This is more like it. With a Glen Morgan script, direction from Thomas J. Wright, and adapting one of the best episodes of the podcast, this is the episode that really should have been chosen to begin the television version of Lore.
With very little in the way of supernatural suggestions, “Echoes” deals with horror of the psychological variety, detailing the creation of the “ice pick” lobotomy and the work of Dr. Walter Freeman (a brilliant Colm Feore), showing that the series is making the most of many a fine American character actor, after the casting of Campbell Scott in ‘They Made a Tonic’. Even Mahnke’s narration feels natural and engaging, and more in line with his style of delivery from the podcast itself. Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable hour of television and hopefully more indicative of what we can expect from the rest of the season.
There are many touches here that actually remind one of many an X-File, either from Morgan’s own episodes, or episodes he wasn’t involved in; the use of the ice pick lobotomy was a key factor in Vince Gilligan’s criminally underrated fourth season episode ‘Unruhe’, whilst the use of black and white to tell the episode’s story reminds one of ‘Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man’ from the same season, itself a Morgan script. Even Kristen Cloke, Morgan’s wife, shows up, an actress who really ought to be in more stuff. She gets a brilliantly powerful moment towards the end of the episode that is one of the best pieces of acting to appear in the series so far.
This is truly unsettling television horror, and best of all, it’s unsettling by not actually being remotely gory and violent. Instead it terrifies, based on the idea that there was a time that a procedure like the one Freeman created was acceptable – a procedure which was effectively killed by the creation of Thorazine, leaving Freeman bitter with nothing but his anger and badly written Christmas cards to console him.
The most frightening moment of the entire episode might be Freeman showing an example of his procedure to the press and other doctors, and the jovial atmosphere it takes place in with everyone smiling, happy and joking. It feels like a delicious vein of dark comedy made scary by the fact that it is probably indicative of attitudes back in that time.
Sequences depicting the use of the ice pick being gently inserted into the eye sockets of Freeman’s patients and slowly maneuvered are, like the autopsy scene in ‘They Made a Tonic’, framed in such a way that the most disturbing things going on are occurring with a minor object like an arm or someone’s shoulder blocking the way. It’s a brilliant, reoccurring bit of filmmaking that makes the audience fill in the gaps which somehow makes things ever worse than what could actually be shown.
The direction from Wright is exquisite, and Morgan’s script is wonderful. Wright, who was the main director on Millennium, a show that had many real world horrors going on within it and which wasn’t afraid to push the envelope on acceptable content in a network television setting, brings a stylish edge to proceedings that recalls his work on the underrated Chris Carter series. The use of black and white is effective and atmospheric, while Morgan deploys his common use of a long scene where one or two characters talk at length, in this case Freeman talking about the death of his son, a moment that Colm Feore runs with.
*This* is the episode they should have started with. Once again it adapts an episode of the podcast and fashions it into a drama that once again feels like Unsolved Mysteries updated for the Amazon/Netflix crowd, but it works in the way that the show has the potential to do so. The cutting to the narration sequences, once again backed by brilliant use of stock footage and photographs, is superbly handled and, taken as a whole, ‘Echoes’ suggests that there is a potential for a great show here.
Lore is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Let us know what you make of the season!