‘The Fall of the House of Usher’: Who exactly is the Pym Reaper?

Arthur Pym has been cleaning up messes for the Usher family for decades.

In Mike Flanagan’s Netflix adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Mark Hamill’s stoic superlawyer and right hand to Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) is the legal backbone of the titular family, making sure they never, ever, get charged with anything — no matter how much Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) tries.

A man attends a crime scene in a lounge room.

Better call Pym.
Credit: Eike Schroter / Netflix

Essentially, what Better Call Saul‘s Mike Ehrmantraut is to Saul Goodman, Arthur Pym is to Roderick Usher. Pym enters and tampers with horrific crime scenes, ensures his “particularly nasty” contracts are watertight, and has no problem twisting the truth to the advantage of his employers.

But the “Pym Reaper”, as he’s known to law enforcement and the Ushers alike, actually takes his name from another Poe story — yes, every Usher, character, and name you hear in this show is a Poe reference.

Who is Arthur Pym in Edgar Allan Poe’s stories?

A man dressed in a black coat and hat stands beside a black car and speaks on the phone.

Pym’s namesake also joins a sinking ship.
Credit: Eike Schroter / Netflix

Hamill’s Pym is named for The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Poe’s only published novel. Released in 1838 and inspired by a newspaper article, it follows the seafaring tale of a whaling ship, upon which an adventurous New England boy called Pym stows away — and it’s a pretty bad life decision. It was actually written before a lot of Poe’s most popular short stories were published, like “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” but after works like “Tamerlane” and “Metzengerstein” gained him popularity.

“Here was the perfect sea story for which Poe had been on the lookout,” writes the Guardian‘s Robert McCrum of the book. “Like many ambitious young writers, he sought both popular success and literary acclaim. After he had written a number of successful short tales, his publisher, Wesley Harper, had advised him that ‘readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works (especially fiction) in which a single and connected story occupies the whole volume.’ Plus ça change.”

In the tale, Pym and his pal Augustus, the captain’s son, bite off way more than they thought they’d be chewing, struggling to survive a great many horrible moments aboard, ranging from your classic mutiny to the currently en vogue cannibalism and the very real possibility of sinking in freezing cold waters. It’s a fitting string of awful circumstances suffered by the namesake for Hamill’s character, who has seen and covered up some real shit with the Usher family — a doomed sinking ship in itself.

Additionally, the ship’s name is the Grampus, which is what a young Lenore Usher (Kyliegh Curran) calls her grandfather Roderick, and names the ship in a bottle she makes for him with her father Frederick (Henry Thomas).

Why is Arthur Pym a fitting character name?

A man and woman in black coats, as if they've come from a funeral, stand in a city street.

Pym plays the game as hard as any Usher.
Credit: Eike Schroter / Netflix

In the Netflix series, Pym’s a smart player. Knowing Freddie’s swing vote on the Fortunato board is anything but concrete with Lenore’s appeal to the cops, Pym places his faith in Madeline Usher (Mary McDonnell) as the next CEO — both Poe’s Pym and Flanagan’s can recognise a sinking ship when they see one.

As Verna reveals in the series finale, Pym was part of the Transglobe Expedition, the first trek to circumnavigate the Earth from north to south using surface transport only. It becomes apparent that Arthur’s expedition was cruel and violent toward their guide and a local Inuit woman in the Arctic, unspeakable secrets buried in Pym’s memory.

“I saw…a lot,” Pym says in the series. “We’re a virus, I think. People, I mean.”

“But you’re so damn interesting,” Verna replies. “That’s why I had to go topside, to see the ship go by with my own eyes.” Here, Verna directly references Pym’s namesake story and indicates that Pym had seen Verna on the ice during his travels, filling him with guilt.

Essentially, both Pyms have witnessed and covered up violence, atrocities, corruption, and the reprehensible actions human beings are capable of. Both could argue their way out of their circumstances as mere onlookers, but both are technically complicit, and essentially both end up alone without “collateral”.

How to watch: The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.

Source link

  • Loading
  • You May Also Like