The second you start to think about having a child, the world turns into something of a constant multiple choice test for whether you’re actually ready to have one. Yes, you might be in a stable relationship, and you might be in a place where you’re financially able to care for a child, but are you in a place where you’ll be able to take away that child’s every concern? Of course you’re not. You never will be. You can’t ever have that sort of control over another human being. But the second you start thinking maybe having a kid is for you, you’ll see the glazed look in the eyes of other people you know who’ve taken the plunge, and you’ll see the way that their kids, no matter how much they protest, eventually start to run the show, and you’ll realize this is just another one of those gulfs that open up between people, between those who have children and those who don’t. There’s no way to be ready. You just get as close to ready as you can, then take the leap.
That’s where Alex and Adam are in this second series of Rev., and the world is going out of its way to forcibly remind them that raising children is no walk in the park. We had the annoying kids of the season premiére, and we’ve had the usual childlike behavior of Colin. And now we have Enid, a little girl (who appears to be about 4 or 5) who gets everything she wants and is quite clear on how she feels about godparents Alex and Adam: She hates them. She wants her mummy, and until she gets her, she’s not going to be pleased, no matter how much Alex and Adam attempt to cater to her whims or get up in the middle of the night to help her stuffed dinosaur Albert scare the monsters away. There’s a moment in the middle of the episode when Alex swears they’ll never have children, and Adam concurs. And then they immediately set about the business of conceiving a child (until Enid interrupts, at least). It’s just the way it is. You realize how unprepared you are to have a baby, and that just makes you want one all the more.
Since our A-story deals with someone who was just born a few years ago, our B-story, naturally enough, deals with someone who’s close to death. This is Joan, played by the warm British character actress Sylvia Syms, and she’s convinced that her room in the nursing home she’s just moved into is haunted by the ghost of a laughing man, who stands over her bed at night and cackles away, then seemingly tries to get a peek at her naked body. The whole thing horrifies her—as you’d expect—but Adam and Nigel treat it somewhat cavalierly, offering her room a brief blessing (which Nigel treats as more of an exorcism), then going on their way. But that’s not enough to scare off the Laughing Man, and much of the episode is concerned with what happens after we die. Do we really just hang around here, waiting for some sort of unfinished business to resolve itself, then heading off into nothingness?
Rev. is deeply concerned with what happens after we die—as you’d expect—and it’s also rather fond of juxtaposing stories about the very young with the very old. There have been episodes where this sort of thing felt a little cheap, and there were places in this one that made me worry about what the show was about to do. But by the time Adam needs to take Enid to work with him and she’s messing up the very important meeting he’s holding to get a bathroom installed in St. Saviour’s, the episode starts to cohere. Adam races off to the park to let Enid use the restroom there. While there, he bumps into Joan, who’s “escaped” from the nursing home. Seeing her grandmotherly ways, he leaves Enid with the woman who just might be losing her mind, then heads off to his meeting. Anyone who’s ever seen someone caring for a child on television before should know where this is headed straight off.
Joan, of course, falls asleep and loses Enid. And as soon as Adam gets home without Enid, her father, Tim, his old friend, is there to pick up his daughter. And once he tracks down Joan, he realizes she has no idea where the child is. This leads into a genuinely unsettling sequence in which Adam races through the nursing home, looking for the girl, only to find the sounds of screeching and laughter, the Laughing Man having arrived at last to have his revenge. The episode has been peppered with nightmare sequences, in which we see the weirdnesses Adam’s subconscious comes up with in the record-breaking heat. (These visions include Nigel giving him a blow job and the Arch-Deacon taking a shit that turns out to be made up entirely of snakes.) At first, it seems like this sequence might be a nightmare as well, might be Adam’s subconscious telling him once and for all that he’s not ready to have a kid. But no. It’s just the terror every parent goes through at least once, only the child Adam’s lost isn’t his own but is, instead, that of his friend.
Enid, of course, turns out to be okay. This isn’t that kind of show, and most parents who lose their children find them sooner or later. Enid is just sitting outside, her dinosaur laughing away to keep her from being afraid. The screeching noise is just a bad fan that rattles along, and it’s easily switched off. Nothing is really as terrifying as it seems, and even if Adam’s convinced this whole ordeal has been God showing him that he’s going to be an unfit father, it’s in this moment that he sees everyone’s stumbling blindly along, with none of the answers. Nobody knows the best way to raise a child, and nobody knows what happens after we die. It’s all a big puzzle, and everyone needs to fill in their own blanks along the way. The only thing Adam knows is that if he has a child, he’ll give that child Albert, which Enid has gifted to him so he needn’t be scared of the Laughing Man himself. There will always be ghosts and shadows of things unseen, but there will always be ways to beat them back as well. There’s no need to fear, so long as you have somebody standing there, watching over you in the dark.
- The scene where the Arch-Deacon comes over to Adam’s house to reprimand him for performing an exorcism is the funniest of the episode. I love how quickly he scares off Enid, who’s endlessly tooting away on her little recorder, with a briefly uttered, “Boo!”
- A quibble: Some of Adam’s dreams turn the corner into reference humor (though I liked the crib from Rosemary’s Baby because I say that all the time), particularly the one where the Arch-Deacon performs a little dentistry on Adam to ask him if the girl is safe.
- Enid has her useful points as well: She’s able to scare off the homeless man by chasing him and screaming at him. Adam probably should have tried that long ago.