In episode 3, we learn more about Hazel and Byron’s lives inside the Hub through an exclusive interview with Keegan James (Nyasha Hatendi) of Weeknight America, the only journalist ever allowed inside the Gogol complex. The story then returns to Twin Sands, picking up where episode 2 left off, with Byron (Billy Magnussen) and Hazel’s (Cristin Milioti) argument about their marriage. Eventually, Byron gives Hazel a few minutes “to herself” to think while he and Herb (Ray Romano) catch up. Herb treats Byron more like a potential investor than his son-in-law. Byron watches Hazel’s every move on Herb’s TV rather than allowing her privacy.
That sums up the relationships on this show- they appear to be about either materialism or obsession or both, with a dose of neglect thrown in to counterbalance the obsessions. The characters are unable to see below each others’ facades and remember that they are dealing with fellow human beings (or living creatures) who have feelings, needs and rights of their own. In their own way, each one sees the others as a means to an end, rather than a being worth connecting with simply for the sake of love, friendship or community.
Episode 3 confronts the facades and begins to deconstruct them.
The episode begins with an interview that took place inside the Hub, three years ago. Byron screens a Made for Love demonstrational video for Keegan James, a correspondent for Weeknight America, and his crew. It’s the first time Hazel has seen the video, which explains that the chip will be implanted into the brain so that couples can share every thought and feeling. It ends by showing Hazel on screen alone, as Byron says “You were Made for Love.” Coming Soon, to a secret poolside surgical suite near you.
Hazel was Made for Love. Byron was Made to Stalk Her Every Move.
When the video ends, Hazel lets her mask slip for a moment and looks horrified. Keegan clarifies that the chip is meant to merge a couple’s thoughts together. He thinks it’s a bit extreme. Before Byron can respond, Hazel drags him away to have a word in private.
Hazel is confused, because she didn’t take part in making the video. Byron tells her she was busy napping that day, so they “defragged” her in. He’s proud of the results.
That explains why she looks so vacant eyed and lost.
Next, Hazel tries to bring up the thought merge and the fact that this appears to be imminent. She knew he was working on something like Made for Love, but she thought the implementation was still years in the future. Byron responds with, “Don’t you believe in this, Hazel?”
Byron has kept the extent of his progress and plans for the chip a secret up until this point, when he revealed the chip, but did it in front of a reporter so she can’t react properly. Now he continues to avoid giving her any information about what he’s about to do to her and makes her seem like the bad guy if she keeps asking questions.
Hazel partially backs down and says that she knows it’s important to him. That’s the answer your mom gives you when she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. She tries to say something else, but Byron interrupts her under the guise of pushing her to speak, as if she wasn’t going to finish the sentence. This time she gives up and tells him she doesn’t have anything else to say.
After making sure that she didn’t share her real feelings with him, Byron now says, “You see, this is a perfect example why Made for Love is such a great product. It’ll close the gap between our miscommunications. There’ll be none.”
She looks him straight in the eye for a moment, then steps back out onto the patio to continue the interview.
It’s clear that this is typical of their conversations. He bullies her into silence, then blames her for “miscommunicating”, by which he means not agreeing with him.
Be careful what you wish for, Byron. For example, had she always understood what he was planning with the chip in the same way he understands it, she would have been gone years ago. But what he really means is that she’ll stop having thoughts that are different from his. Once the chip is fully operational, he can finally “fix” her so that she’s the ultimate Stepford Wife.
Hazel tells the reporter that she’s not used to being on camera. They restart the interview as if nothing happened.
Hazel is on camera every minute of every day. That’s why her game face is so practiced.
After the title card, we are immersed in the reporter’s segment, or we seem to be. In Byron’s world, it’s hard to tell where reality ends and the simulation begins, even when you look up at the corners.
Keegan reminds us that Gogol makes phones, computers and satellites. Gogol technology is ubiquitous world-wide. But Gogol founder Byron Gogol, now age 34, disappeared into his tech campus, the Hub, once he built it and hasn’t been seen since. There are no visible doors or windows on the exterior of the Hub. Gogol insists that Keegan wear a blindfold while he enters to maintain the mystery.
