Ep. 1: “Blood Calls Blood”
Directed by Burr Steers
Written by Jason & Peter Filardi
* For a recap & review of Ep. 2, click here.
We open in Massachusetts, 1817. We hear only a clanking sound in the night.
A young boy wakes to see someone digging in the backyard; a man, who stops and starts beating on the door. Eventually the man breaks the door down and makes his way inside. He beats a woman brutally, choking her until she goes limp. This man is Robert Boone (Sebastien Labelle). He then goes looking for young Charles (Oscar Mellema), who hides away in a trunk. But the boy’s father finds him and takes him to the backyard. Robert says “Blood calls blood” before cracking Charles over the head with a shovel and beginning to bury him. He’s stopped only by a bullet to the head, from his wife Sara (Kathleen Dorian); turns out she’s not dead. After that Robert falls into the grave with his semi-conscious son. Charles passes out. We hear his mother tell him he must go far away from that place and “never return.” What a stunning opener for Chapelwaite.
Next we see a whaler, the Narwhal, in the midst of the Sea of Japan. Charles Boone (Adrien Brody) is a grown man now, a captain. He’s also mourning the loss of his wife, Maya (Lily Gao). They’re giving her a burial at sea, and though Charles keeps a strong face his children—Honor (Jennifer Ens), Loa (Sirena Gulamgaus), and Tane (Ian Ho)—are left without a mother. But Charles is haunted by far more than his wife’s death. There remain all those memories of his terrifying childhood and the incident with his father. That night, Charles walks on the deck and finds his children, unable to sleep and continuing to miss their mother. He breaks the news they’ve inherited a house and a sawmill in Maine from a cousin he barely knows; the place is called Chapelwaite. It’s a gift to Charles as a means of repairing “an old rift” in the Boone family.Soon the Boones arrive at Chapelwaite, a very Gothic estate. The house itself is a mansion, which Tane says is “twice as big as a whaler.” Charles meets the place’s previous housekeeper, Mrs. Cloris (Gabrielle Rose). She hands over papers for the house and the sawmill. She says the house has been a little vandalised in her absence, but nothing serious. The children head inside to explore the house while Charles chats with Mrs. Cloris about his cousin Stephen. Apparently Stephen’s daughter Marcella fell down the stairs and “broke her back into pieces.” The father found his daughter, then “never recovered.” Charles offers Mrs. Cloris a job with them as a governess, yet she refuses; she doesn’t want anything to do with the place anymore. Surely a great omen, no? Right after that she mentions never seeing a particular kind of bird during the day before; whip-poor-wills. Double omen.
Charles joins his children looking around the house. They look at the portraits of Stephen, his daughter, his father Philip. Charles talks about them a little, saying that Stephen was always good to him. He talks more about his family: his great grandfather James mined copper in the area, and his grandmother Silence built a lumber business. Charles only says his own father was “a peculiar man” when Tane asks why he never talks about Robert.
A while later, Charles goes down into the basement. He sees what looks like a bloodstain on the floor. He keeps searching and notices a steel tub with straps around its edges, like it’s meant to hold somebody inside. He looks up to see worms crawling out of the ceiling. He goes upstairs and tells his children not to go down in the basement, claiming the stairs aren’t safe. He remarks to the children how this place is “a symbol of Boone industry” and “success,” even if it’s excessive.
Tane finds Stephen’s grave in the weeds and it scares him. He realises he’s actually in the middle of a family graveyard. The rest of the family hear him screaming and they come running to look at the graves. Tane thinks it’s strange they weren’t buried in a cemetery, but his father dismisses it as the family wanted to stay where they lived, on the land they loved. Could there be another reason the family weren’t buried in an actual cemetery?
