Halfway through ‘The Beast Within’, I started to ask myself if I was enjoying this episode of Lore as much as I had enjoyed the previous three instalments. It looked as if this was going to be on a par with ‘They Made a Tonic’, but as the second half began and the episode revealed what it was *really* about, I started to love it more, whilst being chilled to the bone.
Make no mistake, this is not about werewolves. Yes, werewolves appear, and yes, Aaron Mahnke explains the history and lore of that most famous of monsters, complete with a lovely montage of old werewolf movies at the start, but it’s really about something else entirely, and it’s not Little Red Riding Hood, even though it does throw in a lot of visual references to one of the most famous wolf stories in history, as well as the origin of her own tale, which is considerably darker than what is taught to children.
What ‘The Beast Within’ is really about is the birth of what we think is the most modern of monsters; the serial killer.
As the second half of the episode starts, and its real theme becomes apparent, ‘The Beast Within’ becomes a much better episode, being primarily concerned with the evil that humans are capable of, not to mention the blood lust we as people share in the name of justice, using stock footage from the Son of Sam murders as a brilliant comparison to that of Peter Stubbe, whose methods in terrorising his townsfolk and effectively stalking them is made even more repugnant by his ability to manipulate his fellow townspeople into thinking a creature is responsible, when in fact it is he who is the killer in question.
Part of me could not help but think of Friends whenever Adam Goldberg showed up as Stubbe, and his season two appearance as Eddie and his creepy behaviour, not to mention Chandler and Joey’s argument over whose eggs were the best.
Creepy doesn’t even begin to cover Stubbe, or ‘Stumpp’ as he is sometimes referred to in some sources, and his cannibalistic tendencies that sees an entire town believe a different kind of beast is after them. Right from the opening of the episode, which once again sees some gorgeous animation from the show–this time depicting St Patrick encountering a massacre involving wolves (coming from Northern Ireland, I can tell you that this is something that is not taught in schools, but I wish it were)–the episode is diverting but entertaining for half of its run time, but once its real themes are revealed, it becomes another engrossing piece of television.
In fact, unlike ‘They Made a Tonic’, ‘The Beast Within’ is at its best when dealing with this historical rather than the reenactments, although there is an uptick in gore here that is genuinely shocking given that the series has not used much of the red stuff up to this point, thus giving the more violent content here a genuine factor of shock that it might not have had if the show was frequently drenched in claret.
What makes the episode even better is that it builds to ideas and themes that are even more disturbing than seeing blood scattered everywhere. Not only are we left with the idea that we are capable of murdering violently, but our demand for justice can also be seen as barbaric, and our thirst to see our ‘monsters’ punished is not even a 16th century thing.
Detailing the execution of Eugene Weidmann in France, 1937, his execution, via guillotine, is still, to this day, easily seen via the internet, and how that it happened not even a hundred years ago in a public arena is sobering and shocking, and forces the audience to ask questions within themselves as to how much we may want to see our monsters and murderers punished. These open questions are what Lore has managed to ask very well.
Lore is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Let us know what you think of the season.