The Wizard doesn’t let just anyone into Oz. Byron’s exterior brain is as impenetrable as the one in his his head.
When Keegan removes the blindfold, he and Byron appear to be on the beach in Coffee Bay, South Africa, one of Keegan’s favorite spots. Dolphins jump in the bay behind them. Keegan is blown away by how realistic the beach feels.
Keegan doesn’t say it, but we know that it doesn’t smell like being at the shore, so it can’t be all that authentic. It’s like being in front of a green screen, which is undoubtedly where the actors are. The scene is shot to give the sense that they are boxed into a relatively small space, despite the expansive view. Byron’s cubes only feel like the real thing to him. Was he raised in a bubble or a submarine?
Keegan: “Is Byron Gogol a genius savant living in an optimized world of his own creation, or is he a megalomaniac narcissist who cannot function in normal society?”
It can be both.
Asked to describe the Hub, Byron says, “Technically, it’s a superstructure made up of virtual reality cubes, all in different sizes, each with its own individual virtual biosphere.” He explains that he used to travel constantly, which was inefficient and took a lot out of him. Now he’s able to stay in one place and “virtually transport” himself all over the world.
Keegan brings up environmentalists’ complaints about the Hub’s drain on local resources, but Byron ignores him as Hazel enters the cube. Someone (probably Bennett) timed her entrance to interrupt the discussion about environmental concerns. Byron wants to restart the walk and talk, but Keegan tells the camera to keep shooting. Byron does a performative run up to Hazel and gives her a kiss for the cameras. Then there’s a cut to later in the interview.
Keegan brings up the night Byron and Hazel met. Byron says dinner went really well. It turns out that they got married and Hazel moved into the Hub on the night they met. The sparkly green dress was the dress she wore that night. Her dress and his tuxedo from their first date/wedding night are hung on the living room wall in glass cases, frozen in time, just as the couple themselves are.
It’s clear now that Hazel put the dress back on when she tried to kill herself because it was the only thing of hers, not paid for by him, that she had to wear when she made the only escape from ByronWorld she thought was possible.
In the sit down interview, Keegan asks Hazel to describe Byron. She says he’s interesting, smart and impressive. He only sleeps two hours a night, wearing a special helmet that puts him into super efficient ultimate REM sleep. He eats flavors balls that he invented instead of normal food. Bennett brings out a plate of flavor balls for Keenan to try. He compares Byron to Willy Wonka. Byron has never heard of the character from the Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
They wander back out to the patio, where Keegan meets Zelda, who Hazel considers family, but who is actually their key research subject for Made for Love. Zelda has had a fully operational chip in her brain for a year. Keegan introduces the audience to Dr Fiffany Hodeck, Chief Science Officer for Gogol, who explains that Gogol has been monitoring the data from Zelda’s chip. Keegan notes that animal rights activists protest that it’s unethical to use Zelda as a test subject, but Fiffany insists that Zelda isn’t being experimented on. Fiffany has access to all of the physiological and emotional data collected by the chip in her brain, so she’d know if Zelda were unhappy.
Fiffany engages in a Byron style deflection here. While Zelda’s happiness is important, it doesn’t determine whether or not she’s an experimental test subject. She is a test subject and she is unhappy. And just like Hazel, she did not consent to the chip in her head. She also didn’t consent to being confined to a tiny swimming pool, separated from her natural habitat and others of her own species.
Hazel at least theoretically chose her situation (not sure how informed her consent was). Zelda is the more trapped prisoner and abuse victim. How long until Gogol works to make the chip change the subject’s emotions, instead of just measuring them? We heard Byron order Fiffany to cheer Zelda up. That probably indicates there’s a program to control Zelda’s emotions, so she’ll always be in sync with Byron. The same thing that he wants from his wife.
Back to Keegan’s sit down interview with Hazel and Byron. He asks them to explain Made for Love a little further. Byron compares it to creating the kind of true love that he and Hazel have already found. The chip will synchronize lovers’ minds so they can be as one. Keegan asks if they think people will actually agree to have a chip implanted in their brains. Byron begins to say, “Absolutely!” For once, Hazel interrupts him to say that this is something that’s far in the future and we don’t really need to make the decision right now… Byron interrupts her again, saying that Made for Love is the “next step in evolution.”
