Directed by John Cameron
Written by Noah Hawley
* For a recap & review of Chapter 24, click here.
* For a recap & review of Chapter 26, click here.
Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement) talks about the astral plane being a “magnet for lost dreams.” He’s found minds there, lost by those in reality, cast across the landscape. He finds a little baby. Any guesses as to who it’ll be?
Maybe someone who recently got lost in the mental labyrinth…
Maybe… Syd (Rachel Keller)?
In the forest, Oliver stumbles onto Jerome Wolf (Jason Mantzoukas), who suggests telling the child about important things early on in life, such as the Holocaust and herpes. Melanie (Jean Smart) shoos Wolf off from their hut in the woods. Her husband brings back all he found on his latest walk, including a sandwich, a sock, and the child. It’s confirmed: the baby IS Sydney. Quite a strange life out there on the astral plane.
They deal with the Wolf trying to blow their house down, as if they were the Three Little Pigs. Oliver tries to talk with Jerome. The Wolf came across Cynthia (Samantha Cormier), who’s “lost her innocence.” He’s encroaching on their lives, bringing the real world to their doorstep while they try to shut it out just a little longer.
Oliver and Melanie do their best to raise their “little Bird” as she grows from an infant into a little girl. She asks all the questions a normal child would ask, accompanying her surrogate father on his trips into the forest to scavenge for all the lost things let go by people back in reality. She finds a headless doll, almost symbolic of her real self figuratively losing her head(/mind). He warns her not to go past the limits of the forest, where they see the city, a.k.a “the real world.”
One day, little Syd sees a dead, rotting fox. She notices the Wolf there suddenly, talking about the decomposing animal to scare her about the concept of death. The child doesn’t budge. She knows death’s only part of life’s cycle. The Wolf doesn’t faze her. Off she goes back to her quaint home. At night, Melanie tells Syd a story about a girl with the power of empathy towards animals, leading the girl to a crisis where she didn’t know exactly who she was anymore because she gave so much to others. Relevant for a girl whose true self has powers that literally let her live in another person’s skin.
Meanwhile, the Wolf lures Cynthia away towards the real world— away from goodness.
Syd keeps growing. She hears about the birds and the bees from Melanie, and then starts asking about chlamydia after the Wolf’s warning years before. She learns of it from her surrogate mother plainly. When she sleeps, she dreams of David (Dan Stevens), their memories together— bad and good. All that terror exists in her, because she isn’t really a little girl, it’s only the reduced state of her mind because of what happened with David back in reality / his head. She can’t escape the Wolf, either.
“You think the light bulb is afraid of the dark?
The light bulb loves the dark
because in the dark
it can shine.”
Oliver and Melanie take Syd away from the woods to the urban gutter of what appears to be a Victorian London setting, perfect for repression while they’re attempting to “escape the knowledge.” The astral plane is, ultimately, a way for Oliver to escape— it has been for a long time. Even if it’s a trap at the same time. He and Melanie are only trying to shield young Sydney from all the horror out there, which she’s experienced back in reality. Nevertheless, the girl feels the real world’s continuous pull.
In the street, Syd sees a heart pumping in a tattered box, as well as a shattered typewriter, an anachronism. She then runs into Cynthia, now on the streets with a cobbled together family of her own, consisting of a thief and a tiny drunk. They try to lure her with promises of cereal, video games, and “movies about slavery.”
Not to mention, Jerome is with them. The Wolf is never far.
It’s all too terrifying. Syd runs back home to safety. Melanie explains this is all part of her becoming the woman she needs to be, in order to help save the world back in reality. The girl’s beginning to understand. She first wants to save Cynthia from the Wolf. Mama and Papa agree. They’re able to snatch Cynthia off the streets before Jerome notices. They bring her home and try to get through to her that she is loved.
But the Wolf won’t have it. There’s only one way to solve things: a rap battle.
Oliver and Jerome trade hilarious verses, ending in the Wolf’s supreme humiliation. At the end, Cynthia runs in to protect Jerome. She won’t leave him, no matter who wins, and she walks off into the darkness with him once more, lost to them forever.
“We have to learn about love
before we can
learn about hate.”
And now, Syd is back to her grown self.
She’s ready to face reality again with all Oliver and Melanie helped her understand. Back on the Division 3 airship, Syd wakes up. She sees one of Switch’s (Lauren Tsai) doors expanding and contracting. She tries to touch it but nothing happens. Kerry (Amber Midthunder) is getting Cary (Bill Irwin) to patch her up when Syd returns, explaining she can fix everything. She just needs Cary to make more contraptions so they can access the Hall of Time through Switch’s signal.
An emotional moment for the Loudermilk pair. Kerry needs full use of her body, which is currently fucked up. She has to leave Cary in a withered state, sitting in a wheelchair to heal herself. Just in time. The Time Eaters have returned. Kerry sends Syd off, pushing Cary through the time door with them before the Eaters catch up.
Soundtrack note: This episode ends with a great cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” by Noah Hawley and Jeff Russo
it’s not us or them,
Another absolutely incredible instalment of this series on the wind down towards the end. Hawley’s writing and overall shaping of the show is stellar, proving he’s one of the best minds in TV currently. So many awesome things in this episode alone, but Season 3 has been beyond any other Marvel adaptation, at least in Father Gore’s books. Because while the visuals and the wild stuff are on par, it’s the real life issues at the core of the story / its plots that’s so compelling.
Chapter 26 is next time. Only two episodes remain.