“Jim Dandy” will be a test of patience for some, but it rewards those who stick with it by delving deeper into its supernatural potential.
This recap of Lisey’s Story season 1, episode 4, “Jim Dandy”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Dane DeHaan is doing a lot with the character of Jim Dooley. And it’s worth mentioning since there isn’t a lot to the character of Jim Dooley. He’s a stand-in for some of Stephen King’s favorite things: obsessive fandom, male-on-female violence, and unspecified but archly cliched mental illness. He’s an idea more than anything. But there’s something about the way DeHaan plays him, especially here in Lisey’s Story episode 4, that makes him weirdly and specifically terrifying. He’s entirely deadpan and humorless, even as he’s forced to behave in not just awful ways but strangely elaborate and slightly camp ones. Lots of what Dooley is asked to say and do is ridiculous, but DeHaan plays it straight.
This has been apparent throughout the first three episodes but especially so in “Jim Dandy” since it spends a worrying amount of time fixated on Dooley as he suffocates Lisey into unconsciousness with a plastic bag and then brutally torments and tortures her, repeatedly nutting, punching, and slicing her, and only really pausing to eat sandwiches and play with a yo-yo, like a highly-strung kid. Few shows are willing to visit so much blunt-force trauma on their heroines, but the whole thing feels less like a ballsy dramatic turn and more like a deliberate provocation for those who aren’t entirely sold on King’s particular brand of self-indulgent horror. There’s a fine line between horrifying and accidentally hysterical, after all, and it’s a line that this episode tiptoes along for a lot of this installment.
Interestingly, too, given that the show is called Lisey’s Story, the vast majority of Lisey’s Story season 1, episode 4 is framed in such a way as to keep Lisey off-screen, with Dooley hogging the limelight. We look up at him as Lisey does while he pummels her with his fists, and we don’t see the damage he has wrought on Julianne Moore until he walks away and leaves Lisey to topple, battered, to the ground. But this focus changes as Dooley leaves the house and “Jim Dandy” becomes about Booya Moon. At that point, Lisey’s face, in various time periods, both damaged and unblemished, takes up a lot of the limelight. The show moves through time periods and realities at a moment’s notice, but Lisey is our guide through them. Even when she’s listening to Scott tell stories about his childhood with Paul, and his deliberately ambiguous descriptions of Booya Moon, it’s still Lisey’s face that we return to for a reaction shot. The audience feels the same way as she does – is this real or imagined?
Thanks to the way King’s stories tend to go, we know it’s real, as ridiculous as it sounds, as much as it might also be a way for a deeply traumatized young boy to rationalize and escape from a life of sadistic torment. And to understand Booya Moon is real is also to understand that the Long Boy is real. The reality of this place, in all the varied ways people experience it, is integral to the story. Scott, Lisey, and Amanda all see it differently; it represents different things to them all. But the Long Boy is a threat in all interpretations. Lisey’s Story episode 4 allows Booya Moon to be perceived subjectively but keeps an essential, objective truth at its core. That stops it from being a coping mechanism and allows it to take on a more wide-ranging significance and sense of dread. It’s a place that heals, or at least can heal, but at what cost?