According to Byron, the real risk is marriage and Made for Love will cure the divorce the rate. Keegan counters by suggesting that privacy is necessary in a relationship.
Keegan: “I mean, if my wife could read my mind, she’d divorce me.”
Byron tells Keegan that his thinking is based on fear. Made for Love will lead to authentic, honest relationships.
Keegan asks Hazel if she’d be willing to be chipped
like a dog. Hazel, shaking her head “no” the entire time she speaks, laughs a little as she slowly says that, luckily, she doesn’t need a chip, because she and Byron already understand each other so well. They just want the rest of the world to have what they have. Byron tries to make it look like they are indeed in sync, but Hazel misses the cue to finish his sentence when he says they finish each other’s… sandwiches sentences.
They walk back out to the pool as they wind up the interview. Keegan asks if they ever get nostalgic for the real world and its chaos. He looks at Byron as he asks the question, so Byron answers, “Never!” Keegan clarifies that he was asking Hazel.
Right. He just forgot where her face was located. Every short woman on the planet has experienced that situation.
Hazel answers that she misses beer sometimes. Byron doesn’t listen to her answer. He undresses instead, preparing for his daily swim with Zelda. Keegan continues, asking if Hazel thinks she’ll ever leave the Hub. Or is she in for life? Before she can answer, Byron comes up behind her, puts his hands on her arms, and squeezes hard enough to leave bruises.
Hazel: “I plan on being here until the day I die.”
Byron: “Until death do us part, right?”
He takes her hand and twirls her, then kisses her too hard, before doing a backwards cannball into the pool. Zelda has to rush out of his way so that he doesn’t land on her.
In less than 1 minute, he snuck in a passive aggressive twofer of abuse on the two females he controls most closely.
As Byron enters the water, the camera moves to Zelda’s perspective. Underwater, Byron becomes Hazel (suggesting he’s not any more mentally stable or happy than she is). It’s three years later, the night Hazel tried to kill herself. Both she and Byron meant it when they said the only way out was death. The prospect of continuing to live in the fishbowl of the cube, along with losing even the privacy inside her mind, finally drove Hazel to suicide.
At first, Hazel just floats underwater in peace. But then Zelda circles her, squealing for Hazel to get moving. Zelda’s noises are crystal clear, as if they’re coming through the air or over a radio, while we also hear the muffled sounds of the bubbles from Hazel’s mouth. The dolphin pushes a button on the pool wall with her nose that opens a small door, leading to a water tunnel. Zelda must be able to swim to a separate shelter when she wants to. Zelda shows Hazel the door, indicating that it can be used as an escape hatch.
Like the Little Mermaid before her, Hazel swims to freedom. She enters the tunnel and pops out of the hatch in the desert. Whether she actually swam the entire way in one go while holding her breath or she stopped somewhere to breathe and maybe talk to Ursula/Fiffany is a story for another day. Also, Hazel is escaping the Prince, not seeking him out, so this is a fractured fairytale. But really, is there any other kind?
This sequence makes me think that Zelda and Hazel’s chips might accidentally be linked. Maybe because they were both meant to be the beta chips in a pair, they share the same wavelength and no one thought through what that would mean once they were both online and in close proximity. They are pseudo-merged without negative consequences. The issue with Byron and Hazel merging is that Byron’s chip has alpha properties that ensure his brainwaves dominate in any pairing.
Hazel effortlessly understands what Zelda communicates with her, even though they are from different species. The two may even temporarily share some characteristics- Hazel appears to hold her breath for a super long time while she escapes and Zelda solves a complex problem, then communicates the solution to the person who needs it. The person who called her family three years ago.
It could be that Fiffany has more complex communication with Zelda than we realize and the two of them worked together to save Hazel. Zelda has had the chip for 4 years now. I kind of love the idea of Fiffany as secret Fairy Godmother who helps Cinderella escape Prince Charming when the perfect life turns into a nightmare. What is the Chief Science Officer if not a mad scientist/person who can secretly make outrageous things happen?
When Hazel pops out of the hatch door in the desert, the narrative returns to the present day and the end of episode 2, with Hazel and Byron in Herb’s trailer. Hazel tells Byron she wants a divorce, the words she was unable to say inside the Hub. The Little Mermaid has gotten her voice and her power back.
