Episode 1 is a wonderfully acted first chapter to this anthological series — Kaitlyn Dever knocks out of the park playing a single mother in a broken home with a conflicted mind.
This recap of Hulu’s Monsterland season 1, episode 1, “Port Fourchon, LA” contains significant spoilers.
We recapped all of the anthology series — check out the archive.
It’s a violent opening of a woman getting drowned by a man at the beach. The man slices her head. Noticeably this man has deep scars on his cheeks. He stitches up this scar himself.
What an introduction to Monsterland — strap yourselves in folks.
Concern over her daughter
The next scene shows a mother named Toni (played by Kaitlyn Dever) struggling with her tantrum-filled daughter. The mother drops her kid off at a childminder. The carer tells Toni that they have real concerns for her daughter and they can only look after her until Friday. Toni then heads into the diner she works at that’s very run down — there’s rats and everything.
So there’s a story here about a single mother struggling to make ends meet with a daughter deemed impossible to look after.
Where do you live?
The man from the start of the series asks a store clerk where the hotels are — he seems annoyed when the clerk isn’t giving him useful information and asks where he lives. The clerk does give him the name of a diner so he can at least eat. All over the news, there is a report of murder from a possible serial killer.
A violent father
A flashback shows Toni’s daughter’s father showing up for her birthday. The father seems more interested in hooking up with Toni. When her daughter Jack goes into the bath, the father gets frustrated and slaps her. Toni tries to stop him but he briefly knocks her out. Toni then returns to the bathtub to see her daughter has drowned so she revives her.
This was a brutal scene; it emphasizes a broken home and you can see why the daughter has issues.
When we return to the core story, Toni ends up serving the murderer; he orders a hamburger but tries to pay with a lot of money. She sits with him and asks the man questions. He claims he’s called Alex and that he lives nearby — Toni feels he is lying. Alex likes her and Toni feels like he wants something from her. The pair have a strange conversation and then suddenly the carer drops off her daughter Jack, who is screaming. The carer explains how Jack bit the mailman and that there’s seriously something wrong with her.
This was a well-acted scene between both cast members who really managed to induce such a sinister moment — an innocent mother sitting with a serial killer.
A failed abortion
A flashback shows Toni trying to figure out an abortion with her friends. She doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s pregnant. Her friends lay out a sheet so they can do a home abortion for her. One of her friends tries to perform the abortion which looks painful — Toni tells her friend to stop.
This is incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
Let me stay the night
Monsterland season 1, episode 1 then reaches a turning point for our lead character.
In the present day, Alex asks Janine from the diner where Toni lives. Toni hears a disturbance in her house after she puts Jack to bed. There’s a knock on the door and Alex tries to give Toni a thousand dollars so he can stay the night. She accepts his cash and lets him sleep — there’s a power cut at the house so she apologizes. When she asks who Alex is running from, he doesn’t answer.
Getting to know Alex
Jack wakes up and she asks Alex what happened to his face. He explains he was in a fight and sewed it up. In the middle of the night, Toni joins Alex in the shower and slowly touches his back. The pair sleep together. In bed, Toni tells Alex that her daughter is mad at the world because no-one wanted her at first. Toni then asks what’s in the trunk of Alex’s car and he doesn’t answer.
Pick a box
And of course, like all stories like this, the lead character cannot help themselves…
When Alex falls asleep, Toni checks out the trunk of the car. She sees boxes with names on them. Alex walks up behind her and asks Toni to pick one. Terrified, Toni picks a box. When she opens up a box she’s horrified and nearly throws up. Alex then gets out a knife and Toni begs him not to do anything. Alex starts slicing his head. He rips the skin off his face and looks at her.
The next day, Jack wakes Toni up from the couch. A woman is in the kitchen that explains how she has borrowed some clothes. Toni asks the woman where Alex is — the woman tells Toni that she is Alex. She explains that he uses skin suits that allow him to appropriate that person fully. Alex has done this 18 times and that she’s running from a man named Mr. Grey; she became an accomplice. They had enough skins for a lifetime but Mr. Grey wasn’t done. She thinks she has killed Mr. Grey but she isn’t exactly sure.
What a strange story and one that leaves the viewers wanting more — unfortunately, it’s an anthological series.
Toni reminds Alex that she killed all those people but she doesn’t seem too phased by it because she’s done what she had to do to live. The next day, Toni goes on a road trip with Jack to start a new life, with new names and a new story. Her daughter kicks off again which sends Toni into a trance — she’s clearly sick of all the tantrums. When her daughter falls asleep she sits in the car and cries.
You can feel the emotions in this scene; she’s at her limit — she doesn’t want the responsibility and she’s way out of her depth. When under pressure, people do selfish things.
She suddenly takes an opportunity and puts her daughter in a nice Mercedes nearby and leaves the one thousand dollars. She obviously feels the woman who drives the car can give her a better life and she wants a new one. Toni drives off feeling free but crying — it’s difficult to gauge how she’s feeling but at this point, she became the monster — she managed to take on a new life without changing her face.
Monsterland season 1, episode 1 is a wonderfully acted first chapter to this anthological series — Kaitlyn Dever knocks out of the park playing a single mother in a broken home with a conflicted mind.