“The Treehouse” is a surprisingly moving meditation on grief and loss with a poignant conclusion.
This recap of Just Beyond season 1, episode 8, “The Treehouse”, contains spoilers.
“The Treehouse” is about grief — how we handle it, how we move on from it, and what it means to lose someone we never imagined being without. For Sam (Cedric Joe), the loss of his father has upended his entire life. The way in which he keeps his late father close is by reading his favorite comics in the treehouse they built together. When he’s finally able to save up enough money, he and his friend Mason (Jack Gore) purchase his dad’s all-time favorite comic, Commander Canada #43, in mint condition. But the local bully, Tommy (Jackson Tessmer), throws it straight in a puddle. Distraught, Sam heads to his treehouse, which promptly gets struck by lightning, and when he wakes up he finds himself in an alternate reality in which he’s Tommy’s best friend, his dad is alive — but not his dad — and Mason is his victim, not his best friend.
Just Beyond season 1, episode 8 recap
This is a very different kind of story about bullies than the previous episode. Tommy is kind of superfluous to the story and the fact that Sam is an accomplice in this new reality isn’t really made much of a deal of. It instead settles into a story about friendship, with Sam and Mason teaming up to try and figure out what happened using comic book logic, and settling on the idea that Sam and his dad need to rebuild the treehouse together in order to give him a way out.
There’s some comedy here, mostly in the way that Sam has to try and blend in with his new family. But it’s also sad, especially the happier it gets. There’s an overwhelming sense that all of this is temporary. As Sam’s mom and dad gradually come around to the idea that he’s telling the truth, and spend lots of time together at the lumber yard and a diner, Sam’s real reality begins to encroach on them. He sees the destroyed version of his own world; the collapsed treehouse, surrounded by devastation. He runs the risk of getting trapped there if he takes too long, which means that sooner rather than later he has to leave this idyllic version of his perfect life and return to his own, the one where he lost the man he loves most in the whole world.
This time, though, Sam and his dad are able to complete the treehouse, with a roof and everything. They carve their initials into the stairs and brace for the arrival of the storm — the same storm, presumably, that destroyed the treehouse back in Sam’s reality. Sam and both parents take shelter inside, where Sam is doing his best to make his treehouse resemble the old one, with the same posters and figurines. But when it comes time to say goodbye, Sam is forced to confess that he doesn’t want to go back without his father. In a touching scene, Andy helps him to realize that he needs to be there for his mother, and they wait out the storm in each other’s arms.
Sam wakes up from a coma to find his mother at his bedside. When he returns to the wreckage of the treehouse in the garden, he finds the part of the stairs with the carved initials. He’s ready to move on.