Byron turns off the TV/plus size HazelCam, then says, “I trusted you.” Byron has no sense of irony.
Hazel, for once undeterred by his deflections, tells him she wants the chip removed. He tells her she doesn’t. He starts to quote chip data to prove to her that she wants the chip in her head. He also walks toward her, so she brandishes a golf club at him, telling him not to come any closer. He concedes that maybe right now she wants the chip removed and a divorce. But her problem is that she changes her mind all the time, because she doesn’t really know what she wants.
He couldn’t be more cold and sinister if he tried. Not violent and angry- cold and evil, attempting to gaslight her into believing she doesn’t know her own thoughts as well as he does.
He swerves back to her decision to drown herself in the pool and how hard it would have been on him to find her there. He shows no actual concern for her life or wellbeing and doesn’t question what led her to attempt suicide. I don’t think the writers ever have Byron use the cliche out loud, but he certainly acts as though he assumes her attempt to take her own life was a cry for attention rather than a real attempt to die, and thus he doesn’t need to take it seriously.
Though her escape is discussed by other Gogol employees, no one else mentions that it started as a suicide attempt, even though it would have been recorded by the Hub’s surveillance system. Herb addresses her real issues indirectly by criticizing her for overplaying her hand in her marriage and generally undermining her self-worth, taking Byron’s side without knowing anything about what happened.
In my experience, this denial of Hazel’s actual feelings, even by the people who say they love her and want to help her when she’s in trouble, is realistic- as Keegan alluded to, almost no one wants to know the unvarnished truth about someone’s feelings or face the darkness in the people they love. Byron has already shown us many times that what he wants is control, not true intimacy or understanding, and he doesn’t care how much Hazel has to sacrifice to for him to get it. He doesn’t even bother to tell her when she’s making sacrifices. After all, he pays for her lavish physical upkeep, so she owes him everything, right? Isn’t that how the fairytale goes? He’ll always be a prince and she’ll continue to be nothing? 😡
Hazel tells Byron that she wasn’t thinking about him when she was trying to kill herself. He ostentatiously pretends to cry, peeking out of one eye to make sure she’s appreciating his performance. She calls him on it.
It truly was shocking for him to hear that she wasn’t thinking about him during her attempt to end her life, though.
Imagine the unimaginable.
Byron: “My point is, you’re not safe out here and you are the thing- [Hazel: “Person!”] -person- I care about most in this world. But Haze, what do you think we were doing all those years at the Hub, hmm? I’ve been working on this my whole life. And, yeah, Bennett was right. You are my secret weapon. You are my partner. This is where it was going. I mean our f–king vows. ‘Together we will change the world. Together, we will become a singular living God.’ You agreed to this.”
Hazel: “I thought those were metaphors, Byron!”
That whole part about becoming a SINGULAR living GOD maybe should have raised a red flag. Kids, never marry an evil genius without a pre-nup and a thorough read of the fine print. Definitely hire your own lawyer.
On the other hand, Byron really does have some communication issues if he thinks that language, as part of marriage vows, constitutes a binding contract for becoming a test subject for the Made for Love chip and having her brain eaten by his. And Billy Magnussen is making me believe that Byron is certain that he explained all of this to Hazel over their first dinner date in his buzzy way of using a lot of words but not actually saying anything. What does it even mean to become a singular living God? It sounds like he’s talking about sex, am I right?
Hazel starts to yell and Byron becomes even more dismissive. She asks why he would secretly implant the chip in someone that he supposedly loves so much. He responds that he had to make sure she really loves him back before he opened up to her. Classic abuser’s response- she made him do it. His safety was paramount. Her emotional and physical safety are irrelevant to the experiment.
He asks if she ever loved him. She says she’s not sure.
Byron: “And you stayed anyway.”
Hazel: “Yeah, I thought it would happen.”
Byron: “And you’re the victim.”
