Gloria visits her friends in their new home at the start of Rain Dogs episode 4. All she can see are happy faces; Iris, Selby, and Costello are a unique family within their own rights. The countryside setting has eroded Costello’s mental strain, given Selby a new lease of life with Iris, who now gets a semblance of a functioning, traditional household. Costello also has a new job at a bookshop. She cannot resist the sultry riches of Selby’s villa; its polished wood floors, the unbreakable La Creuset pans, and most of all, a sense of protection.
Come May and Iris’ tenth birthday, things are still going well. There is a hint of friction between Selby and Costello over the lack of speed in the adoption process. Selby made it clear in the last episode that he wanted to adopt Iris, something Costello was open to doing. The couple feels right at home but the real “jackpot” would be when Allegra dies, as it would trigger the inheritance transition. Costello is secretly saving money in a small box for “a rainy day” or perhaps several. Bad times can come to anyone in life unannounced.
By August, it is clear that Selby won’t be given permission to adopt by the State due to his prison record as it has deeply affected him. He calls their family “a wonderful lie” and “fictional.” He has not eaten in a while, neither has he talked to Costello in two weeks since the rejection. She jokingly threatens to call Allegra and tell him of Selby’s “mental disease.” He counters by seriously threatening to confront Costello’s mother about how she has destroyed her daughter’s life. She cuts Selby’s car’s tires and Iris ends the madness by calling them crazy.
It is September and Selby is back in his raucous element. Costello and he have made up. That does not even last for a month as October takes over. They are hosting a big Halloween party, which Selby calls a show of “the lie of the life” she has now. As retaliation, she cuts across Selby’s vinyl record.
In a truly bizarre sequence, while Costello is taking a bath in the tub, Selby walks up to her and urinates in it, describing the changing smell and chemical composition of the water as he does so. She does not seem to mind at all, and shockingly even takes a dip into the water. They hold hands afterwards.
The night of the party, Costello sees Selby has cut her dress in half. She improvises using fishnet leggings and puts on the dress anyway. Iris and her friend discuss their unhappy families and lament how sad they are all the time. She greets the guests, among whom are Gloria and Paul. When Selby goes by the pool outside, Gloria follows him and requests that he break up on her behalf with Paul. Even though he is a terrific guy, she does not want the relationship anymore.
He agrees to do it. Thereafter, he puts on his favourite record, “Cruel to be Kind” by Nick Lowe, the same one that Costello knifed. When it stops midway and Selby is about to sing, he gets upset and goes out. Costello follows him and asks him to end this madness. Their constant to and fro retaliation has run its course in her mind. That is until Selby reveals he has gambled away all the money Costello had saved.
She is incredulous and, in her anger, brutally assaults Selby. She even threatens to destroy his car but Selby and Costello weirdly make up and act normal for the guests until they leave. Costello had set an alarm in the middle of the night, planning to run away with Selby’s car. She wakes up Iris, packs the bags, and is about to leave. She sees the house in the rear-view mirror and the song “Baby’s Got a Bad Idea” plays in the background.
Something triggers in her mind and she gets out, dropping the idea to leave. She embraces a passed-out Selby and goes on with her normal routine.
The Episode Review
“A Rambunctious Halloween Nightmare” would be the Hemingway title for episode 4 of Rain Dogs. It was quite surreal to see this complete aberration play out like a short horror story. In itself, this episode had the makings of launching the show in an entirely new direction, but come the end of it, that doesn’t transpire.
“Didion Hell” does not take the plot anywhere. The only big takeaway is that Selby and Costello are bonded by each other’s brokenness. And that shall never end, even if it means that they will remain in these shambles. Iris is sort of caught up in the middle of their chaotic acting out, but the creators chose to ignore that tangent in this episode.
I am still divided on how to see episode 4. Independently of the show, “Didion Hell” is wildly dark and entertaining. It is the sort of bold creativity that is missing from the small screen. On the other hand, it is unfamiliar to Rain Dogs, overall, bringing tonal inconsistency to the story.
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