The Lake of the Clouds continues the “C” pill stories that were begun in episode 7. Owen is still his father’s #2 in their mob family business and working for the police as a snitch. Annie is still a half elf who’s showing her elven princess sister to a magical lake that they hope will lift a fatal curse from her. Gertie/Queen Gertrude is still working with Greta and threatening Annie. James and Azumi are still tense.
The episode picks up with Annia and Ellia back in their cave, arguing about the nature of reality. Annia has tried to explain the truth of the situation to Ellia, but she’s not buying it.
Ellia: So you’re telling me you believe that this is not the real world. That some other world, your world, is the true world. And that I’m confused who I am, as is every other elf, human, orc, dwarf, hobgoblin… The entire world is mad but you’re not? Is that what you think?
Ellia: The other way ’round’s more likely, isn’t it Annia?
Stay strong, Annie. Sometimes, everyone else has drunk the Kool-aid, and they really are the crazy ones.
Ellia is hopeful that the Lake of the Clouds can heal Annia’s madness. The next morning, Annie finds singing slugs under a log, and becomes desperate to wake up out of the experiment, but she can’t.
Owen and Olivia meet at the diner to study and talk about deep subjects. He tells her about the Gnostics, whose books were left out of the bible, and equates that to the brain, which has to decide what to remember and how to make sense of everything. He tells her that, “Our brains are just computers that make all the stories make sense.”
Olivia is impressed that such a tough guy with so many tattoos is such a deep thinker. She says that her last boyfriend wasn’t like that. He was a criminal who suddenly got paranoid that she was spying on him for the FBI and went crazy. He started screaming at her, dumped out her purse, all kinds of terrible stuff.
Owen, recognizing that the last boyfriend represents him in the real world, asks if he ever apologized. Olivia says she never saw him again. Owen suggests that maybe he was too ashamed to apologize, so he pretended that it never happened. Olivia says that people go their whole lives pretending things didn’t happen, so that they don’t have to admit that they’re the ones to blame for what’s wrong in their lives. Owen says, “I think sometimes there’s too much guilt for one person to bear.”
Both Olivia and Owen are in school because they want something different, but both are being held back by their families. Owen tells Olivia, “For people who are supposed to love unconditionally, families sure have a lot of conditions.” Olivia wants to make a family with no conditions. They agree that talking to each other is easy.
Annia and Ellia find the burning tree that means the Lake of the Clouds is near. Annia says that the tree shouldn’t be there, because this is usually a con that she pulls, but then the moon appears right on schedule, as Lady nora said it would. Ellia has confidence that the whole thing is real and continues down the path.
When Owen returns to the basement lair, Frank asks how he’s sleeping and if the blue pills worked. Owen says they didn’t help. Frank suggests he try the red pills next time, the one that take you out of the Matrix, and tells Owen to call him if he needs anything else.
His father tells him he found the rat- Owen’s brother Rick. Rick’s body is still on the floor after he was drilled to death. Owen can’t believe Porter would do that to his own son.
Porter isn’t phased by the death of one son or the disapproval of another. He shows Owen his new system for the drill batteries. Owen realizes that his father isn’t the omniscient, all-powerful being he’s always seemed to be. He’s an insane tyrant who rules the family according to his capricious whims. “You have no idea what’s going on, do you? You never had a sixth sense superpower.”
Porter asks Owen if he’s ever considered that he’s trapped in a malfunctioning, dangerous simulation run by a suicidal computer? Then he asks how Owen’s going to protect the family, which I think is code for the other trial subjects. Porter says that Owen is failing the big test.
Ellia remembers having a sister, and tells a story about the day the two of them played in the mud and got filthy. Their mother wouldn’t let them in the house, so Annie ran away. Mom told Ellie that she was utterly and predictably normal. Annie thinks that was better than getting hit.
Owen goes back to the hotel to try to make a deal with the police again. Carl says that murder isn’t enough. He has to give them evidence of other crimes. Adelaide decides they’ll have to work with what they’ve got, and calls in a code on the phone. “Wendy” is part of the code. The password is “utangátta”.
