Shining Vale 1×01 “Chapter One – Welcome to Casa De Phelps” was the perfect setup for this new, completely bonkers series. And yeah, there’s really not a more sophisticated way to describe it: This show is bonkers…usually in all the best ways, sometimes in somewhat problematic ways.
When you think about what a series premiere should accomplish, “Chapter One – Welcome to Casa De Phelps” checks all the boxes. It does a very good job of setting up the overall tone, introducing viewers to the characters, and laying the groundwork for the storytelling. We know, from the very first moment we see the Phelps family in that car, with Pat (Courteney Cox) in a completely different world while her husband, Terry (Greg Kinnear) obliviously belts out some of his favorite “old person music” and the kids sit back, annoyed…that all is not right with the Phelps family. And that is, of course, where both the horror and the heavy dose of comedy both come into play.
But before we even meet the characters, the Shining Vale premiere somewhat indirectly gives us a trigger warning: This series is going to be full of mentions, and depictions of, various mental illnesses and the way they’re often managed (mis-managed) by a person’s loved ones and doctors. Trigger warning for pretty large amounts of gaslighting while we’re at it…
“Women are roughly twice as likely as men to suffer depression. Symptoms include: Sense of helplessness, insomnia, change in sex drive, hallucinations, and feeling completely out of control. Women are also roughly twice as likely to be possessed by a demon. The symptoms are the same…”
As the Phelps family tries, awkwardly, to pick up the pieces after Pat’s affair, we’re left with a story about a woman who may or may not be unraveling. She’s the only one who sees a little girl in the street on the otherwise boring drive out to the new house—and that’s only the beginning.
Terry constantly tries to convince her she’s seeing things and even implies that she can’t tell the difference between a deer’s antlers and a child’s hair ribbons. The strange noises she tries to investigate (should’ve learned better from your Scream days, Ms. Cox…) aren’t there, and the list of evidence for Terry’s extreme lack of care for his wife’s stressors just kind of goes on and on…
Is Pat just hallucinating because of depression, or perhaps because of the medication she was prescribed for it? Clearly, if a woman has an affair, it’s something that can be explained and medicated away…not because her marriage just isn’t particularly great, right? And obviously, the way to move on is to, quite literally move and expect the problem to just disappear.
Is Shining Vale a comedic look at a woman’s unwitting move to a haunted house and the possession that follows? Or, are we watching the tragic fall of someone with a true illness? Only time and each viewer’s personal impressions will tell. And that is the fun part—if you feel like you’re in on the joke, rather than being poked fun at.
The other question “Chapter One – Welcome to Casa De Phelps” sets is more normal than paranormal. Simply put: Can this family repair itself? There’s certainly a sweet moment toward the end of the episode, where everyone’s goofing off over Terry’s old cheers together…but then, well. Hi, there, Mira Sorvino…What’s Pat doing in your house? More like where the hell did you come from?
Scattered goodies from Shining Vale 1×01
- Now that we can be more specific than vague here: The thing about Dylan Gage as Jake Phelps is just how utterly normal and aloof Jake is throughout this whole thing. He doesn’t have much to say, mostly because he’s too engrossed in his video games to care (again, normal), but when he does speak up? The deadpan just kills. You can’t teach that, and you really can’t teach how well he just utterly failed at making eye contact when his mother was begging him to show her some, either.
- “I bet I can guess what you’re thinking.” “Probably not.” I mean, if he could guess, he wouldn’t have been quite so chipper…
- “It’s not porn. It’s a women’s empowerment story about a sex addict who makes bad choices.” So, Shining Vale fanfic?
- I’m just saying if you want the romance back in your relationship, demanding sex and pointing out you’ve not had any action since your wife’s affair…isn’t the way to go. Why are men?
- I’m living for the camera angles and images that are straight out of all the great horror movies. All the cliche shit just works here.
- Particularly in love with the angled shot when Pat heard the strange noise and the ball bouncing down the stairs.
- “It’s just words. No pressure.” And then she proceeds to get nothing done and just circle around in her chair. Literally me when a post is due.
- She has one sentence written by Friday and then deletes it? Stop stalking me, Shining Vale writers. Just stop.
- Ah, yes. Woman with legitimate concerns about…either a haunting or having the same mental illness as her mother (take your pick!)…needs to be told by a man that she’s just stressed and needs some exercise. K.
- It’s the mother-daughter bickering about Porn Hub for me. Gus Birney and Courteney Cox work so well together. Honestly, everyone works well with Cox. (As they should.) But the mother-daughter dynamic is just an extra layer of perfection.
Got thoughts on Shining Vale 1×01? Sticking around? Let us know in the comments!