In town, a writer named Rebecca Morgan (Emily Hampshire) is stressing out over writing a story for The Atlantic Monthly in just under a month, talking with her mother Ann (Allegra Fulton) about it; including the magazine as a mention in a later scene puts the time of this series as some time after 1857, when the magazine was founded. She’s looking for inspiration. That’s when she sees Charles and his children come into town. We hear lots of prejudice from people in town as folks have a look at Charles’s mixed family, sure that the kids “fled the reservation.” Dad tries to tell his kids it’s merely the fact the white people are uncomfortable with difference. The kids head off while Charles goes to meet Constable George Dennison (Hugh Thompson), and the constable’s immediately on edge when he hears the name Boone. He tells the constable about the ransacking of Chapelwaite. Apparently the town don’t take kindly to the place. The constable advises Charles should sell everything and leave. The Boones don’t have a good reputation in the area; “not good people,” says Dennison. Seems people were thrilled when Stephen killed himself. Before Charles and his kids leave they nearly come into contact with a very ill little girl. Is it a regular disease? Or something… supernatural? Because we know that stuff is coming sooner than later.
Back at Chapelwaite, Mrs. Cloris pops by with ominous messages: “No Boone has ever been happy here.” That doesn’t deter the man, though. We later discover that Ms. Morgan’s taking advantage of Chapelwaite’s need for a governess, offering herself up for the job and taking a meeting with Charles, who’s giving his children “equal say” in who they hire. The children are already quite well read; they’ve been through The Three Musketeers, Hawthorne, and the Brontës. Yet it’s probably nice to have a woman like Rebecca around. She’s been to college, even in an age when most women were struggling to get a basic education. Honor and Tane are fine with Rebecca, though Loa doesn’t approve. Nevertheless, democracy rules in the Boone household, and thus Ms. Morgan is Chapelwaite’s new governess. And Rebecca’s already got Gothic ideas for her writing. It doesn’t please her mother. We hear that Rebecca’s father was a lawyer for Philip Boone and “lived in fear of the man.”
Charles meets Able Stewart (Devante Senior), a Black man working at the sawmill. He then has a talk with Daniel Thompson (Michael Hough), foreman of the mill crew. He’s not happy with the work being done, neither is he pleased with Able not receiving a wage increase like everybody else. So he gives Daniel a severance and sends him packing. He plans to expand the mill, and he’s starting by running the place like he ran his ship. He’s trying to incentivise the men’s work, as well. And he’s making sure Able gets fair pay. He further asks Able about Salem’s Lot, the family’s “old mining town.”
At night, Rebecca does a sort of seance with the Boone children using a candle and a necklace to try bringing out spirits. “Let us see you, hear our call,” says Rebecca, as she and the kids head through the mansion’s dark halls together by candlelight. Probably not the best thing for a governess to be doing with kids who’ve not long ago lost their mother. Things get scarier when they all see the basement door is now unlocked. Rebecca peeks through the door, only briefly, before locking it up. Charles later tells Rebecca it wasn’t appropriate to play such games with the kids around. She then also talks to him about how the family could do better to “fit in” with the rest of the town, so that they don’t have problems. That means taking the kids to church.
At church, Charles meets Alice Burroughs (Jennie Raymond), whose husband is Minister Burroughs (Gord Rand). He’s then taken to see Samuel Gallup (Eric Peterson), Alice’s father, who used to preach there himself. Looks like there’s not enough room for regulars to sit in church. That means the Boone family aren’t welcome; they’re not even welcome to stand. Gallup questions the Christianity of Charles’s children, then goes on to insult the entire Boone family, calling them “a plague on this town.” So Charles has to make clear he’s looking for “a fresh start.” But the town’s not going to give them that without a fight. And the Boones head home. Back home, Rebecca explains that people believe Chapelwaite is connected to the illnesses in town. That doesn’t mean the effects of how they’re being treated won’t weigh on Charles, or his children. His kids are already grappling with their mother’s death, and Charles is trying his best to be a good father in Maya’s absence. Even Loa sees Charles has more on his mind than all that, too. She’s scared by whatever it is he’s hiding from them.
Meanwhile there are people in town thinking of burning Chapelwaite to the ground. That doesn’t mean they’re able to get past a murderous, shadowy figure on the road. One man gets his and his horse’s throat cut. Then, the dark figure covers the man in gasoline and sets the man on fire. Someone’s protecting Chapelwaite. But who could it be? Back at the mansion, Charles is in the bath and suddenly it’s filled with dirt and worms; only a vision, but one that shows how traumatised he is by the memory of his father. Probably doesn’t help him much that Chapelwaite’s definitely haunted, either.