“The Myth of the House” combines a ghostly past and present to create an ambigious early impression in this opening episode.
This recap of Paranormal season 1, episode 1, “The Myth of the House”, contains spoilers.
Egypt’s first-ever Netflix Original series, Paranormal, opens “The Myth of the House” in typically spooky terms, with a game of hide-and-seek, a big tumbledown old house, lots of shadows and creaks and screaming children. Genre television is the same the world over, it seems, but this show looks to make a case for itself nonetheless.
Equally familiar is the skeptical academic protagonist, Dr. Refaat Ismail, who spends several minutes narrating his general disbelief of hokey concepts like luck, fate, and indeed the paranormal. The voiceover is equal parts characterization and gloomy foreboding, a bit clumsy in all honesty, but let’s not be too quick to judge.
We’re also introduced to Maggie, a Scottish academic in-country on a university grant, and recently divorced, which she makes a point of mentioning and which Refaat makes a point of responding to before he invites her to a party in honor of his birthday. There are plenty of introductions here, many of which seem important, so let’s go over them a bit. Refaat’s sister is Raeefa, and her husband is Talaat; Refaat’s big brother is Reda; Talaat’s brother is Medhat and his wife is Elham; and Howaida, daughter of Raeefa and Talaat and big sister of Taha, is Refaat’s cousin and fiance. Phew.
Dinner is awkward. Howaida is eager to dote on Refaat, who is clearly uninterested in her, and his family seems determined to do nothing but embarrass him and indeed themselves in Maggie’s presence. After sending Taha to get him a packet of cigarettes, Refaat is dismayed when the topic of his “first love”, Shiraz, comes up, but suddenly the lights go out and an air raid siren goes off, and we’re thrust into a flashback.
In the flashback, we see much younger versions of everyone now present at dinner playing hide and seek, and eventually Refaat meeting this enigmatic Shiraz, a gap-toothed little girl who asks him to play with her. Hmm. Back in the present day, everyone bundles into the relative safety of the shelter where they discover, by lantern light, that Taha is missing, having been sent on his errand by Refaat. Paranormal season 1, episode 1 establishes these concepts and dynamics nice and early, since the events witnessed her are doing to remain important throughout the season.
After more disagreement among them, we return to the flashback, where Shiraz leads all the children on a tour of her sprawling palatial home, where she cautions them that each of her family members — most occupying a single room, seemingly stuck in routine there — doesn’t like noise very much. Shiraz serves up some deeply suspicious-looking blue liquid and asks if they’ll play with her every day.
This pattern persists in “The Myth of the House”. We see this same batch of characters — with the exception of Maggie and Howaida, obviously — fumbling around in the dark in the present day and then in the sun-drenched grounds of Shiraz’s house in the past, bickering in both timelines. In the past, Refaat says he loves Shiraz, which she finds hilarious, but while she’s running to tell the others she falls and splits her head open on a rock. She seems to find this funny too, and the wound also seems to heal before Refaat’s eyes, though she turns away before he can be sure.
Back in the much more dimly-lit present, everyone splits up to search for Taha, whom we see holding up a pair of scissors to a chicken’s neck. Maggie asks Refaat what the word Raeefa and Howaida called her means, and congratulates him on his engagement, though she can’t imagine him saying or doing anything romantic, much more used to him saying the opposite of how he really feels, “like back in the day.” He does seem the type.
The flashbacks are, in a sense, designed to explain why he’s like that, as we see him venture to Shiraz’s house alone and find it full of horrors; roaming, disfigured servants, darkness and decrepitude that wasn’t visible before, and screams of agony from another room where a baby is being messily born. On the roof, he finally runs into Shiraz, who tries to encourage him to jump to his death so they can be together forever. The rest of the Scooby gang, meanwhile, arrives to talk him down.
In a parallel, Refaat and Maggie, in the present day, find Taha on the roof too, as we see Refaat in the past jump… and Shiraz pull her hand away so that he falls. Reda catches him, which breaks his leg (hence why he walks with a cane). After, he makes them all swear on the Quran that they’ll never go there again.
In the present day, Taha is in big trouble for disappearing, but there’s a quiet suggestion that perhaps we’re dealing with a kind of generational curse, or perhaps power, shared between Refaat and Taha. They’re both able to see things that others can’t. A bit later, Refaat helps Taha feel better by claiming he can see many things, but he’s unafraid of them because of his mind. It’s a nice moment between the two characters, probably the most open we’ve seen of Refaat. With Maggie, he’s clearly in denial. She asks him about his first love being a ghost and he insists there’s no such thing; that all stories of hauntings and such start the same way, and spread like viruses. But he’s also in denial about his love for her, which he lays out at great length in voiceover for the audience’s benefit. Poor Howaida.
When Refaat returns home that night, he lays down on his bed, and the camera reveals Shiraz crawling underneath it as Refaat insists that she doesn’t exist.
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