There’s a knock on the door that turns out to be Jed instead of whoever Adelaide was expecting. Jed guns down both Adelaide and Carl. He’s the brother that Porter put up for adoption as a baby. He gives Grimsson as one of his names, too. Porter really wanted a cop with Milgrim blood, so he kept Jed a secret.
Jed says that he’s watched Owen his whole life. He loves Owen, looks up to him and wants to be him. Owen the prince. Owen says that it isn’t that great, being him.
In that moment, Owen realizes that no matter how he changed to accommodate his family, his life wouldn’t improve. In this reflection, he’s living Jed’s life, and Jed’s place in the family isn’t any more secure or full of unconditional love than Owen’s in the real world.
Jed was going to marry Adelaide, but family was more important, so he killed her without a second thought. Frank busts through the door and guns down Jed. He’s FBI and has followed clues he thought Owen was leaving for him.
They leave the hotel. Frank explains that Owen will testify against Porter, then go into Witness Protection. Owen says there’s someone he wants to take with him. They stop at the diner, and he proposes to Olivia. It’s really sweet and sincere. She says yes. Owen figures out that his Milgrim superpower is love.
Apparently it is. Fast forward to Owen, Olivia and seven young children, all living in his tiny real life NY apartment. The kids are named after the continents. It’s a madhouse, with a couple of the kids in hammocks suspended up near the ceiling.
Owen sits on the bed, in the middle of the chaos, looking unhappy. Suddenly, he shouts, “Utangàtta!” He says that they’ve had a pretty good life, but he’s realized that he can’t be the person he’s supposed to be and stay there with them.
Said every deadbeat parent ever.
This is a simulation, and he knows it, so I’m going to let the abandonment of his wife and 7 kids under the age of 8 go, just this once.
Owen dramatically says that none of this matters, tells them goodbye, and jumps out of the window, his kids screaming as they watch him. We fall with him to the ground, where he’s become a giant by the time he lands. The cars are the size of his hand and everything is a toy.
He’s literally outgrown this life.
He hears Annie’s voice saying, “You made a promise to me and you made a promise to yourself. We promised we’d look out for each other, remember?”
He picks up a toy person holding a hawk and stands up. His head is even with his old apartment, so Olivia sticks her head out the window to ask if he’s really going to leave her like this. Owen says, “I know where I’m supposed to be now.” She gives him the finger.
So we get the perspective of the parents who left their families behind, sort of? Because that is, in fact, what they say. They were in a bad situation and had to get out. They needed something more or to grow or whatever. It all boils down to changing their minds about a commitment they made and leaving the other person holding the bag.
I don’t like feeling like I’m supposed to equate Owen with Annie’s mother and James’ father. But like I said, he knows it isn’t real, as evidenced by what’s about to happen, so he knows he’s not abandoning real children. The real life parents made a real commitment and abandoned real people, with lifelong consequences.
Owen’s still hearing Annie reminding him of their promise to protect each other. He looks up at the giant full moon in the sky, and transforms into a hawk. He flies away. He’s all chatty as a hawk, calling out updates as he goes. He flies for a long time, over all kinds of terrain.
Annie and Ellie reach the spot where Ellie died in real life. Ellie tells Annie that she has to look at the spot and say goodbye in order to move on. Annie still refuses to say goodbye and move on.
Gertie tells Greta that she fell in love, and she could use a friend, and her emotions are all over the place. Greta isn’t very sympathetic. She accuses Gertie of being dramatic, but Gertie says that her emotions are Greta’s emotions. Greta decides to be offended rather than helping her patient. She yells for James to get her out. Then she asks what a McMurphy is.
Queen Gertrude and her entourage arrive at the cliffs in Annie’s father’s truck. They’re standing up in the back looking like something out of Mad Max Thunderdome. Ellie begs Annie to say goodbye to her now, before the queen gets to them, but Annie still refuses.
The queen tells Annie that she shouldn’t ever have to say goodbye. “What if I said you never had to return to your drab, gray life? All that obsession with knowing who you are, knowing yourself. True bliss is not knowing who you are. True bliss is staying here. That’s what I have to offer.”
