Photo: Jon Pack / HBOMax
This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a TikTok house. In a way, I’ve always known. This episode is about the shape of things to come – more about preparing for what will happen next than anything particularly meaty or juicy. Portia and Drew end their… whatever, but neither of them realizes it’s because they’re now in a relationship with their cult leader. We’re meeting a whole new bunch of millennial and Gen Z cartoons, but it’s not entirely clear what role they’ll play in upcoming episodes yet. And we’re shown the Wing style office / lab / coworking space, but we don’t know exactly what scientists and influencers will come up with together. It’s pretty fun while it’s working, but it feels light. Each episode counts as a final season.
We open with Dory and Portia in the bathroom. The level of comfort, post-coitally, is high. Dory is in the bath, Portia is in the seat. This painting is a line from “Amy Winehouse”You know i’m no good, and I predict it’s going to end almost as badly for Dortia as it does for Amy and Blake. Speaking of song lyrics, Portia drinks a glass of Dory’s bathwater, which is one step closer than Gwen Stefani in “Bath water. “I’ve been listening to this song all week, and if I was half as woo-woo as Enlightened Dory, I’d say I manifested this scene.
After breaking up because they both “see someone,” Drew and Portia accompany Dory to Lyte’s new office. And Elliott is there. There is already a slight tension as Elliott is not part of the group’s sexual plot at the moment. I could see him sabotaging Dory’s Great Work just because he didn’t feel included enough.
We have to shout out to the production team for creating the perfect Instagrammable space for Lyte. It looks like a very expensive spa or one of the those weird concierge medical services who advertise on YouTube. It’s just pastels and vibrations and a temperature-controlled cabinet with all of the most dangerous chemicals and organic compounds known to man. I’m sure it won’t come back later. Nothing to worry about there! Dr. Benny Balthazar (Aparna Nancherla) shows Dory on a tour of the science side of her science-meet-spiritual business, and she isn’t impressed. Dory doesn’t like the idea that her experience is reduced to the neurochemicals she produces. She’s dead and she wants everyone to die. Like literally. She wants to kill everyone. This does not bode well.
Tunnel introduces Dory to the influencers who will be the base of his herd. She’s a chick who looks sexy on roller skates (Angela Trimbur), a socialite twink (Joe Castle Baker), a pop-science guy (Larry Owens), a cosplayer (Grace Kuhlenschmidt), a minor royal figure (Greta Titelman), a fitpo guy (Jimmy Fowlie), and one of those types of influencer-witches who masquerades as being fucking rude by “shielding her energy from those who drain it” (Michelle Badillo). Guess which type shows up the most in my feed and so it’s the one that bothers me the most! Even Elliott is exhausted by the futility of these people. But they have the ears of a third of the American population, so they get the first few doses of the enlightenment pill every time it comes out. In the meantime, Dory will open their minds wide.
You can say that the Research group writers have done their research on how cults identify, enchant and isolate their marks. Last season, they worked with a deprogrammer on Chip’s script. It seems quite likely that this expert has a lot of knowledge about the process of getting people into cults if he is good at getting them out. Dory selects the roller girl from Trimbur for the first emotional comfort scene. When she says she wants a boyfriend, Dory embodies her “tough” self and says that in fact, she doesn’t think she’s good enough to have a boyfriend. If she wanted a partner with her whole being, she could manifest it. The idea that you are the only thing stopping you from achieving your goals is such an acceptable lie, the best con artist. It’s a power fantasy wrapped in a negative.
The Fitspo guy sees through the brainwashing techniques and says, “No dice.” Well, he actually cries out, “I’m Catholic! But the effect is much the same. I wonder if he was less sensitive to Dory’s pimping because he is already part of two rigid orthodoxies (Catholicism and CrossFit). No room for an additional dogma in this noggin! Dory says “family and partners can challenge this, but it should encourage” influencers to take it further. If your loved ones think you are doing something dangerous, it is only because their love for you is conditional. A magnificent slap in the face. Dory says they’re all going to be true love travelers, but Portia puts a more specific point on who they are: disciples.
All the other influencers are in there, and Dory and Tunnel are showing them off like an iPhone launch. The disciples dance out in tie-dye suits. Each receives a color on the rainbow, and we get Squid game flashbacks of Dory shouting “Red Lyte!” and “Green Lyte! Everyone is having a blast. Well, not everyone. Drew seems actively uncomfortable with the presentation, Elliott is upset that he didn’t leave a small kiss before Dory takes the stage, and Dory hallucinates her followers to cry blood. Ruh-roh! Will Dory heed her vision or let her ego get in the way of everyone’s ego dying? JK, we already know the answer. She’s going to screw it all up.
• Where is my scary little boy? Where’s my Kathy Griffin? This season is incredibly ambitious, and maybe it suffers a bit from that ambition. There are a lot of plot elements to fit into every episode, and some prime threads have gone down the drain in this episode.
• How does Elliott not understand that he is excluded from the group? He feels the distance, but he can’t put his finger on its source. Understand it, mate.
• Portia mimicking Dory’s every move right behind her is so funny. I have been enchanted by Meredith Hagner since she starred in the only Lifetime Christmas movie I have ever loved (A packed Christmas, in which she plays a personal shopper).
• All Disciples are funny, but Angela Trimbur and Larry Owens both fit in like they’re still on the show. Hats off.
• Dory’s guru cuts are amazing. The necklace that looks like a gold-plated doll’s hand? Die for. And her and Portia eyeshadows have been awesome all season.