Set on a beautiful island, the series finale is a touching ghost story that explores themes such as marriage, motherhood, and the loss of a child.
We recap the Netflix Horror anthological series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities season 1, episode 8, “The Murmuring,” which contains spoilers and the ending.
Each story from Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities has ranged from intriguing to terrifying to downright gruesome. The last installment, however, is a bit different. “The Murmuring,” written by Guillermo del Toro himself and directed by Jennifer Kentis, is a touching ghost story exploring themes like marriage, motherhood, and the loss of a child.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities season 1, episode 8 recap
Cabinet of Curiosities episode 8 opens at an event hosted by married ornithologists Edgar (Andrew Lincoln), and Nacy (Essie Davis) to honor their wealthy benefactors. The pair are set for a remote island to observe the behaviors of the dunlins, a species are known for communicating in murmurations. These birds communicate so effectively they’re able to create some impressive mid-air patterns and the two researchers want to better understand these birds. At the party, one of the guests mentioned that the pair have been dealing with a bereavement, implying they recently lost a child.
Upon arriving on the remote island, the bird-watching couple is pleased to learn they’ll be accommodated in a house complete with running water and electricity, which is a step up from their usual camping lifestyle while working. The old house is full of pictures left behind by the previous owners. Both of them are excited to begin their work and seem generally happy in their marriage. Yet Nancy keeps rejecting Edgar’s attempts at initiating intimacy.
As the days pass, Nancy notices strange occurrences such as her recording device turning itself on unprompted and a flock of dunlins setting a nest in their attic. The married couple often uses a specific whistling pattern on each other as an inside joke. One day, Nancy hears a whistle coming from inside the house, but her husband is not there. Even more concerning, when playing back a recording of the dunlins, instead she hears a creepy child-like voice saying “I’m cold.” She tries playing the tape back to her husband, but he can’t hear the ghostly voice. At night, she sees a shadowy figure in the shape of a child also saying that it’s “cold.” Meanwhile, Edgar, who’s not seeing any of the hauntings, is growing increasingly frustrated with his wife’s constant rejection.
While investigating the house, Nancy finds an embroidered image of a blonde woman seemingly controlling a flock of dunlins. At night, the house ghosts lead her to find a series of old letters. The letters reveal the previous owner lived alone on the island with her child. She had been involved with a married man, the one in the portraits, who went back to his wife after the affair ended. Edgar doesn’t understand why she’s so interested in the house’s previous occupants.
That same day, the flock of dunlins returns to the attic to Nancy’s amazement. Her paranormal experiences are growing exponentially worse. She sees a disfigured ghost child, an apparition opening the bathroom door, the ghost child appears in the bathtub with her, and she hears a sobbing entity trying to break open the door. Of course, poor Edgar hasn’t experienced any of this and is reluctant to believe his wife.
When the caretaker arrives to bring the couple some supplies, Nancy questions him about the previous owners. She learns that a young woman lived by herself on the island with her out-of-wedlock child. The caretaker reveals that the unwed mother drowned her son before taking her own life.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities season 1, episode 8 ending
In the final act, Edgar and Nancy finally talk about their bereavement. It’s been a year since the couple lost their child, Ava, and Edgar doesn’t understand how Nancy just buried herself in work instead of grieving her child. Edgar also made it very clear he doesn’t believe his wife has been seeing ghosts. Having slept separately, Edgar gets up before dawn to go to work, while Nancy goes to sit in the attic with the dunlins. She sees the child’s ghost and follows it. It appears that he’s running from his mother’s ghost who keeps repeating, “What have you done?” in a menacing tone. Nancy locks the door and protects the child ghost from his mother, before convincing him to step into the light and move on. She then goes back to the attic, where he sees the regretful mother about to jump. As it turns out she was saying “What have you done” to herself, as she was horrified at having hurt her child.
After helping both ghosts move on, Nancy walks outside the house to a flock of dunlins murmuring around her. Changed from the experience, she calls her husband to apologize and tell him she’s finally ready to talk about their daughter.
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