Tales From the Darkside 211: Effect and Cause

Interesting title, huh? Will this be an episode about time travel? Oh, we can only hope!

The proceedings kick off in an apartment where Kate is looking over some paintings that her friend David has brought over. They were being thrown out by his landlord, and since Kate is always on the lookout for canvasses, he figured she could paint over the miserable examples of talentless hackery. Kate's a little nervous about the idea, however - isn't a painting a living thing, though, man? What right does she have to kill it by painting over it?

She finally relents, and while she's upstairs looking for the plaster she'll use to resurface the canvasses, something strange happens - an ambulance pulls up outside, and the paramedics knock on the door, wondering where the woman who fell down the stairs is. Just as David gets finished telling them no such thing happened, Kate dutifully falls right down the stairs! So who called the paramedics?

Oh, and before we continue with the plot, there was some foreshadowing in the discussion earlier about the gas stove not being great. So look forward to that exploding a little later in the episode.

Kate hobbles home, her leg in a cast, accompanied by David as well as her sister Janet, who literally could not be dressed any more 80s if she tried-

Janet is the standard Yuppie archetype, trying to convince her artist sister to get commercial design work. Kate is more interested in discussing the metaphysical implications of the ambulance arriving before it was called, and, more importantly, just how much the fact that it arrived contributed to the accident that it wasn't called to treat! Is it an interdimensional thing, or what? Janet doesn't believe any of that voodoo bullstuff, however, and thinks she should concern herself with getting better. Step one - plaster over those oddly disturbing paintings!

While she's busy being productive, someone rings her doorbell, and we discover that it's malfunctioning so profoundly that it sends off a shower of sparks every time it rings!

And we've just met our ignition source for that inevitable gas explosion - thanks, foreshadowing!

So, who's at the door? It's a delivery of groceries - but she didn't order and food, and her fridge is full! Or is it? As the young delivery man reads off the list of groceries, those items begin disappearing from her fridge - as if the act of them arriving has caused her to need them! Kate is fascinated by this development, it seems she's discovered a bizarre state where effect and cause have become reversed, and the result forces the cause to occur!

Also, she doesn't tip the delivery boy, because she's a jerk.

Janet continues not believing the voodoo bullstuff, and suggests that it's merely acid flashbacks, or more of her metaphysical nonsense. David is more willing to listen to her ideas, and demonstrates that, within her house at least, the walls of reality are breaking down. She has him draw from a set of playing cards - and by not expecting to see a card that he knows about, he draws the '7 of clocks'.

After David's car keys disappear, Kate explains that the smaller the object, the easier it is to make it disappear. She's discovered that it's people's awareness of things that make them real. Because you're the only one who ever thinks about your keys, the second you forget about them they'll disappear until you think about them again. Houses, she explains, don't disappear because plenty of people think about them and see them all the time, but keys, wallets, and 'backs of earrings' get lost all the time.

It's a nice metaphysical theory to explain absentmindedness, but I'm not exactly sure what it has to do with the ambulance or groceries.

Alone in her house that night, reality begins to crumble around Kate, with fire shooting from taps and water from the stove. Her plan to expect nothing from the world has created a situation where there's nothing she can count on! She tries calling David for help, but can't reach him. Her sister calls, though, and Kate invites her over, hoping that her more staid worldview will keep the house anchored in reality. Janet refuses, though, This leads to some neat shots of items disappearing and changing forms, and leaves Kate a nervous wreck, sure that the world is about to collapse around her!

Not sure why she doesn't just leave the house. I mean, I know she's got a broken leg, but she's also got crutches, and under her theory, the rest of the neighbourhood is being held up by all of the straights who live in it. She doesn't, though. Instead she just stumbles around the room, hoping things will calm down. They don't, though, in fact, just as it starts ringing the phone disappears! But where could it have gotten to? She finally attempts to leave the hosue after far too much capering, but the doorknob no longer works! And the evil painting is now stuck to the door-

Wait, is the painting cursed? Was trying to destroy it what started all this? No, that can't be the case, she only painted over it after breaking her leg...

Anyhoo, she falls to the floor and can't get up - while she's struggling a siren pulls up outside, reporting to another upcoming tragedy. But what is it this time?

The explosion, of course! It seems that the stove finally got back to doing what it was made for - spewing gas all over the room! Then, when the paramedics (fire department?) ring the doorbell, the whole house explodes, teaching her a valuable lesson about not questioning the base tenets of reality. Well, I don't know if you can call it a lesson being taught since she explodes a moment later, but at least the effort was put in.

It seems like this episode had a really muddled premise - the first idea, that an ambulance came to treat something that hadn't happened yet, and caused it to happen by doing so - is a good one, and could have been explored to great effect. Then the show went off on a bizarre tangent about the question of how much we control reality by agreeing on it - which has nothing at all to do with the paramedics. They tried to tie to together with the grocery delivery, but it didn't really track, and then the paramedics arrived again at the end, completely muddying the show's message.

Unless it wasn't the paramedics - what did those people think they'd been called to work on? If it was the exploding house, didn't they find it strange that when they arrived at the house it hadn't yet exploded?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your explanation of this episode because I just didn't get it. Now I can piece it together.