He needs to learn what the word coercion means. She didn’t stay. She was his hostage for ten years. Because he’s wealthy, he can now make it seem like she was using him for his money. In reality, his wealth allowed him to imprison her in a way that people on the outside would see as an envious lifestyle. Remember, she only talked to one reporter in ten years. Other than that, everyone she saw was connected to Gogol. She had no one to turn to for help. He reframes his obsession and need for complete possession as love. She may have been falling in love with him in the beginning, but it was crushed by his overwhelming need to smother her.
And now he decides to crush her spirit completely. He tells her that he’s not the monster and reminds her again that she never knows what she wants. But he knows her worst secret. She calmly asks him to stop, more like she wants to keep this from getting any uglier than because she’s afraid of what he’s going to say. Of course he keeps going. This is what he’s here for.
Byron: “You think you’re worthless unless somebody loves you. You think you don’t deserve love. Guess what? I actually love you, even though you don’t love me. I am the only person who actually loves you, objectively.”
This is more standard, cruel abuser speak, but in Byron’s case I wonder if he’s also describing himself. He is desperate to be loved and very afraid of the world, so much so that he went into permanent hiding at age 27. Somebody hurt him irreparably. That doesn’t excuse anything. I just suspect that he was abused himself, in addition to being a psychopath.
I don’t actually think most of what Byron said is true about Hazel. She tells him that her father loves her. Byron tries to argue that her father can’t love her because he loves a sex doll. I think Herb’s flawed heart is big enough to have room for both Diane and Hazel.
Byron claims that the chip showed she doesn’t love herself or know how to love.
Let’s note that as far as we know, Hazel is the first person this chip has ever been in, so without Hazel’s cooperation, the data is worthless- there’s nothing to compare the readings against to say what they mean. It’s up to Hazel to tell them what she’s feeling, so the scientists can calibrate what a red or green line means, rather than what they hoped it would measure. The other test subject is Zelda, and I doubt she’s explaining her feelings to the researchers either. Even if Hazel isn’t the first, it should still require some calibration.
Hazel bursts into tears, so Byron changes tactics. She’s a much better actress than he is- he doesn’t ever figure out when she’s faking. He asks her to let him love her. He just wants her to come home. He’ll take out the chip if she wants. But he can’t do brain surgery in Herb’s trailer. Hazel, still crying, says she wants to be able to leave the Hub to take walks outside. Byron reminds her that there’s a horizontal nature walk cube.
This implies there are cubes that aren’t horizontal. Are there low or zero gravity cubes???
When Hazel complains that there aren’t any smells in the hub, Byron promises he’ll make her a smell cube. Holding her head, she says she needs to think. Byron soothes her, saying it’s okay, she should go outside for a walk right now. As she goes to leave, he says he’ll be watching, like he thinks it’ll comfort her the way it comforts him to watch her every move. She just turns and leaves. He tells the enormous security guard at the door to give Hazel some space.
Herb is in the yard. He lets Hazel go, then asks Byron if he’d listen to some tech pitches for products Herb’s designed over the years. Byron agrees. The security guard asks again if he should follow Hazel. Byron tells him it’s fine. Hazel is going for one last walk, then she’s coming home with them.
He seems terrified that she won’t come home, which is the most interesting thing about his character. Whatever you want to call the emotions he feels for her, he has a powerful attachment to her. That doesn’t mean she has to stay with him. It does mean she has more power in the relationship than she realized when he was in control of everything. When she had a specific goal, she also played on his emotions as easily as he plays on hers. They may be more alike than is obvious right now. If he could learn how to loosen up, share and be an actual partner, they might turn into the formidable power couple they once pretended to be.
Herb, Diane and Byron share the living room couch while Herb makes his pitch. Diane stares unblinkingly at Byron. Byron wears his sunglasses inside, at night, and watches Hazel’s walk on the TV.
Hazel walks the streets of the town, then follows an intriguing smell for a couple of blocks to an RV. Behind the RV, the bartender from earlier in the night, who IMDB calls Liver (Augusto Aguilera), is using his bare arms and hands to work a vat of mashed grains.
When he notices Hazel, he asks how she found him. She says she smelled him. He says the smell is yeast. He makes his own beer. She tells him to stop talking and do what she says. She wants him to take his arms out of the vat, but she doesn’t want him to wipe his hands off. Then she wants him to stand facing her, a few feet away. He’s already shirtless. She tells him to undress the rest of the way- he does, hands still dripping.
