“Greywing” did good work for Nightflyers, helping to flesh out the characters and raise more intriguing questions while retaining the show’s bleak tone and style.
This recap of Nightflyers Season 1 Episode 5, “Greywing”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
In yet another happy-go-lucky episode of Nightflyers, we’re considering the past – and how it informs the present, especially if your childhood was defined by horrific abuse and trauma, which in a George R. R. Martin story applies to virtually everyone. Thus, we open “Greywing” with a brief flashback to a young Cynthia (Brielle Olaleye) being tormented by her abusive father, whose eyes appear in her recollections as scratched-out gouges. Pleasant, as ever.
Cynthia’s difficult childhood is why she keeps getting frightened and meddling with the Nightflyer’s essential systems; Lommie’s (Maya Eshet) difficult childhood is why she’s able to deduce this and hatch a scheme to delve into the ship’s inner workings and contain her. Both women are, in some ways, defined by what they experienced as children, but in “Greywing” we see the essential differences in their traumas. Cynthia was tortured arbitrarily by her controlling, unstable father, making her fearful and erratic; Lommie’s father (Joplin Sibtain) kept a secret computer in the roof to nurture her innate talents, much to the chagrin of their staunchly anti-technology Luddite enclave. As penance Lommie was forced to smash her dad’s hands to bits with a hammer, but to him her talents were worth it. Cynthia, conversely, has never been made to feel as though she’s worth anything at all.
Thale (Sam Strike), meanwhile, is bored, which means he’s tormenting everyone aboard the Nightflyer with horrific visions, so Agatha (Gretchen Mol) convinces Karl (Eoin Macken) to let the telepath help Lommie connect with Cynthia – he can help her navigate her subconscious and pull her out if necessary, but the delicate procedure means that neither Agatha nor Melantha (Jodie Turner-Smith) can be present so as not to cloud anyone’s unconscious minds.
The “crystal matrix”, which is where all this takes place, is about what you’d expect from Nightflyers at this point – an odd blend of horror, sci-fi and general weirdness, populated by both the young and adult (Josette Simon) versions of Cynthia and steeped in oddball symbolism. Needless to say Cynthia’s father is the root of her neuroses; she keeps him locked in a room upstairs, which is where, in a rather dark turn, Lommie banishes her in order to limit her access to the ship. It’s just a bit tragic to hear Captain Roy Eris (David Ajala) desperately asking if she’s happy and comfortable in her digital exile, but then again Roy’s a weirdo peeping Tom who lied about his mother’s murderous consciousness being installed in the ship in the first place, so my sympathy only extends so far.
But one of the essential themes of Nightflyers is loneliness, and that universal feeling is difficult to just shrug off. Almost every character is plagued by it in one way or another; isolated either by their own experiences or the perceptions of others, and such a contained environment amplifies their otherness, leading to relationships that feel stronger and more intense and tragedies that hurt more deeply than they otherwise might. Lommie discovering that Roy was a witness to her relationship with Melantha, who doesn’t seem too concerned about it, is more than she can handle after the physical and emotional trauma of “Greywing”, while Karl is led to Agatha for comfort, and Thale seeks to heal the internal pain of the externally-ruined Murphy (Phillip Rhys). There’s a lot going on here, and with the implications that Auggie (Brian F. O’Byrne) has more to do with the goings-on than we’ve been led to believe, Nightflyers could potentially take its story in any direction.
You can check out our thoughts on the next episode by clicking these words.