexis speaks of the difficult year she had, filled with regrets, as well as lost “hopes and dreams.” Nevertheless, the women are all positively embracing each other. As things progress, Danielle finds out that Kayla identifies as lesbian. She takes a resolutions video for her following, abruptly stopping when Kayla gets “too political,” worrying it will alienate followers who don’t have the “same politics” as her. Ah, the pull of online bourgeois marketing! Things get awkward when Alexis doesn’t want to engage in the video. She grabs the phone from her friend’s hands, tossing it at the wall. Father Gore doesn’t blame her— fuck all that fake social media nonsense.
The women get to partying again after a power outage. Danielle throws on “Unpretty” by TLC, as they all dance together like they’re in high school again. Not the same for Alexis, whose dead eyes belie the fact she’s only going through the motions. They keep drinking once the song’s over, getting drunker as the time wears on. They play Never Have I Ever, revealing hilarious and embarrassing tales from their past. Chloe eventually breaks out a celebrity question geared towards Danielle, which makes the friends curious, except for Alexis. Their Instagram-famous friend suggests she banged Eli Musk a.k.a “Mr. Electric Car“— gross! Alexis semi-insults Danielle by suggesting she’s not smart enough for someone like Musk. Alexis challenges the “sophisticated concepts” of an NDA and celebrity hookups. She digs hard at Danielle, calling her a high-class whore. The Never Have I Ever gets ugly when Alexis suggests Danielle bullied a girl called Kesley (Isabelle Acres) to suicide.
The three friends have prepared a NYE party Danielle will never forget. They’ve tied her to a chair and started recording a video of revelations. They call out her previous bullying of the group. Alexis actually bullied Kelsey, having followed Danielle into torturing her before she killed herself. But Danielle refuses to own up. This makes Alexis very angry, and the three friends aren’t so on the same page anymore. Danielle uses time when the friends are apart to try influencing Chloe, only worried about her online following and how this could ruin her Instagram empire. She plays on her friend’s insecurities, claiming a job’s waiting for her.
“You do not deserve to tell people to love themselves when you’ve spent your entire life making people feel like shit”
Danielle gets out of her bonds thanks to Chloe. Alexis ends up knocked out. She wakes locked in the steam room. Kayla’s there too, bitching at her friend for somehow causing their situation when she went along with the whole plan from the start. Outside the steam, Danielle and Chloe do meditative work, and the former’s going to let their friends die. Chloe isn’t so thrilled about that idea, though she’s gradually influenced further by talk of online “mob mentality” if they were to let the two women go free.
Kayla uses a champagne bottle in the room to break a window in the door. She and Alexis don’t know their supposed friends have grabbed a couple knives to take care of their problems. Now the steamed women are loose in the house, trying to get themselves out, except the door’s locked by key, and the breaker’s still off, keeping the garage door shut, not to mention the entire place is hermetically sealed. Even when they get the door open, Chloe and Danielle are waiting. The whole thing’s a tense cat-and-mouse chase. Alexis and Kayla make it to a room upstairs, and then things go quiet.
In the bathroom, Chloe and Kayla find each other and they argue. Chloe pushes her friend and Kayla hits her head on the counter, all but killing her instantly. In another room, Alexis hides in the dark from Danielle stalking her. She slips away before she’s knifed to death, discovering Kayla’s corpse. For her part, Danielle comforts Chloe after she killed their friend, reinforcing their deviousness.
That’s when the doorbell rings. Kayla’s girlfriend Frankie (Michelle Haro) couldn’t get through on her cell, so she’s come to the door. The two murderous accomplices are plotting to kill Frankie and roll her into their hopeful excuses when the cops eventually come after everything is over. They kill her as Alexis rushes to find a place to hide. They continue hunting their friend with Danielle calling out her positive words and Chloe reciting one of the mantras.
And Alexis continues fighting back, stabbing and knocking Chloe down the stairs. She’s chased by Danielle into a room, where she locks the doors and tries to make it onto the roof. Danielle’s on the attack with one of the golf clubs, preaching about how people worship her. The two women fight brutally on the floor. Danielle smashes Alexis into the window, over and over, cracking its frame, and the latter sends her friend flying out through the glass into the pool below.
In the aftermath, Alexis sees herself in the mirror once more. She sees herself anew, reborn through a violent cleansing of the past. She later takes her friend’s place in a Fresh and Free video on “the value of self defence,” claiming the violent rampage was Frankie’s doing, using the same story Danielle and Chloe were going to use for themselves. A perfect circle ending that’s dark and tongue in cheek all at once.
Best Into the Dark episode yet!
Takal and Adam Gaines use their screenplay to challenge all the bourgeois ‘influencers’ online who’ve likely spent their teenage years bullying others and now make thousands, even millions, off acting holier than thou and preaching from the digital pulpit without any self-awareness. This isn’t the majority, not at all. Some of those people are surely good, moral people. Yet there are enough of them who ARE hypocrites, openly, that this episode’s message feels warranted. Not to mention the whole classist angle of the social media hierarchy. Fantastic writing/execution.
“Down” is next time.