Hulu’s The Act
Season 1, Episode 2: “Teeth”
Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Written by Dan Dietz
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, “La Maison du Bon Reve” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Two Wolverines” – click here
The neighbourhood’s left in shock over what’s happened at the Blanchard house. Mel (Chloë Sevigny) and Lacey (AnnaSophia Robb) try to tell the police about the ailments from which Gypsy (Joey King) suffered, so many they’d “lost track.” Just hearing the murmurs of other neighbours, all speculating different stories— likely different versions of the tale Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette) has spun in her gigantic web of lies— it’s easy to see how the truth became so confused.
Go back again to 2009. We see Gypsy on the laptop at night, drinking Coca-Cola straight from the bottle like an old wino and spooning frosting out of a small tub. She’s watching a makeup tutorial on YouTube. She soon feels a pain in her tooth, as if pinching herself and waking from the dream.
The next morning, Dee Dee gets great news for Gypsy: she’s being named Child of the Year. Soon mom discovers her daughter’s having tooth troubles. More ammo in the arsenal of a Munchausen’s mother, convinced of an “underlying condition” causing issues with Gypsy’s teeth. They head straight for the hospital to see Dr. Harley (Steve Coulter). We get a glimpse of a thick binder containing Gypsy’s health history, which mom carries around like another limb. A gastro specialist, Dr. Chandra (Poorna Jagannathan), comes down to have a look. Mom goes on about acid reflux. She’s sure her daughter doesn’t eat candy, suggesting other things like a hernia. The doc’s becoming suspicious. She begins to ask Dr. Harley about Gypsy’s “medical history” and she obviously senses something unnerving about the Blanchards.
“Sometimes people like to paint a rosy colour on things
when the truth really isn’t very pretty”
Back to 2015. The crime scene at the Blanchard house continues unfolding. Dee Dee’s nothing more than a corpse full of stab wounds. Mel and the neighbours wonder how someone like Dee Dee could wind up murdered. Lacey’s curious if someone might’ve been “after Gypsy” instead.
Six years prior, Gypsy had one of her teeth rot out completely, causing a bloody mess in her gums. It only gave her mother more cause to medicate her. Dee Dee took Gypsy over to see Lacey, who was with her friends. They were giving each other homemade tattoos. Such a contrast to see her with these girls. She tells them about sneaking out to eat sweet things, making Lacey suspicious.
Speaking of suspicions, Dr. Chandra isn’t giving up, and before long the Department of Social Services is on the Blanchard doorstep. This has Dee Dee going into emergency mode, feeding her daughter pills to make her sleepy and leaving her in the bathroom while she answers the door. A woman named Allison (Mary Hollis Inboden) is there to have a look around. She gets the same old spiel from Dee Dee, reeling off the tragedies of her life. Then mom wheels her medicated daughter out, telling Allison how Gypsy “has the mind of a seven year old.” We’ve already felt the suspicions about mom. This is the most manipulative and sinister we’ve seen her yet.
Allison sits for a talk alone with Gypsy, while Dee Dee lurks not far off. The medicated girl— who’s actually fifteen— mumbles through answers for Allison, and then Dee Dee gets questioned about her social security card not matching the name on her address. Mom uses Katrina as an excuse, like always. A quick shot shows us Ms. Blanchard has stolen one of Dr. Harley’s prescription pads. No telling how many drugs she’s been pumping Gypsy full off without the knowledge of doctors. Terrifying.
At the dentist, Gypsy has to have teeth extracted. The poor young girl wakes up later that day with a swollen mouth. She weeps at the state of herself in the mirror. With her Child of the Year award coming up it’s twice as hard, not wanting to show herself in front of people. This conflicts deeply with her mother’s narcissism— Dee Dee needs this award so bad in order to validate all the years of what she sees as ‘hard work.’
Mom forces her daughter to go ahead with the ceremony. She’s also brought along some dentures for Gypsy to wear, giving her a shining smile to take onstage. But Gypsy wonders why her mother waited until now to give her the teeth, for which Dee Dee has an answer waiting, like every other situation. Along with the award comes financial help for the Blanchard family. This moment allows Dee Dee to speak in front of a crowd, using the time to give herself backhanded compliments. That is, until Gypsy grabs the mic to sing, and mom sings along, too. Heartwarming moments such as these give people like Ms. Blanchard opportunities to make their fabricated struggle appear more legitimate.
At the hospital again, Dr. Chandra gets a minute alone with Gypsy. She starts to ask her about the supposed sugar allergy. She spoke to the ER doctor they saw recently, who confirmed there’s no allergy, and she offers a can of Coca-Cola. This is a tough process because Dr. Chandra’s trying not to rip Gypsy directly out of the fantasy world in which Dee Dee has trapped her. You can’t tear someone from a delusion like ripping off a Band-Aid. Gypsy refuses to drink the Coke out of loyalty to her mother despite knowing herself that she CAN drink it.
Back to June 15th, just after midnight. The cops continue to look through the Blanchard home to find any signs of what may have gone on before Dee Dee was murdered. The whole thing’s a “fucking nightmare,” as one detective eloquently says. They see all the prescription pill bottles with Gypsy’s name on them. Across the street, Lacey can’t stop wondering about some of the things the girl told her, and when Mel finds out they go see the detectives. Lacey tells them of a “secret Facebook account” Gypsy had to make friends. Y’know, like dude friends. The secrets go so deep because Dee Dee has created a fake life, hiding their secret one, while Gypsy began to lead another secret life right under her mom’s nose.
Many, many layers. Like a hideous, bloody onion.
“I never saved Gypsy—
Gypsy saved me.”
Fantastic second episode building off the first. Father Gore wasn’t sure how far the story could extend after so much devastating emotion in the first episode. But the writing’s great, drawing the story out to make things all the more intense. The true tale is so disturbing and The Act is doing fine work of adapting it to the screen.