Watching this at home, Herb and Diane decide this is a good time to give the kids some privacy. Byron keeps watching. He sees what Hazel sees, whether she’s looking at Liver’s face or his mid section. At first Byron is angry, but soon he’s kind of into it, in a horrified way.
Hazel tells Liver to touch himself and to keep going. She has Liver confirm that they’re strangers, then asks him why he’s “doing this”. Liver says he doesn’t know. Byron has a fit when Liver says he doesn’t know and then again as Hazel stares at him while he finishes himself off. Once Liver is done, Hazel says thanks and walks away.
She stops at a nearby car and looks in the side mirror so Byron can see her face.
Hazel: “I don’t know what I want. But I know I don’t want you, Byron.”
Byron is angry, but seems to leave Herb’s house peacefully. He and Hazel each go to bed alone. Hazel spreads out in her empty bed and looks at her empty fingers, with tan lines where her wedding rings used to be. Byron looks at the rings she left behind and lies down in bed to watch his HazelCam. He tells the screen, “Good night, Noodle. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
They both roll on their sides to go to sleep. He’s clutching the HazelCam, but not wearing his sleep helmet. His eyes are closed, hers are open. They’d be facing each other if they were in the same bed.
Byron has never had a birthday party or heard of Willy Wonka. Did he have a childhood? He’s attempting to go without sleeping, eating, smelling odors, leaving his biosphere or needing to engage in conversation with his wife. How long before his consciousness is uploaded into a synthetic body? He told Keegan that he’s virtually transported all over the world. It sounds like a metaphor, but so did the Made for Love chip when he first told Hazel about it. I half expected him to say that after he’s virtually transported, his consciousness is downloaded into a clone or a robot.
Keegan brings up the Hub’s drain on local resources, but Byron cuts him off. Note that in the middle of the California desert, there are no solar panels or wind turbines installed to power the Hub. There don’t appear to be any water collection or processing facilities to help with the strain the Hub would put on the local water supply. This should be criminal in modern America, but it’s not. In the real world, Facebook is, at least attempting to use 100% renewable energy. The rest of Big Tech isn’t far behind, at least for data centers. Amazon’s warehouses and the big box stores need to get on board.
We learned in a previous episode that Herb drank moonshine, aka homemade corn liquor, when Hazel was a kid. In this episode we discover that the bartender smells good to her because of the yeast in the beer he makes. Corn liquor/moonshine is essentially homemade beer that has gone through the extra step of distillation- it’s been boiled to separate the alcohol out from the other ingredients, creating a stronger spirit with a high alcohol content, rather than just a low alcohol fermented drink such as beer or wine.
So the bartender smells like her childhood to Hazel. He also smells like bread. And Herb was a hardcore alcoholic, drinking straight moonshine in the middle of the day, while Hazel’s mother preferred beer. Beer was the one thing Hazel told the reporter she missed in the cube and her mother’s favorite beer is the beverage she chose in the strip club right after she escaped. She still misses her mother.
Byron created a home with no odors, but Herb chose a new lover with no odors other than maybe one similar to a new car smell. She doesn’t have her own human smell and she doesn’t choose her own personal care products to give her any odor beyond her artificial materials.
Byron went from wearing a white tuxedo on the night he and Hazel met to wearing black most (all?) of the time, but his imagery still shows him as a prince. Maybe he’s not Prince Charming anymore- maybe he’s the evil prince or maybe he’s more like an unfinished prince. Hazel went from green to white to green to red. She might just be Persephone. Our first view of her had her springing up out of the ground like a sprouting plant, wearing her green dress. You could view the red sweats as her blossoming into her own person now that she’s free from Byron’s Underworld. You could also view the red as symbolic of Hazel learning to love herself. Or as symbolic of the suffering she’s endured to reach this point.
Hazel’s red and Byron’s black can both also be viewed as demonic colors, possibly signifying that they are two sides of the same coin and evenly matched now that he doesn’t have total control of the environment. Persephone starts out as a victim, but eventually she’s Hades wife, spending part of the year in the Underworld and part of the year among the living, according to a negotiated deal.
Images courtesy of HBO Max.