Shining Vale 2×05 “Chapter 13: The Miracle” confirms that the series is, in fact, “gonna pull a Dana Scully/Jean Milburn but, like, with devil spawn,” as we guessed after watching “Chapter 12.” But, to be fair, nothing can ever quite reach the level of pulling a Dana Scully. (If you know, you know). Additionally, if we can suspend disbelief with all the horror happenings the Phelps family, Pat especially, experiences…well. This isn’t exactly a huge leap. Just. Some of us are traumatized from previous television experiences, ok? Ok.
For now, the way the world around Pat reacts to this pregnancy is, probably, the most interesting part of that arc. (Aside from the always-entertaining supernatural element, of course.) Because, as it turns out, it doesn’t even matter how old you are…everyone is going to have their own agenda anyway. As it also turns out, it doesn’t matter where you’re at in life or how shocking your news is — all the usual suspects are going to have all the usual agendas around your pregnancy. (Though, age does get brought up a lot here, too…of course.)
So, as Shining Vale has often done, “Chapter 13” leaves us to wonder whether the so-called crazy Pat is actually the only sane one. Or, at the very least, if a lot more people aren’t a lot more dishonest about their own level of messed up than they claim Pat is about hers.
The book club
Where do we even begin with Shining Vale’s book club, which Pat doesn’t even want to attend but is basically forced to for PR reasons? Maybe, given that we’re Fangirlish, we should start by calling out Pat’s big “fan,” Principal Woodcock. Sure, she’s the only one who’s managed to actually read the book before coming to the discussion. She’s also the only woman, besides Pat, who seems to understand that one doesn’t need to go full Stepford in the wardrobe department to discuss a book. So, she may seem like the normal one in the room.
She is, most assuredly, not.
“I read it. Then, I read it again…and again. And I fucking loved it.”
Not only does Shining Vale 2×05 drive the point of Sandra’s abnormality home via a well-placed Courteney Cox “what the fuck” and that distorted image in the group selfie, but there’s also her behavior throughout the entire meeting. There is something scarily intense about the way Allison Tolman delivers even the most otherwise-harmless lines — and that’s well before Sandra starts saying she wishes she was the baby inside Pat. (Which, like, girl…WTF.)
Expressing your appreciation for something you love is good. Suffocating the entire discussion, saying weird shit directly to the people you fangirl over, and just being unrelenting on the other hand…no. That’s not ok. We all get a little out of hand sometimes, sure. And it’s probably…not great to see fans portrayed this way. But one can’t help but wonder to what extent Cox needed to even consider making an acting choice, rather than just thinking about fan and paparazzi encounters over the years since Friends became the cultural phenomenon it is — to the point of Cox and her fellow actors not even being able to mourn a dear friend without invasive assholes taking photos of, and writing stories about, a private funeral.
…but that’s probably none of our business. Anyway. Back to our discussion of “Chapter 13,” which was filmed before all that. (Yet after decades of bullshit.)
Pat is dismissive of Sandra and irritated by her constant praise almost from the jump. When she turns her head from Sandra’s first line about reading the book over and over, the gut instinct is to be like “wow. The bitch jumped out of her there, huh.” But then, we see Sandra’s constant need to insert herself and get up in Pat’s face throughout the whole meeting, at every opportunity. And, uh. Yeah. Maybe Pat’s initial reaction is justified, based on the previous encounter and just tons of experience as a famous author. Just saying.
But wait! There’s more!
The book club meeting also serves as the largest, most damning, showcase of how society reacts to pregnant people. As we see in Shining Vale 2×05’s book club meeting, there are the swarms of “well-meaning” women, who want to be way too…grabby-hands about, we’ll call it. Look at how rigidly and awkwardly Cox holds her body, hands out to the side, as Robyn just throws her arms around Pat in a clearly unwelcome embrace. Forget that they’re not friends by any stretch of the imagination. And forget that Pat has never, not once, given the impression that she’s someone who likes hugs from strangers. No consent needed now — there’s a baby in that body.
And then, despite Pat being very low key and quiet about her news, suddenly everyone finds out. Similarly, everyone has opinions about which doctor she should see. And everyone is just..swarming her, in her face. It’s extremely uncomfortable to watch, between Cox’s performance, the setup of the shot, and the almost rabid energy of the rest of the group. Which means, of course, that all elements have come together to create exactly the right scene. We can say the same about a later moment, when the doctor is giving Pat all the warnings about the pregnancy psychosis — only for it all to resolve with Pat’s near-instant need to brush aside her terror in favor of gushing over the photo printout…because everyone else comes first.
If we can forgive anyone for being a little bit too excited about Pat’s situation, it’s
Rosemary Ruth. Sure, she only knows about the pregnancy because of town gossip. (Or something supernatural — you decide.) But her well-meaning, yet overdone, advice still comes with that burst of optimism and sunshine that Ruth always tries to bring to any situation. And she’s supportive-supportive, rather than just trying to force her own will on Pat. Baby clothes, a smile after a stressful day, and — most importantly — a reminder that Pat is probably a much better mom than she thinks she is.
Meanwhile at the Phelps household
Speaking of Pat being a better mom than she thinks she is, let’s talk about that unexpectedly sweet moment with Gaynor. After the kids react badly to hearing the big news, there’s something very quiet and cautious about the way Pat approaches her daughter when she follows her to her room. And even as Gaynor tries her very hardest to be bitchy and ignore her mother’s efforts, she lets ever so much sadness come through when Pat brings up Ryan.
