Shining Vale 1×08 “Chapter Eight – We Are Phelps” was the epic, inevitable conclusion to a season of television that has truly had it all. The performances from an already undeniably good cast were probably at their all-time best, and the way the final chapter in this story was paced to just attack viewers from all sides was a feat of genius.
Usually, an episode of television with so much content and exactly zero room to breathe proves to be far too ambitious. Quiet moments are vitally important, and trying to pack way too much plot into way too little time has a tendency to result in none of it mattering. Just as the series has defied a real description or any semblance of genre all season, though, so too did this Shining Vale finale successfully break all the standard rules and expectations. The breathlessness and the urgency were the point, and the impossibly fast pacing was exactly what was necessary to make viewers feel just as out of control as Pat did.
Looking back on the season, it was pretty obvious that the only possible place to end was here, with Pat Phelps being committed to what was once the Shining Vale Home for Hysterical Women and is now “just” the local psychiatric hospital. The series told us this from the opening, detailing how the signs of depression and those of possession are identical in women. Right around the halfway mark, Shining Vale even showed viewers the past trauma of Pat having to have her own mother committed, just as the series’ fifth episode was in the process of drawing interesting parallels, between how Pat and Gaynor interacted and the dynamics with Pat and Joan.
“I’m sorry. It runs in my family. What can I say? It’s genetic.”
Mothers and daughters, right? We were all in on the joke, and even as we were wondering whether or not the series might be telling the tale of intergenerational suffering, we doubted what we were seeing before our very eyes. There was a haunted house to deal with, after all. That was the real story…wasn’t it?
But here we are: Just as we should’ve always known we would, we ended the Shining Vale finale exactly the way the family history warned us we would: A young daughter had to make a difficult choice to get help for her mom, right as the teen was on the brink of experiencing her own freedom. The multiple cries for help went unheard by the adults in the room, even as Pat was literally screaming at Terry that she can’t be happy. The world’s shittiest therapist saw the signs but “forgot” to do anything about them.
And so, it fell to a child to make things right. Gaynor had to step up and do what nobody else would. The seemingly checked-out and self-absorbed teen girl saved everyone. As they do. (Someone hand Gus Birney her flowers for that end scene while we’re at it, please and thank you.)
Brilliantly enough, the journey remains—at least somewhat—up to interpretation. Sure, there’s that final chilling shot of Rosemary in the photo from 1859 and the creepy “welcome home,” coupled with her demonic chuckle, as our farewell. And that definitely makes the case that Rosemary was real. She was real, she was evil, and she’s been in that house even longer than we originally thought.
After all, Pat always thought Rosemary was a 1950s housewife.
“When a woman tells you she’s feeling depressed, listen to her. Don’t just prescribe her more medicine, you misogynistic little prick.”
But how many moments along the way were the musings of a mentally ill wife, hopped-up on pills that only exacerbated her symptoms, and how many were real?
Being left with that uncertainty is probably the second best part of this series, right after you throw in Courteney Cox and Mira Sorvino’s performances across all eight episodes—and especially Cox’s ability to hit every single note in this finale.
Look at the contrast between Pat’s frantic rush through the house in the beginning and the way she stalked Terry up those stairs toward the end. Or the uncertain delivery on “she was…really dirty” to explain her irrational behavior versus the rushed “no thanks. I’m good” to avoid talking about the party. And, of course, there’s also the crushing way Pat begged for someone to believe she wasn’t crazy when she was restrained on that gurney at the end…
To be clear: This series would not have worked without the strength of its leads—its leading women, specifically. They were the ones who showed us the “impossible standards” and their painful effects, long before Pat finally lost her shit on Terry over them. When Pat lit up in realizing Rosemary didn’t realize who she was dealing with, or when Rosemary was so utterly heartbroken over hearing Pat might not kill off her whole family and free her from the cycle after all…those were the moments. Those were driven by the very performance quality that shaped this series and created something with so many layers, it’s impossible to even make sense of them all.
And when you look at how well Shining Vale told the story of families carried by women, with shades of those women’s tragedies and revenge fantasies, alongside delightful nods to the horror genre and the mental illness that provided the true scares all along…
Well. It really was inevitable that we’d love every second of it, right down to the very last.
Final thoughts on Shining Vale 1×08
- It’s giving “Normal Again” from Buffy, right? Am I the only one who thought that? Or do I watch too much television? (I mean, I do…but anyway.)
- All those references to The Shining were just icing on the cake. Double Jakes, “here’s Patty,” the pages pouring out with the same line typed over and over, the axe busting through the door…And yet they were all twisted, just so to fit this particular story. Icing. On. The. Cake.
- The buried necklace and swinging a weapon at a family member after a hearty “fuck it” popped up more than once, so even if the whole “kill everyone with a shovel and bury them in the backyard” part was just a dream, the rest might not have been.
- Or maybe it was the other way around. Fuck it.
- Literally nobody in that family noticed what was going on with Pat until it was too late: A message.
- “You do not fuck with someone’s dog.” Exactly.
- “You’re an amazing woman.” “I’m really not.” We all do this. I’d say let’s stop, but I’ll never take my own advice there so.
- Pat: “I thought that was serial killers.” Me: Courteney Cox said “serial killers,” so now I’m back in Woodsboro.
- “So, I have to kill myself?” “That or you commit to leading a clean—anxiety, anger, stress, and drug free life.” “So, I have to kill myself.” Leaving the drug free part out of it…the rest…especially for women…yeah…
- “It could’ve been so much worse! You didn’t die…yet.” The CDC @ us.
- The pure comedy gold when Pat tried to convince Terry her jaw still clicks…
- Dr. Berg remains the worst, and Rosemary’s voicemail about listening could apply to a whole lot more misogynistic prick doctors than just bad therapists…
- And “holy shit. You are the worst therapist ever” was the smartest thing Terry has said since telling his boss to suck a hot dick.
- “By the way, I’ve read it. It’s not great!” Me at everything I’ve ever written.
- “We are the same person, Patricia—two strong women driven to the brink by our families.”
- “Stop being so patient. It’s exhausting.” Just. Again. Brilliant.
- “No one likes to kill their children or their pets. But husbands: They’re the ones who hold us back the most.” Correct. When we purge the men, we’ll keep the ones involved in creating this masterpiece.
- Just kidding?
What did you think of Shining Vale 1×08? Let’s discuss!