Shining Vale 2×02 “Chapter 10: She’s Real” is an episode that requires tissues to wipe away the tears. Thankfully, they’re not the sad kind; instead, think “cry-laugh emoji come to life” if you want to know how we felt watching this thing. Throw in a jam session that we couldn’t help but want to dance along to and a very interesting new surprise — which, to be clear, we’re not entirely sure we trust it, even now — and even some strong emotional moments…and we are, once again, wondering how this series’
episodes chapters are so short, yet offer so much.
One thing that really stands out here, even amidst the satire of it all, and deserves mention before getting into a deeper discussion. Whether it’s dancing along to music on an “ancient iPod recorder” (rude line, by the way), painting, writing, reading, or even enjoying this weird little television show, art is a vital tool in helping us survive in a world gone mad.
And that is, of course, a natural place for us to add our unequivocal support for the actors who make this particular form of art for us, along with so many writers and crew members. We’re still here, we still love TV, and we’re still waiting for SAG-AFTRA to get the deal they deserve.
The relapse that…maybe…isn’t?
Obviously, the big story in Shining Vale 2×02 is both Pat’s reaction to seeing Rosemary again — or at least, someone she thinks is Rosemary…and may or may not be named Ruth — and the entirety of the fallout from there. In the first place, her decision to rush straight back to the hospital and attempt to get “a quick zap” unrolls layers upon layers of topics for discussion. There’s her idea that just one more treatment is going to magically put her back in control. Which, as her mom tried to warn her already, isn’t how this works. No magic fix, no cure, ongoing process and all that. But we already covered this in the season premiere.
Another idea that “Chapter 10” covers very well here, though, is just that constant fear of having a relapse. It never leaves you, this sense of just how fragile recovery can be. When things are bad, and we start to put ourselves back on track, the first sign of something being even slightly off can be more terrifying than even the spookiest of things that go bump in the night. Pat’s darkest fears, the ones that actually attack her as waking nightmares, aren’t about any of the “horror” elements of living in that (possibly) haunted house. They’re about going back to the feelings and behaviors that caused her to need treatment in the first place.
And, yes, the treatment traumatized her and is causing a not-insignificant amount of stress, too. Just like we see in the straightjacket-covered bathtub, the hallucinated restraints during her interview on
The Morning Show Good Morning Shining Vale. Also noteworthy: Pat talks about just wanting “to go back to being a loving wife and mother” when the whole family attends therapy. Because she wasn’t either of those things when this whole series started. Or, at least, she wasn’t at all doing a good job of showing that love. (As the family, and even the therapist, point out.)
Of course, even in the middle of all of this deep, dark stuff, the narrative never actually gets heavy. It’s the self-deprecating gallows humor that sometimes gets us through the most serious things, and Shining Vale continues to be one of the best sources of seeing that play out. Courteney Cox is nothing if not a master of the physical comedy, especially as Pat’s miming her way through begging for that extra shock treatment early in the episode. Even as the instinct is to feel awful for Pat as she tries and fails to get just a little more help, or as her family is quick with a giant “fuck no” to being on board with her focusing on them instead of literally anything else, it’s impossible not to just crack up laughing. It simply all just works.
Then, there’s the twist: Maybe the return of Rosemary is really just the introduction of Ruth from Brooklyn, someone Pat met close to 20 years ago and made feel terrible. And isn’t that something to ponder, that guilt can eat at us so badly, we not only conjure up a ’50s housewife of a ghost, hellbent on revenge against the life she was stuck in — but she has a name. And it starts with the same letter as the name of someone we once mocked.
But if Ruth isn’t just another haunting, how did she so conveniently get herself that house nextdoor? And why are the kids experiencing their own visitations? Is the family mental illness really manifesting itself in exactly the same type of spooky hauntings as Pat’s encounter with Rosemary? Or is the house well and truly haunted. We are delighted to say we still very much can not make up our minds.
trauma haunting spreads
While Pat’s trying to figure out WTF is going on with her own mind and situation, the rest of the Phelps family is also on a journey in Shining Vale 2×02. Something keeps drawing Terry back to his wife’s book, and the deeper he gets into his doctor-prescribed painting to try to get his memories back, the more disturbed he gets by images of an axe. As we know, he should be careful what he wishes for on that one. It’s preferable, actually, not to know someone you loved tried to murder you with an axe.
Forgotten in the parents’ ongoing mental health and relationship drama, though, are the kids’ own difficulties. Or, at least, they would be on any other series. Not here. On the emergency trip for “ice cream” that begins the episode, Gaynor is met with a really creepy, threatening old woman…who might or might not actually be there. And there’s the scary thing skittering across the ceiling. (Definitely not there). Then, she just happens to find the Walkman. Everything starts off pleasant enough with that, with Gus Birney perfectly embodying what it is to dance when no one is watching, to try out new music and slowly start to bop your head to it until you can’t quite stop partying…
But this is Shining Vale. Nothing is as it seems, especially when it comes to old technology of any kind. The cassette tape ends in screaming, warning Gaynor to get out. Later, when she brings it to her mom in yet another fun mother/daughter showdown of a scene between Cox and Birney, it turns out there’s no way the Walkman should’ve even worked. The batteries are dead and in terrible shape — have been since the ’80s. Gaynor can’t get the music to play at any other point after that. So, if she’s not actually haunted by whatever’s in that house, she certainly is by that “Mental illness is hereditary” brochure that magically appeared in the hospital’s waiting room.