“I want you to know that i would never judge you. For anything that you had to do to get through these last few months. I’m incredibly proud of how strong you are. All jokes aside…if I really have this baby, I promise I will not love it any more than I love you.”
As the scene unfolds, and by the time Cox gets to the “proud of you” part of Pat’s line, Gus Birney has taken her character on a slow, subtle journey from the initial (failed) cold shoulder, to “ok, maybe I’m listening,” to a huge outpouring of emotion. Watching it all unfold, we can remember what it’s like to, basically, just want our mommy — even, maybe especially, when we’re “too old” for all that. It’s a touching scene amidst all the absurd chaos. And just another reminder that Shining Vale is a series that blends it all together masterfully — the horror, the satire, the commentary, the supernatural, and the genuine, grounded family story.
As far as the rest of the family goes, there’s Terry — somehow, both back home to be supportive and do this thing together and so hyper-focused on himself, he’s not emotionally present at any of the times when Pat seems to need him the most. Then, there’s the youngest Phelps.
“…and Jake is…Jake, you know. He’s easy. I never have to worry about him.”
It’s precisely because Pat and Terry think they don’t have to worry about Jake that they really should be worrying about him. In Shining Vale 2×05, he’s sucked in by the house’s supernatural element, trapped for “only like four hours and, uh…three days.” Perhaps someone should ask him what he saw besides “old-timey boobs and candy,” given the clear evidence of decay in that child’s room. Hidden, in the basement. Behind the wall. Totally normal things…right? Especially when Gaynor’s new exorcist crush senses something evil in the very bar where Rosemary used to like to hang out?
Totally normal and “easy.”
More on Shining Vale 2×05
- I’d say I never knew how much I needed “feral fangs and demon eyes Courteney Cox” in my life, except that I’ve always wanted her to at least get to play Gale Weathers as Ghostface so…
- “One shit for Mommy.”
- “But I will say, having you was the second best decision I ever made.” “I’m not going to ask what the first was.” “Getting my abortion.” I did a weird combination of clapping and screeching.
- No, really. Absolutely love the abortion talk between Joan and Pat. Eat shit, haters.
- On a similar note, I also continue to love how incredibly well the dynamic between Judith Light’s Joan and Cox’s Pat mirrors the Pat/Gaynor relationship. Spot on. Getting
- “And I tried cocaine. And I quit — my job, not the coke.” Do drugs, not capitalism, kids.
- “I’m just thinking of the circumstance where I would hand you something covered in urine.” Ugh, men.
- “How do we know it’s yours?” In which Terry both has a point and is ignorant AF. It’s in her womb; that’s how it’s hers. Thanks. But also: The Devil.
- I would like to bottle Pat’s reaction to the pickle board/pickleball correction and use it whenever people speak to me at my other job. And that reminds me: I’m still, and forever, bitter over people saying Courteney Cox wasn’t believable as a bitch in Dirt, when 1) Scream already existed. And 2) look at her here!
- Hilarious how the kids react to their parents getting back together in the upset way one would’ve expected for when their parents broke up. Sometimes, we know our parents aren’t good for each other!
- “…a sponge with teeth. And I’m not gonna clean out its tubes and water it…” Gaynor is so real for this.
- Another highlight from the Gaynor/Pat scene. Birney’s tiniest hesitation before going back into the joking mode with the “I bet you will love the baby more. Because it will help with the dishes” bit. The snarking is still there because it’s them, yet the whole exchange is still ever so slightly handled with care. Exactly the way to do it right.
- “Women all over are seeing themselves in Rosemary. It’s like you’re saying it’s ok for an average, middle-aged woman to go a little crazy. And they’re fucking loving it!” I mean…why not?
- Please let Jake have his two Christmases, and please let Pat continue to buy as many cookies as she wants.
- The delight on “I told you!”
- Roxy’s the smartest Phelps for running away from all that, though.
- The way that axe thumps its way down the stairs with Gaynor, the shot of her in the little window in the door. It’s all just…so cool.
- “If you’re here to stalk me, you should know that I come from a long line of insane women who chop up men and get away with it.” I love her.
- “It means, on paper…you’re a woman.” How about we don’t.
- Same response to this: “How about you talk to my wife’s vagina?”
- Can’t decide what’s giving X-Files more: Middle-aged woman being miraculously pregnant…or the iconic flashlight beams in the dark. You decide.
- “She believes there is a…a demon. Living here.” “Oh, yeah. She’s not home right now.” These writers…
- Sandy was right to rage at Robyn, though.
- “I actually trim up my hoo-ha before i go see him.” Hoo-ha? It’s giving 50 Shades…
- Gaynor is down bad for this exorcist dude.
- “One thing I know: Anyone who is as critical of her maternal skills as you are is a damned great mom.” “Then, I must be the best! Because I am the fucking worst.”
- “I think this makes you a lesbian.” Can we not.
- “It’s one thing to do a bunch of coke, but do I really want a bunch of…weird chemicals in my body?” Currently thinking about people who will do all sorts of drugs and/or are fine with botulism injections to stop natural aging, yet who won’t take a goddamned vaccine to save lives.
- “Geriatric pregnancy. Forgive the term.” “I wasn’t offended when I had my first geriatric pregnancy 18 years ago.” Get him, Pat.
- “Honey, I honestly don’t have the bandwidth to talk about your balls today.”
- Still a scream queen. Mmmhm.
- Ok but now, what was that now??? Can we stop ending on a spooky cliffhanger already? (Never stop.)
Thoughts on Shining Vale 2×05 “Chapter 13: The Miracle”? Leave us a comment!
New episodes of Shining Vale air Fridays on Starz.