You’ve got to love that John’s first instinct is always to punch something. His crate, the boulder, and now a brainwashed Shaun are all the recipients of John’s Mighty Fist of Justice as he metes out his punishments to those who dare stand in his way. That’s probably how he sees it, at any rate; if nothing else, it’s a moment of much-needed lightness in this otherwise very serious episode as Kate figures out how to remove Emilico’s own brainwashing and we see yet another terrible truth about the way the Unseelie Shadows have cemented their hold over the humans.
It’s certainly something that we saw coming, albeit perhaps not quite in the way that it actually happens. Once it was confirmed last week that the “living dolls” are in fact very human, there were pretty much two options for how the Shadows obtained them: spiriting away, the fairy form of kidnapping, or by being given the children in one way or another. My guess, were it not to be an actual changeling situation, was that the Shadows took orphans, either off the street or by adopting them. The truth turns out to be rather worse than that – the children are voluntarily given up by their families in the surrounding villages as “offerings” to the lords and ladies of the Shadows House when they come to deliver the coal the people use to heat their homes and cook their food. How much the humans understand of all of this is up for debate; if they really thought they were just sending their children into service at the local nobles’ manor, they certainly wouldn’t think of them as offerings, because that’s got a much more sinister implication than getting them a job. Since the coal is made from the Shadows’ own soot, it seems likely that at one point the people knew what was up but their minds have since been clouded; they therefore use the term “offering” out of habit, like we still “hang up the phone” even though for most people wall phones and old-fashioned corded phones have gone the way of the dodo. It’s a system that calls to mind both old feudal systems of governance and also the days of human sacrifices, when a person was offered up as tribute to the gods so that the sun would rise or spring return – both things that, I daresay, Lord Grandfather would like. In fact, depending on how old he is, he may actually date from a time when such things were commonplace.
In any event, Kate has figured out what’s going on, and she wants the real Emilico back. For that to happen, she has to get the soot out of her system, and unlike John’s “punch it till it changes” philosophy, she tries to flush Emilico’s system. She then tells her friend – because that’s really what they are post-debut if they weren’t before – the truth: the Emilico is human, that there are no living dolls, and somewhere outside the manor, she has a family. What Emilico would have done with this information is lost when she’s kidnapped by someone Louise assumes is Edward dressed as a Veiled Doll, but I have my doubts about that. Certainly he could have been the one to take Emilico, but the person who has her now, blindfolded and tied up, looks like a giant. Everything in their room is oversized, from the enormous piano to the tables and chairs. It’s as if Emilico has wandered into a different fairy tale, from “The Shadow” to “Jack and the Beanstalk” or “Little Thumbling.” Since both of those involve the killing and eating of children (or at least an attempt to), that’s probably not a good sign.
Kate, fortunately, is launching a rescue effort. John is of course completely onboard with this – I think he would be even if he didn’t have a crush on Kate – and Patrick and Louise also agree to help. Patrick presumably will also want to get Ricky back to his regular self, but Louise is the wild card. She loves having Lou at her beck and call, and she’s thrilled that she can control Lou even more fully by forcing her own soot down her throat. When push comes to shove, Louise could turn on Kate and the others. (John would probably punch her if she did, but still.) Kate is leading a mission against everything that Lord Grandfather – and anyone who might be above him – has been perfecting for years, if not centuries. To say it’s a dangerous plan may be understating the matter, and there’s no guarantee that they won’t all be smashed like the figure of Shirley, accompanied only by the sound of shattering glass.
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