“Honestly, Dad. Right now, I’m just…trying not to rip this chair out of the floor and throw it through that window.”
Last but definitely not least, there’s Jake. He’s usually the quiet one, the one who at least seems to be unfazed by the chaos all around him. Now, though, even he makes it clear that he’s having a difficult time. Not just with ghosts and…whatever that rotting corpse of a mascot is who joins the little girl in his VR headset…but with normal life, too. He’s upset that they won’t be on time to get ice cream. It might seem like a little thing, but those are usually the ones that wind up being too much.
And when Jake finally gets a chance to talk about what’s bothering him — his own haunting, among other things — in the safety of therapy, he really seems like he’s about to open up. But the doctor cuts him off. Just like everyone else always seems to with the forgotten Phelps sibling.
It’s really nice to get to see Dylan Gage let loose in the waiting area scene at the beginning, as well as for him to try on some vulnerability for Jake in the therapy session. Gage makes those moments land very well. While they’re at odds with what we usually see from Jake — so they have harder impact when he finally does get to stop bottling up emotions — they still don’t feel out of character in any way. We really get the sense that this is someone who’s been forced to grow a bit but is also just…tired of fading into the background and just wants to be heard.
No worries, though. We do still get plenty of funny moments out of him, too, most notably as he has to read his mom’s smutty book to his dad. The embarrassment! Now, if that’s not enough to make someone go mad, what is?
More on Shining Vale 2×02
- “Why are you breathing like Roxy?” I cackled.
- “Do you want me to take a shit on the floor?” “The state no longer considers that insane, but go for it.” This admit nurse has seen it all and is not impressed. Which is impressive in its own right, considering how much Cox just takes the comedic energy and breaks the scales with it.
- “I’m not crazy.” “I am!!!”
- “Dad, I’m scared.” “She’s gonna be fine.” “No. I mean, the ice cream place closes at 9:00. We’re not gonna make it.” Priorities!
- Tag yourself. I’m Pat with the double middle fingers. But, like, at the entire state of the world instead of just one crappy mental institution.
- “We have ice cream at home.” “It’s not the same, and you know it!!” Again, priorities. Take that kid to the late-night drive-thru, at least!
- Can not believe so much happened, so fast, in that opening sequence. That’s not a whole episode????
- “You try walking a mile in my fuzzy shoes!”
- I want to sleep for two days straight.
- “I’m not your alarm clock, Mom!” Will say this a lot, but I am in this photo and I do not like it.
- “You were in my phone under ‘cheap therapist.’” Ahhh, US health “care.”
- “That’s our story. “Actually, the epilogue is, I’m home and I’m healthy.” “And the sequel is, I had to drive her back to the mental hospital two days ago.” “And the reboot is, I was too healthy to be let back in.” The way this escalated was so good. And Randy Meeks would be proud of us discussing sequels and reboots.
- “That’s a big job for a girl.” If looks could kill. And same, Gaynor. Same.
- “Everybody in this family needs a break. Reward yourself with something you enjoy.” This!
- “No writer enjoys writing.” I am in this photo and I do not like it.
- “Sometimes, the youngest in the family gets lost in the shuffle” I am in this photo and I do not like it.
- The jump scare, the knife, the juice splatter that looks like blood. It’s a scream, baby! (Six movies of being covered in faux blood, and now, Cox gets to do this.)
- Also. It’s giving “see, you push the laws and you end up dead. Okay, I’ll see you in the kitchen with a knife.”
- Mira Sorvino does such a good job of being convincing and making you wonder here.
- “Ok! So, did you walk your dog in Prospect Park?” “No. Did you possess me in my attic?” “No.” Just casual, normal conversation!
- Can’t stop giggling at Pat’s meeting with Ruth(?). Honestly, can not fathom how Sorvino kept a straight face. Superhuman, she is.
- 10/10 likeness of Laird, goofy expression and all, in that picture.
- I would’ve cussed that host out for the ageist comments instead of having a full-on, cool-green-filter horror breakdown. But Pat can do Pat.
- Not gonna lie. I danced along.
- “I’ve been through so much in my life. So, I’ve stopped asking myself ‘why me?’ and started asking myself ‘why me.’” Still in this photo, still do not like it.
- “You are gonna be moist in all the right places.” “No offense, but…it’s your face. And you just said moist to a stranger.” Valid.
- “These batteries expired in 1985. That was 20 years ago.” “That was almost 40 years ago. “No, it’s not. It’s…” I am in this photo and I do not like it — as in, I hate it here.
- Terry’s “electric chair” needs to be speedier, huh.
- Hilarious way for Pat to show her vulnerability around her changing body…and very strangely sweet moment with her and Terry trying to figure things out.
- It’s also got to be difficult to purposely have so little chemistry in that completely nothing of a kiss after turning on the emotions and fragility like that.
- “I’m going to paint. I don’t want to have deep space sex with your mom’s lube.” Help.
- Love Terry’s version of “The Scream.” (Not to be confused with Cox’s Scream.)
- Not sorry the host got Regina Georged. Cracked up at Pat chasing after her and begging her to see her as “not” crazy while she wouldn’t leave her alone, though.
- “What are you gonna do?” Nah, I don’t trust “Ruth.” She’s too calm.
- Fake blood spatter for Pat’s face, “real” blood for Ruth’s. Hm. Interesting.
Thoughts on Shining Vale 2×02 “Chapter 10: She’s Real”? Leave us a comment!
New episodes of Shining Vale release each Friday on Starz.