There’s a place in LA that calls itself The Museum of Jurassic Technology. The place is technically a museum, insofar as it is a curated collection of curiosities. But there the resemblance ends: The declarations that accompany nearly every object are nearly plausible fictions. Some, like the exhibit dedicated to the theory of memory as the passage of geometric planes, are fabricated out of whole cloth. Others, like the ant preserved in the final throes of its Cordyceps infection, fudge only the smallest details.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is an invitation to surrender to another reality. It’s the sort of place David Haller’s parasite might have designed, were it possessed of a somewhat more playful disposition. But this consciousness – which we’ll call Cordyceps for now – has in its boundless malevolence constructed a reality trap with all the charm of a mental ward supervised (and populated) by sadists. This week, Legion hands the reins to Cordyceps and it is only too happy to exercise total and vicious control.
When last we left our heroes (and villain), they had popped from a Matrix-esque moment into a suspiciously familiar milieu: Pocket Clockworks captured the minds of everyone in the room at the end of Chapter 5. Cordyceps-Lenny controls her inmates under the guise of a psychiatrist, probing their weaknesses and calling their memories delusions. The gaslighting works on nearly everyone, reducing them to a state of de-powered uncertainty. Cary and Kerry stay close, exchanging volleys at the ping-pong table and the cafeteria. Ptonomy is stuck in his eidetic memory of the day his mother died, and Melanie grieves her husband over inert flowers. These characters all felt underutilized in previous episodes, and I’m glad they finally got the opportunity to showcase their wounded humanity.
Chapter 6 is full of callbacks to Chapter 1, as Pocket Clockworks repurposes David’s memories of Clockworks Prime to pass as a real place. Ptonomy reprises, almost word for word, Lenny’s speculations about a catatonic inmate (in this iteration Rudy, still relegated to the sidelines). David mirrors Syd’s visit to his room. Cary and Kerry displace the anonymous unspeaking ping-pong players. Dr. Kissinger has been displaced by “Dr. Busker,” who encourages David’s newfound tranquility and artistic exploration. David describes feeling like he’s finally in control of his life; Cordyceps-Lenny nods approvingly, because that sense of control prevents him from questioning his captivity. Of course, Lenny’s the one actually in control, and after a hard day of manipulating her victims she dances gleefully through David’s now-unpopulated memories. The endgame is in sight. Cordyceps is this close to total victory – or would be, if not for Syd.
As we saw in Chapter 3, Syd has a clearer sense of self and a closer relationship with her perceptions and memories than most people. This is less an aspect of her power than a consequence, a sort of mental muscle memory. Accustomed to keeping her wits even as her mind finds itself in unexpected places, Syd is hard-wired to reject Cordyceps’ Matrix, and she can’t stop spotting the glitches in the illusion or dreaming her real memories. She sees the bedroom door that leads to David’s other memories and the ping-pong ball that blinks into existence halfway through Cary and Kerry’s game. With help from a Nurse Ratched-y Amy, the parasite sabotages Syd’s awareness – and her attempts to warn her fellow inmates – before removing her from the game entirely.
Not everyone in this pocket universe is a victim. Walter (The Eye), little more than a human form on a scaffolding of undiluted predatory cruelty, seems determined to remain untroubled as long as he gets to hurt people. Apparently indifferent to his new surroundings – or to whether they’re new at all – he fixes on Kerry as his next victim in a subplot that threatens to rip a page from the Law & Order: SVU playbook. The last glimpse we get of them is of Kerry searching fruitlessly for Cary, sobbing with terror, while Walter stalks her whistling a happy tune.
Unfortunately Kerry won’t find Cary as long as she’s in Pocket Clockworks. Oliver has traveled through the looking glass to rouse the sleepers and guide them, one by one, to retake control of their minds. He pulled Cary through first, using the astral ice cube as a kind of lodestar. Next he appeared to Melanie, guiding her back to the room where The-Eye-as-Rudy’s bullets continue their slow-motion trajectory toward Syd and David. The final rescue of the episode is Syd. A pair of gloved hands slips off the headphones Cordyceps-Lenny used to knock Syd out and imprison her in the memory of David’s childhood bedroom. It’s Cary in Oliver’s diving suit.
With mutiny brewing – Melanie’s sojourn into reality has been noted, if no one else’s – Cordyceps is finding its hands rather fuller than it planned. When David confronts “Dr. Busker,” initially to ascertain Syd’s whereabouts, she attempts a final manipulative gambit before indulging a full-on gloatfest (and some long-awaited exposition). It’s all about power, she tells him, and David’s nothing but an ant, a host for her to consume and destroy. Any resistance will prove as futile as his biological father’s attempt to hide him – but of course Cordyceps hasn’t been scheming this long to leave David any openings. David’s consciousness is summarily banished to a narrow coffin in a dark corner of his mind. It’s all up to Summerland now.
- “There is no before, not once the sickness starts.”
- “Wait, stop! No pie for you.”
- “Simple, just living day by day….”
“Till what, osteoporosis?”
- “That is the only point of what you call life: power.”
ODDS & ENDS
- If Cordyceps-as-killer-‘splosion-fungus sounds familiar but you’ve never been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, you’re probably thinking of this X-Files episode.
- Love may be a biochemical phenomenon, but it’s one bit of neurochemistry the parasite can’t manipulate.
- David’s paints for Syd’s portrait bear a suspicious resemblance to ketchup and mustard.
- That black and white chevron floor at young Ptonomy’s house had to be a shout-out to Twin Peaks, the way Syd floated down the hall was right out of The Big Lebowski’s dream sequence, and the eyes watching Melanie echoed this Dalí work.
- Aubrey Plaza’s feral dance was set to Bassnectar’s remix of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” David Bowie’s “All You Pretty Things” also featured, and “99 Luftballoons” was name-checked but not played.
- The book Syd is reading, “The Coming Unfolding,” does not appear to be a real title.
- The track jackets worn by Clockworks inmates initially look identical, but the women’s jackets lack pockets, because apparently even alternate universe clothing designers refuse to give women pockets.
- I am going to be really, really, really annoyed if the threat of Kerry being assaulted is for nothing more than a trope-tastic demonstration of Walter’s depravity and/or role reversal with Cary.
FAN THEORIES, OR WHAT THE HELL I THINK IS GOING ON
- Oliver mentioned to David that he’s been waiting for something on the astral plane. Did he know this moment was coming? Or is he waiting for something else entirely?
- The candles in David’s (real) room are still burning down, so time is still passing. Hopefully the solution to the bullet problem will be to chuck Cordyceps into their path.
- It’s looking more like everything we saw before Pocket Clockworks was real, and the hypersaturation I read as unreal was nothing more than a design choice.
- COLORWATCH: Walter is holding a green apple at the end of Chapter 5, and when he talks to Kerry. Green seems to signify a slightly greater degree of freedom relative to everyone else. Cary cleans his glasses with a blue handkerchief; it’s approximately the same shade as the clothes he and Kerry wear in the waking world. The scarf he produces is a neat echo of David’s rendition of “Rainbow Connection” last week, foreshadowing the series of connections that enable his escape. Cordyceps-Lenny wears black with red accents, although its Devil with Yellow Eyes form continues to wear its tattered black/navy suit. Red has been a color of power and corruption on Cordyceps and around David. The inmates and orderlies at Pocket Clockworks wear the same colors as they did in Clockworks Prime, and I’m still not sure what significance the red, orange, yellow, black, and white have in that context.