Episode two of Hulu’s Monsterland, Eugene Oregon, shows the dark reality for too many Americans. As always, horror is more honest than some of us would like it to be. That’s why it’s scary.
Nick is a teenager with a sick mother. She had a severe stroke that left her unable to work. So he’s left school and is working a shitty fast-food job to take care of her. All Nick has is the internet. He plays online games with friends at night. His one spot of normalcy.
While Nick loves his mother, and never raises his voice to her, he’s furious with the rest of the world. He’s often seen blowing up at people. Not that anyone’s running in to lend a hand or anything.
When Nick sees a shadow on his wall that doesn’t belong to him, he snaps a picture and puts it up online to see if anyone knows what it is. This leads him to a chat room for people who have seen these shadows before. More than that, people who feel that these shadows ruin lives.
There’s FinalGirl, whose father killed her mother and himself. Dagger, who’s dad ran out on the family. West, whose brother committed suicide. Lonely people who’ve found each other online.
Nick soon feels like these people are more real to him than people in his life. While chatting with them he feels like they’re there. And he listens to them. Listens when they tell him the shadows have to be stopped. It’s a war, an all-out war, and they have to win.
If this sounds like some poor kid getting radicalized on some conspiracy site, you’re not wrong. That’s exactly how that shit happens.
I had to sit with this episode for a while. It snuck up under my skin, made me think of the friendships I have online. More than anything, it left me with questions that I don’t have the answer to. Are the shadows real, or is it just a symptom of Nick’s stress-addled brain? Did West, the charismatic leader of the group, know what he was egging Nick on to do? The most pressing question is this, though. Where’s the difference between a group of friends on Discord, and the groups that lead to school shootings? When does reality break so much that we blame shadows and secret organizations for our terrible lives? And what’s to stop any of us from sliding down that dark, slippery slope?
I think the true terror of this episode can be summed up by this African proverb.
A child not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel warm.
What do you think about the second episode of Monsterland? Let us know in the comments.