Hulu’s Into the Dark
Season 1, Episode 6: “Treehouse”
Directed by James Roday
Written by Roday & Todd Harthan
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Down” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “I’m Just Fucking With You” – click here
Beware the Ides of March? You’ve heard it from every hipster who pretends to love Shakespeare. Maybe you should’ve really listened. That’s what Peter Rake (Jimmi Simpson) is soon to discover.
A woman sits alone with a picnic basket. She has scars all over her arms. She drinks wine. Then she picks up a knife, and it takes us away to another place, another time, where we meet Peter, a celebrity chef. He’s got a Gordon Ramsay-ish style. He’s got a daughter, Riley (Kylie Rogers), and his ex-wife is getting remarried.
Soundtrack note: Great tune during our intro to Peter = “Seventeen” by Sjowgren.
There’s something else going on in Peter’s life. He rages over the phone with his agent Barry. He’s advised to get out of the city to the shore for a mini vacation. Peter heads to a place in the countryside. He stops into a fishing lodge where he recognises a man named Lonnie (Michael Weston) who used to work there as a teenager and has now inherited the place. Peter’s condescending, if not outright offensive calling the place “Bait Motel” and poking fun about “the baskets and lotion,” referencing Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs. There’s mention of his sister, Gwen (Amanda Walsh), and both of them act pretty damn awkward. Immediately unsettling.
Up at his family’s old place, Peter finds his sister and they catch up, while Agnes (Nancy Linehan Charles) lugs bags around. This is one bourgeois family. They’re also a fractured family. Peter spies a goat in the road, giving us a wonderful “Black Phillip” reference by name. Moments later, Gwen lets him know she has to run— she’s works as a district attorney and she caught a big case.
A creepy picture painted by their father hangs on the wall of the house depicting a scene exactly like the one we witnessed in the opening scene, of the woman on her picnic. Peter also discovers an infestation of ants in a drawer, forcing him to wash all the utensils. He gets an eerie call from Lonnie and more from his agent. He finds a bunch of blood in a toilet. Terrifying, no? At the door comes a visitor— Kara Wheeler (Julianna Guill). He saw her recently at the lodge. She needs flashlights and candles. She gets her things and goes on back to where she’s staying. But there’s an uneasy feeling about Peter, the house, and even the maid, Agnes.
“What this is about: sisterhood.”
There’s a treehouse in the area. Peter explains it was like a summer home for him and Gwen when they were young. He meets Kara’s friends Marie (Shaunette Renée Wilson) and Elena (Stephanie Beatriz). He offers to cook for them as “guinea pigs” for a potential upcoming cookbook recipe. Another friend Morgan (Sophia Del Pizzo) and Marie’s mom Lilith (Mary McCormack) come along for the wining and dining. Father Gore wonders if the name Lilith is significant— any mythology at play? Things seem to go well, though there’s a sexist lining to Peter, even if he acts a gentleman. The women all have a Trinity knot tattoo. Marie makes brief mention of Mardi Gras in 2015 during the “Year of the motherfucking Goat.” Coincidence the chef recently saw one? Likely not.
Agnes talks briefly about women’s suffrage, telling the younger ladies how it wasn’t always easy for women, which they already know. Because it isn’t easy being a woman today. Not long until Peter’s stumbling and fumbling. None of the women are that interested in him, anyway. He heads up to bed, where a portrait of his father watches over him. Later, Peter wakes next to Morgan. He hears music playing, and a bird making noise that he sees is a peacock. He stops the music and sees a weird stick figure standing in the room with blood on it, looking like a woman and a goat.
A strange figure appears outside. Peter hears Morgan upstairs locked into the room. He starts to feel his limbs go numb. The strange figure runs upstairs as Peter falls to the floor and he’s dragged away. When Peter comes to he’s chained by the neck in bed— at the edge is Morgan. The strange figure appears from the dark. The women have been planning something for Peter this whole time. The strange figure is merely Kara in a mask and costume. She reveals herself as the sister of a woman named Becca, who met a tragic end. She committed suicide with a knife from the chef’s “line of cutlery” as a symbolic gesture. Peter has a past with Becca, which Kara says was the cause for her sister’s suicide. He’s mad at the “angry bitches” and finds out they’re actually a coven of witches. But he’s the one with a crossbow pointed at his testicles. The witches collect a little of his hair, blood, and fingernails, as well. Nothing good in this dude’s future. Marie and Lilith act out one of Peter’s sexual transgressions in an uncomfortable act. He’s a typical powerful man who’s used his position to force himself onto women. Of course he blames everything on them, too.
“Something terrible happens to a woman and it just lives in you— in her.”
Peter’s taunted and tortured by the witches. Elena and Morgan paint him with makeup while the former gives him a crash course on feminism in Puerto Rico under Spanish rule. She doesn’t forget to shit on the chef for not giving “equal pay” to his women employees. He’s part of the “international pandemic” of misogyny and toxic masculinity. He thinks it’s him being bullied, whereas he’s hurt many women. He whines of being “convicted and sentenced by strangers” like all powerful men do these days, rather than face their own hideous flaws.
After a while Peter gets free and runs for it, but the doors are locked. He calls out to Lonnie and gets interrupted by Kara. No escaping his punishment. He’s surrounded by the coven. Lonnie does turn up wanting to look around the place, and we discover his mother is Agnes, who comes out to tell him to leave— the suggestion is Agnes was assaulted by Peter’s father, or at least she knew of his own transgressions. One thing’s for sure: nobody’s coming to save Mr. Celebrity Chef.
Peter’s taken out and dressed up for the women. He’ll be used for a twist on the “witch hunt” because he’s going to be hunted like a wild animal. He’s set loose in the wilderness. He runs to the treehouse. There, the walls are plastered with newspaper clippings about Peter, the various women who’ve been left damaged in his wake, and all the other horrors of his secret life.
Gwen shows up and tells him it was her who setup this entire night. She did it because he raped her friend in the treehouse when they were teenagers. Things spin further out of control once the coven get more intense than the sister ever expected. They take Peter again and put him through another strange ceremony. In the morning, Peter wakes up like nothing ever happened. It did, but the women aren’t witches. They’re just angry, efficient women who wanted to take down an awful man who’s ruined countless lives. In the end, Peter lives on, and begins to see the devastation of his actions.
Can he become a good man? Is there any redemption?
“It was a lifetime ago to YOU,” Gwen tells her brother at one point during their confrontation, revealing so much of how men try to treat the psychological/corporeal annihilation of a woman’s body/soul re: sexual assault as something that somehow disappears with age, like ‘youthful transgressions’ equate to rape. Maybe hunting down rapists outside the law isn’t the best system. What we have now isn’t working, either.
Not sure what the ending says of the whole story. Is a story written by two men about a rapist being put through the ringer only to come out a changed man exactly what’s needed for 2019? Or, is the message women are taking hold of the reins? That they’re finally holding men accountable, by any means possible, like other men have failed?
Regardless, “Treehouse” pulls no punches in its look at the entitled power of brutal men who believe they can do whatever they want to women and get away with it. Women are rising up to take down the patriarchy’s violence. This episode reflects the fears of men today in 2019— the only ones who ought to be afraid are the ones who’ve done horrible things, and it’s telling to see which men are vocal about their fears because you can tell who’s hiding a nasty secret.