The series finale of Lisey’s Story begins with an Oscar Wilde quote: “A flower blossoms for its own joy.” Removed from its context, it can be read as a metaphor for Lisey’s journey and growth not being for anyone but herself, in spite of always being of use to those around her. The full quote is actually a letter from Wilde musing on the nature of art and its uselessness, regardless of the pleasure it gives us when creating a mood. I make note of this because it ties into the way I’ve watched Lisey’s Story, contemplating the impression it has left on me after each episode. Some people may argue that the series is unnecessary when the novel exists, but as the episode came to a close—once again flashing through moments of Lisey and Scott’s life together—I couldn’t help but find myself surprisingly moved by what Pablo Larraín and Stephen King had accomplished with this adaptation, finding it more rewarding of a watch than read.
Yes, the series has been every bit as indulgent as the novel, and not without some issues, but what changes King has made have been largely for the better. There is more pleasure to be found in the way Larraín has brought Lisey’s Story to life through gorgeous images than in sitting through lengthy passages that add little value. But enough about the series as a whole, let’s get back to the episode itself.
“Lisey’s Story” picks up right where “No Spark, No Light” left off, with its protagonist and antagonist circling one another within the Boo’ya Moon, the menacing call of the Long Boy just in the distance. For all my complaints about Dane DeHaan’s one-note incel performance in the series, it’s like the show knew making him insufferable would be the best way to make his demise land. And, boy oh boy, does it land. Once again the show gets playful with its fights and abuse, the hand-breaking, deep biting, shovel smashing, and drug needling all too entertaining for words. But where this part of the episode really shines is in finally giving us a money shot of the Long Boy.
My past complaint about the show not committing enough to something as grotesque and intriguing as Clive Barker’s Popolac and Podujevo from “In the Hills, The Cities” (from Books Of Blood: Volume 1) has been entirely remedied here, leaning hard into that exact design. As Maria Callas plays once again, the table has turned and it’s Dooley being tortured instead of Lisey. Larraín takes great pleasure in showing us Dooley’s suffering and it’s just delightful. The close-ups on the Long Boy’s features, of the human bodies that are crawling all over but held in place, are outright gorgeous. The way the camera lingers on them and emphasizes them instead of keeping the monster in the distance as the show has done in the past, giddily indulging in the destruction of Dooley’s body, is such a great way to end his arc (and his mangled body in the pool is just an added bonus).
Following this, the episode moves into denouement mode, wrapping up all its loose ends as casually as it introduced them. The bulk of the episode being dedicated to this is bound to be divisive, but it’s a pleasure to just sit with an experience once it’s over. A scene with Lisey and a cop, in which she more or less implies that Dooley has been taken care of, is its most unnecessary, contrasted by a much better instance involving Lisey and another (thankfully sane) fan of her husband’s, a reminder that she’ll never truly be free of his legacy. Further wrapping up comes in the form of a conversation between Lisey and Amanda about the shrouded ones—the bodies at the Boo’ya Moon who seem in limbo, including Scott—who are explained as dead individuals who stay and “hold on, at least for a little while.” And in an even subtler instance of growth, we get the same image of Lisey driving down the road, this time without slamming her head over and over into her window.
Upon returning to the Boo’ya Moon to finish her bool hunt, the prize being a manuscript by Scott titled “Lisey’s Story”, the audience and Lisey alike get the rest of Scott’s tale. Though we knew that Scott’s father had died, Larraín and King heartbreakingly guide us through Scott and his final hours together. Michael Pitt, once again, is an absolute standout in the series and in this episode, and every shot of him is as impacting as the last. It’s in his inability to kill himself, in the way he whispers, “I’m so sorry,” to his son, and in the way his son drags his corpse across the mud. Even the way it flashes through Scott’s trauma is effective, further emphasizing just how much weight he and his father carried during their lives.
As if to completely counter that energy though, the next montage is nothing short of uplifting. Once Lisey makes her way to the pool, saying goodbye to Scott as he moves on from the Boo’ya Moon, we’re taken through their beats of love. All these moments of joy that were peppered throughout Lisey’s Story are now here in one place. It feels like the creators were making a conscious effort to revisit much of what they’ve shown in the past and lending it new meaning in this episode. It’s not just in the beautiful flashes of Scott and Lisey’s life together (that, once again, feel totally Terrence Malick-adjacent and actively remind me of my favorite movie, To The Wonder), but in the way it expands on Lisey herself.
Where we once saw Lisey alone on a swing as a child, we now get a glimpse of her and her sisters as children. The Hollyhocks show on the water that was once so haunting is now something innocuous they played as kids, a simple but lovely moment that shows how close they’ve always been. It’s the kind of scene that some will take as frivolous, but there’s impact in the way it deepens the contrast between Lisey’s life and Scott’s tortured childhood. As we cut back to the present, with Lisey and her sisters walking away from where everything has happened, Lisey’s Story, or, at least, the version of Lisey’s story that Scott wrote out for her, is over now. We won’t know what’s to come next; neither did Scott and neither does Lisey, but, to quote Natasha Bedingfield, “The rest is still unwritten.”
- To close things out, a few more lines between my favorite set of sisters that I enjoyed, starting with Darla yelling at Amanda, “I liked you better when you were catatonic!”
- The girls casually arguing and joking, long after Dooley has been disposed of: “You lied about the gun.” “Yeah, I did. You want to get into that now?”
- “Scott was there for you, guiding you all along, wasn’t he?”
“He was.” This is such a simple line and I know a lot of people will take it as Scott always being the one to get Lisey out of situations, but I like to think of it more as though Scott was a guide for Lisey to embrace her own existence and agency.
- Oh, and one more thing: “Stories were all I had, but now I have you. You’re every story. You’re my heart, kiddo. This is our time now. You and me. We should make our own world” was a really beautiful line and I think Owen’s delivery of so much dialogue in this series will not be as appreciated as it should be.
- Thanks for joining me throughout this entire limited series. I’m sure some folks didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, but I hope you got something out of reading along.