And so to the fourth episode of the series, and what do Vernon Chatman and co have to offer this time? A serene tale of elderly cats musing on their joyful lives? A treatise on the peaceful existence of cute puppies in an enormous mansion filled with balls and toys and bouncy castles to play on? Or a young boy gleefully dancing through the streets and feasting on a lollipop and turning everything he touches multi-coloured? It’s actually the latter, but of course such sweetness doesn’t last for long.
Unlike the previous episode it doesn’t have a cohesive story, there are elements which feature in all three segments and they’re thematically linked but mostly they’re individual tales. It begins with the narrator (series creator Chatman himself) claiming “Of course dreams can come true” in front of the grave of God, whose hand suddenly emerges Carrie style from the ground. We cut to a man who is tied up and being tortured, and can only survive by dreaming of being the boy with a lollipop mentioned above, but the scene is a short one and soon in a reality breaking way that boy is forced to beat the enslaved man. Because such is the irony of life? Yeah, why not.
Then we’re presented with a man who only has 34 seconds to live, where a Doctor informs him that he’s suffering from Constadeath where he will repeatedly die, burst back to life before dying again every few seconds unless he signs up for a mixture of religions the Doctor has created. Which he does, and instead of death, which may well have been preferable, every three seconds his head changes shape, first it’s a leopard, then a raccoon and then a goose, and pretty much every animal imaginable follows. He seems unbothered however, proclaiming “It feels a little weird but it beats being white” before canned laughter and an audience clapping is heard in the background and for a minute or two it feels like a perverse fifties sitcom. When he goes home initially his wife pays no attention to the fact that he keeps on changing form, but an argument breaks out and to make it up to her he forces himself to revert to human form, with the twist being that each time it takes a year to so, and the conversation quickly becomes about him wanting to break up with his wife that lasts almost a decade. All seems lost until his wife comes down with the same affliction, and it comes to a close with what you could interpret as a joyful moment, though what preceded it is without doubt a commentary on the difficulties of communication within a relationship, and a bleak assessment of it at that.
After this we’re with a different couple in the woods and the narrator reveals “One way to keep the romance alive in marriage is to unite against a common enemy”, in this case it’s their poor son who they treat cruelly in a number of different ways. But after they stab him his wound starts talking to him and it’s not long before the police are involved, who the boy kills by shooting bullets out of his nipples. There’s no logical reason for this to take place, but that’s par for the course when it comes to this show. After a few more utterly deranged scenes, like the man in the previous scene the boy is forced to sign a contract if he wants to live but he refuses, and after more visual lunacy it sort of kind of has something of a happy ending too. Even if his parents probably still plan on mistreating him for the rest of his life (depending on whether or not they survive at least), but shhhh, let’s not mention that again.
This is the lightest episode so far, though don’t let that lead you to think there’s not still plenty of fucked up moments, that would be madness, but for me it was the funniest too. A scene featuring the kid breastfeeding his scar is the most amusing but a lot made me laugh throughout, it has has some superb surrealism, wordplay and daftness that I found incredibly appealing. It’s an episode with not one but two happy endings, which I’m still coming to terms with, and keeps up the series completely unpredictable streak as it was the last thing I expected at this point.
It targets an enormous amount of subjects as well, from satirising the idiocy of laugh tracks and studio audiences rabidly applauding to the selfishness of parents, and the extent that some individuals will go to to keep their marriage alive. A common theme with a lot of PFFR’s work is the mistreatment of children and they really hammer it home here, it’s probably their least subtle effort yet when it comes to the idea but given that it’s so funny I’m prepared to forgive them. There’s also a return to the suggestion that it’s a positive thing to go against the status quo, albeit with mixed results for the characters involved.
After the fairly extreme blood and gore and horrendous imagery of the three previous episodes I’m really glad that this took a different direction, sure it’s still not child friendly and it would probably mentally damage anyone under the age of ten, but the upbeat elements are both funny and pleasing to see, and suggest that PFFR can see some element of hope in this world, even if it’s not very often.
You can watch the episode on Adult Swim’s site here.
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Our review of The Shivering Truth – The Magmafying Past.
Our review of The Shivering Truth – Ogled Inkings.
Our review of The Shivering Truth – The Nurple Rainbow.