Shining Vale 1×05, “Chapter Five – The Squirrel Knew,” was basically destined to be one of our favorite episodes of this series. Why? Two words: Judith Light. And honestly, why hasn’t anyone put Light and Courteney Cox together, especially in this absolutely perfect way, before? It’s like…We never knew we needed this, but now that we have it, we realize we’ve been denied something we deserved for an embarrassing number of years.
Light has held so many iconic roles, whether as Judge Donnelly in Law & Order: SVU or Shelly Pfefferman in Transparent. But our absolute, lifelong favorite role of hers would be the Angela Bower in Who’s the Boss?. Trip down Fangirl Lane aside—or, probably more accurately, with the obvious trip in mind—there’s an utter brilliance to pitting one of the most well-loved ’80s sitcom moms against Cox, whose ’90s sitcom we basically rewatch every single night. Light’s character in Shining Vale, Joan, even has a certain echo Angela’s mom, Mona, in her…but with the modern twist and extra flavor of this utterly special series.
The dynamic between Pat and her mother in “Chapter Five – The Squirrel Knew” also has such familiar echoes of Pat and Gaynor’s vibe, you can feel the intergenerational baggage spilling out, all over everywhere, before you even learn anything about it. And then, once the family’s dark past is revealed…It’s honestly a lot to handle. Having your whole future laid out in front of you, but having to pause it to look after a mentally-ill parent who winds up resenting you for doing the only thing that might help them, is…not exactly easy. And mother-daughter stuff is difficult enough as it is, from the nitpicking of appearances to the guilting, to…God knows what else.
Once we meet Pat’s mom, a lot of things start to simultaneously make sense and draw Rosemary’s true origins into question (for about the millionth time in five short episodes). There’s also this uncomfortable parallel between Joan, whose entire view of her own success was cut short by having a daughter and taking on the traditional motherhood role, and…well…basically every other woman, ever, who’s been asked to make that work-family choice. But it especially adds even more the already-tragic ones of Rosemary and Pat.
While we’re at it, those of us who haven’t lived that experience are probably sick of seeing it happen to others and/or hearing about how the sacrifice has to be made, while the menfolk aren’t given that message, too. And now, back to the episode.
Gus Birney plays the perfect role of the daughter who, reluctantly, finds out grandmother is super cool and bonds with her, only to find out more than she bargained for. And truly, even if we weren’t already fans of all things Judith Light, how could we not be after her intense emotional impact on Shining Vale 1×05? The moment where Joan is telling her story and has to look away to wipe her eyes…Whew.
Sometimes, learning about the past makes you see your loved ones in a whole new light. See also: Gaynor throwing herself into her mom’s arms when she got home.
Other times, learning more…takes you into dangerous territory. That is, of course, where we were with Rosemary after “Chapter Four.” The impact is even greater with this latest chapter. Our ghost might just be a demon, which is worse…And, oh yeah: Terry has known what happened in that house all along. Not quite the best look.
Was Pat’s deal with the devil, so to speak, a good solution to the Phelps family’s haunting or not? Logic says not…But it was at least a nice idea to empathize with yet another trapped woman and try to give her a chance to rewrite her own story. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had that chance?
But…as the “one-star Wiccan” told us, “there’s about a thousand movies” about this. Spoiler alert: None of them end well.
We can only hope Shining Vale will offer something different along the way.
Things the squirrel probably didn’t know we’d say about Shining Vale 1×05
- One-star Wiccan dude is giving Randy Meeks, Shining Vale edition.
- Courteney Cox’s “fuck you” and the frantic running at the beginning: Lifetime moods.
- “Sometimes, I can’t fucking stand these people.” If you’ve never had that thought about family…
- “I don’t hate her. We just have a complicated relationship.” “Gee, what must that be like.” The way I love watching Cox and Birney bicker.
- …but I love watching Light and Cox go at it even more.
- “Her father used to fuck around like a stray cat.” But did he find out?
- “Being a mother is the most difficult job. No one knows that more than I do.”
- “Why do you want her out?” “Because she’s a fucking ghost.” Insert that one Oprah gif here.
- “All these male doctors deciding what to do with my pussy.” Replace one word in that sentence with politicians, and Joan is me.
- The parallel of Joan crunching down on her pill while Pat was throwing hers back with that liquor. Hit me where it hurts, Shining Vale.
- “I want what every woman wants: I want to be satisfied. My husband, Rolf, never let me do anything. I couldn’t travel. I couldn’t entertain. I was simply a prisoner in this house…until, well…You know how it ended.” This is sad. Honestly.
- Mira Sorvino singing and dancing, though.
- All this trauma for the women on this show…and Terry and Laird are…getting high in a treehouse. Cool story, bros.
- It’s the “fuck you, Terry” for me. He knew and lied.
- “Writing’s hard, right?” Correct.
- “Don’t you dare feel sorry for her. She’s the one who signed the papers to put me away.” Pain.
- Greg Kinnear said “shit” so many times in that bedroom scene, I thought he was auditioning for a Suits reboot. (Too soon?)
- “This was a weird fucking weekend.” Uh. Yeah.