Sunday, February 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'Mayfair Witches' - Rowan and Sip Are Trapped in Lasher's Prison and Must Play His Game in 'The Thrall'

AMC's Mayfair Witches - Episode 1.05 "The Thrall"

Rowan and Sip must escape the First Street House. Odette makes a horrifying discovery.

"The Thrall" was written by Sean Reycraft and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

Rowan is dangerous. That's not exactly a novel observation. It's the declaration Odette makes to Sip as he's determined to return to the Mayfair house to save Rowan. Odette only just learns that Sip is an agent for the Talamasca. She witnesses magic healing his stab wound. Before that though, she knew it was wise to stay clear of the Mayfair family. The stories are powerful enough to warn away people without any connection to the possibilities of magic. And yet, Sip is charged with protecting Rowan. Not everyone in the Talamasca believes they should continue protecting this family. They have been cursed for generations. Lasher has haunted all of their lives. Escape isn't possible. This entire episode details Rowan trying to escape the prison Lasher has constructed. He continually tries to tell her that she is in complete control. She can't escape because she doesn't want to. That's all a lie. She is strong enough to identify the manipulation happening right in front of her. Of course, it's all constructed around the romantic feelings felt in her relationships. Previously, Rowan only had a sexual dream about Sip. Lasher projected more meaning onto their dynamic than was previously earned. And yet, it's suppose to be immediately accepted that they want to spend hours in bed together. It's a rushed development. Their bond has grown stronger. The story is also relying so much on Sip understanding Rowan because he witnessed her entire life story. He knows her better than anyone else ever has. That's possible because of his gift. He has essentially forced Rowan to break down the barriers that have always prevented her from yearning for a serious relationship. A lot of that work simply has to be inferred by the audience. Rowan and Sip's connection is meant to come across as genuine. And yes, it does work as allies in this powerful fight against Lasher and her family. It's simply more complicated when romance is added to the situation. With Lasher, it's never meant to come across as a genuine effort to seduce Rowan. It's all manipulation. He too has the power to look deep within her soul and provide her with whatever she wants. It can be a silly desire like cake. It can also be deathly serious like wanting Carlotta dead. It's still ultimately based around what Lasher wants. That remains cryptic and mysterious. He plagues the members of this family simply because he can. He is bound to them for some reason. Perhaps all of that will be explained once the opening sequences in Scotland connect to the present-day story. Those present as tangential at best. It's implied everything will all make sense eventually. That's simply an awkward way to structure a story. It's delaying satisfaction instead of allow the power of those moments to play out naturally.

All of this is seemingly done to prove to Rowan that not only does she have the capacity to kill but the desire to do so as well. Rowan has killed before. However, those incidents could be seen as accidents because she had no control over her abilities. Moreover, she was told she didn't actually have the power to kill people. In a heightened emotional state though, that is the consequence for anyone who enrages her. The same fate happens to Carlotta. Rowan wants to let her go. Justice would be her behind bars for the crimes she committed against Deirdre and Rowan. And yet, that fate was never a possibility. So much of it is based around the magical history of this family. Carlotta killed her younger sister because she wasn't strong enough to resist Lasher. She kept Deirdre repressed to achieve the same goal. Even when she knows Rowan holds her fate in her hands, she's still suggesting that death is the only way to escape this prison. She prays for forgiveness. However, she also lashes out by admitting it was a mistake to let Rowan live. That's the moment Rowan decides to kill her. Even then, it's unclear whether it was purposeful or not. It could still be seen as Rowan not fully in control of her abilities. It's yet another accident that happened. Lasher looks on with pride. He has proven his point without having to manipulate Rowan whatsoever. Carlotta is to blame. Rowan is horrified by what she has done. However, she is thrilled to escape the prison as a result. She gets to walk in the outside world once more. She knows Lasher is still coming for her. Another branch of her family has died. It's all about self-preservation at this point. She survives at the expense of her aunt. However, Carlotta tried to kill her on several occasions. She saw that as the only way to get rid of Lasher for good. Even then, that wasn't likely as he has proven able to invade her world as well as Cortland's. All of this requires a direct confrontation with Lasher in order to rid him of their lives for good. The Mayfair family simply may not be as strong as it once was when that happens. It's all about perceived influence. Carlotta was isolated as she hoped to maintain a very specific existence. Cortland is the life of the party. Rowan is completely up for grabs. She is the desirable entity everyone seeks to control. She wields a great deal of power. She doesn't always know how to use it. She yearns for family. It's impossible for her to escape to a life of normalcy ever again. She still wants that. She's slow to realize the tragic path laid out for her. She has the skills to help people. People want her on their side. Sip fights to protect her. She reciprocates that by helping him get to safety. That's a genuine and earned moment. But it's hard to find any relationship that goes beyond the surface level of what these characters hope to get from each other.