The final episode of Bright Falls are finally upon us. Episode five is called “Off the Record.”
There’s no turning back now. Off the Record gets right down to business. Jake wants answers, and he’s running out of time. The episode continues the series trend of uncompromising development. There isn’t a second of filler. Every single frame, sentence, character action – they’re all there for a reason.
Unlike the other episodes, this one focuses on a single mystery and really drives it home. Rather than continue asking “why” or “who” and getting vague answers, we’re going to find out “what.” What is Jake doing when he blacks out? What is going on in the time lapses? What specifically is happening to him?
As we find out, it might be safer not knowing.
EPISODE SPOILERS BELOW
I thought Jake was looking worn out last week…how is this many even able to carry himself? We see Jake climbing up to the road from what appears to be a car crash. There’s glass on the highway, although his car appears to be alright. As far as I can tell, there isn’t any glass missing from his vehicle.
As he walks back from his car we see his shoes are missing. We saw someone running barefoot in the original set of insane flashes from episode 2, which I think we can now confirm was Jake. When he gets back to the car, his trunk is open. You might be thinking “sure, he crashed or something, he trunk flew open.” As Jake goes to close the trunk, you’ll notice that he removes his keys from it. What’s going on here?
What we know is this – at some point Jake drove (or was driven) here. He got something out of his trunk, left his keys there, and went into the woods. He lost his shoes (presumably while doing something in the woods) and then blacked out. Leaving his keys signifies that he was in a hurry during these events, but at this point he’s acting so irrationally that we really don’t know. It’s also possible that he left his keys in his trunk because he’s a complete lunatic. The first thing that springs to my mind is that he had a body in the trunk. Then again, burying a body is something a thinking killer does. It might not be something a wild animal would do.
Jake drives back through the tunnel we saw at the end of episode 2. Is this the tunnel in and out of town? Maybe he was trying to leave?
His next stop is returning to Dr. Emil Hartman to get The Creator’s Dilemma signed. Apparently while running around the woods he forgot that he promised to do that. The exchange with Dr. Hartman is really telling, in a what-does-it-all-mean kind of way. As he describes what has been happening to him, Dr. Hartman gives him this sort of unwavering stare. Even when Jakes he’s “killed…a deer” Hartman doesn’t flinch.
He walks over to Jake and begins to stare at his watch He tells Jake he “helps people with problems just like yours.” He pauses, and says “stay with us” before shining a light in Jake’s eye. This causes Jake to recoil, almost as if in pain, and shout “what the hell is that thing?” This is the moment that all doubt is crushed – for Hartman, for Jake, for us. The darkness that seems to be infecting people in the town has taken control of him.
Dr. Hartman replies “just a light,” with an all knowing smile. So much is said with this scene, and at the same time so little. The doctor appears happy. He clearly knows what’s going on. Is he behind this? How does he benefit from this situation? What is his motivation? As Jake flees Hartman’s office, the doctor watches him without a care in the world. He doesn’t seem the least bit concerned, as if to say he’ll be back or maybe he’s ours now.
Jake gets back to his motel room, positions the camera in front of the refrigerator, and duct tapes himself to the door. I like the video-game-esque assembly in this scene. Here are a few items we know Jake has from earlier in the series (the duct tape in episode four and the camera in episode two) and he’s now using them to solve the mystery. This isn’t the first time the series has done something like this. If you pay close attention to the opening credits, there are many key items hidden among the trees. Jake leaves the camera rolling and eventually passes out.
The scene that follows may be my favorite of the entire season. It’s one of the most clever reveals I’ve ever seen. Jake gets up, having come undone from the refrigerator, and attaches the camera to the TV. He watches the playback of the tape. You see him rip the tape off the door, and then rip the door off the refrigerator. It’s inhuman, the kind of strength he displays. As the crashing and banging noises continue, we switch our perspective from the TV to Jake (who is viewing it).
Normally this would just be a typical reaction shot, but the scene stays on him. Rather than watching the TV to see what’s happened, we slowly pan around Jake. We get his reaction to the tape, but more importantly we begin to see more of the room behind him. They never have to show us how he tore up the room – instead we hear the sounds while seeing the aftermath. The scene doesn’t even focus on the background. There’s never an exact moment where you’re supposed to put together the pieces. If you were watching this with a room full of people it’s the type of reveal everyone would start noticing at different moments as it becomes more and more obvious. It’s phenomenally well done.
So we know Jake has been consumed by this darkness. We know it lives in him, and occasionally (at night?) it takes control in astonishing fits of rage. The most pressing question becomes what does he do now?