Owen flies over at that moment screeching that it’s him, as a hawk, come to protect her, just like they promised each other. He tells her not to listen to the queen, because she’s lying. Queen Gertrude scorches his avatar and sends him spinning down into the lake below, and ultimately back to the globular cluster.
Gertrude: “What if I said you could stay here with us, forever and ever. Stay with your sister.”
Despite Ellie’s warnings, Annie takes the bait and gets in the truck. They drive away, leaving Ellie behind. Gertrude didn’t say Annie could stay with Ellie. She said “What if I said you could stay with Ellie?”
Annie tries to get out of the truck, but she’s locked in. Gertrude tells her it was an exclusive deal. They’ll be together forever.
Utangátta= Icelandic for clueless or out of place
Owen tries being Jed, and tries to be an accepted member of the family while still finding a way to be “good”. He realizes that Jed is expected to obey Porter without question and to sacrifice everything for the family, just like he is. Jed is the result of abuse just as much as Owen is, although I suspect he was always a psychopath, too. But it’s Porter who points out the truth to Owen in the end, so that he remembers he has an escape hatch. He doesn’t have to stay in this scenario like he’s a prisoner.
Owen tries on 2 versions of escape from his birth family: He cuts off contact with the Milgrims by way of witness protection and creating a “normal” family life with Olivia and the 7 kids, and then tries out adventure in his round the world solo flight as the hawk on a mission to save Annie.
He realizes that he’s not supposed to be with Olivia because that’s an old dream that he’s outgrown, just like the family has outgrown his tiny NY apartment from before he started treatment. And he outgrows the whole city.
Flying free like the hawk and seeing the bigger picture is the right dream, but Gertie interferes, and more importantly, he can’t save Annie from herself. No one can. She has to do this work on her own. And he still doesn’t save the hawk, either. This ends up being an inadvertent act of self-sacrifice.
We’ve seen three different incidences now of people trying to convince someone that they’re the crazy one when they aren’t, otherwise known as gaslighting. In episode 7, they showed Owen’s father ordering Owen to pretend to be crazy in order to take the fall for Porter on a murder charge. In this episode, we saw Ellie trying to convince Annie that she was the one who was crazy. In episode 6, James gaslights Owen into thinking he was hallucinating when he wasn’t.
Gaslighting is a favorite technique of dysfunctional families, used to keep members in line and following the fictional story of themselves that the family has created. The fiction is necessary to keep blame shifted away from the abusers and onto the designated scapegoats. Whenever a family member becomes a truth teller, usually the scapegoat or the forgotten child, they are gaslighted into believing they’re wrong. The outside world will be gaslighted as well.
If you gaslight someone long and hard enough, they’ll actually lose it from the disconnect between reality and what others are insisting is true. Owen shows signs of this being the case, such as when he doubted his senses during his conversation with Gertie in the middle of the night. And Owen uses Grimsson to help him discern truth from lies.
This is part of why I don’t take Owen’s diagnosis at face value. At some point, Porter may have decided that Owen was a threat, and the schizophrenia diagnosis was useful to keep anyone from listening to him. But Porter didn’t push it too far, because he knew he might need a sane Owen eventually, and sure enough, now he does. So, the family agrees that Owen had a BLIP and is now compos mentis. That could change again, easily, as Jed threatened.
In the simulation, Owen has emotionally broken free from his family and figured out that he needs to move on to something and someone else that’s completely separate from them. He didn’t let them convince him that he’s too crazy to function. But he was unable to find the partnership that he wants or save the hawk/Annie, so he still has to deal with the feeling that he’s a failure who doesn’t matter to anyone.
Annie stayed true to her belief in the real world. She opened up to Ellie and talked through some of the resentments she held toward her sister. She’s trying to be less selfish and less like her mother. But she failed at saying goodbye to Ellie and moving on. Gertie interfered with her process and kidnapped her to add to the McMurphy collection of pet souls that she keeps. She needs to escape from Gertie’s clutches and let Ellie go. Annie’s essentially holding herself prisoner.