Episode 4 of The Haunting of Hill House, entitled The Twin Thing, is a Luke-centric story. In the cold open, we a young Luke explaining to someone that no one believes him about the ‘thing’ in the basement. As a side note, young Luke is absolutely adorable. Poor Luke – he’s even gone tot he trouble of drawing a nice picture to illustrate the ‘basement ghost’. You assume he’s talking to his twin sister, Nell. But as the camera pans away, we see Luke sitting with his imaginary friend, ‘Abigail’. Cue the credits.
The Past – Clara
After the credits, we’re taken back to the past with a young Luke arranging six plastic army men in a semi-circle around a drawing. It’s a picture of’the thing from the basement’. Remember that number six as it will become important. Later, Hugh tries to explain away Luke’s encounter, but Luke knows better.”This house is bad, dad’, he warns Hugh.
In a dick parenting move, Hugh lets Luke have an old bowler hat Olivia found, but only if he’s a ‘big boy’. And according to Hugh, ‘big boys’ know the ‘difference between what’s real and imaginary.’ Aside from Hugh’s terrible parenting, a couple of other points emerge during this scene. Nell remarks that she knows Luke’s happy because it’s a twin thing. It won’t be the last time Hill House implies that Nell and Luke have a connection. We also get more evidence that Olivia shares Theo’s ‘sensitivity’ when she puts on an old shawl she found in the house.
In another flashback, we see another illustration of how Luke was tormented by Hill House. Nell and Luke are playing a game with an old-fashioned ‘speaker tube system that connects the kitchen with the upstairs. They hear a gravelly voice that sounds like it’s saying ‘Clara’. When Luke goes upstairs and tests the speaker-tube from there, he sees a ghostly reflection of something standing next to him, and hears the voice again.
The Past – The Man in the Bowler Hat
In one final childhood flashback, Luke is awakened by a thumping sound in the night. As he peers into the hallway, Luke glimpsesa tall, gaunt figure in a black trench coat, floating a foot in the air and tapping a cane on the floorboards. It comes into the bedroom while Luke hides under the bed. The floating apparition takes the bowler hat off Luke’s bed and turns to leave. But when Luke slips out a sound, it turns back around and peers under the bed at Luke.
The Present – Luke Gets Clean
In a more recent or ‘adult’ flashback’, Luke is in rehab listening to another addict. A blind veteran, talks about his tour of duty and finding an Iraqi girl who burned alive. He vividly recalls her melting eyeballs. He was so haunted by that image that he blinded himself to escape it. But to this day, he still sees the ‘girl with the runny eyes’. A haggard-looking Luke is asked if he’d like to speak, he declines.
Two days before Nell’s suicide, Luke is looking much better and getting his 90-day clean chip. Later in his room, Luke struggles to make letters to send to everyone he’s wronged, which reminds us just how much he has taken from his family. We learn a few other things in this scene. Luke has formed a close relationship with another rehab patient named Joey. Like his siblings, he thinks his father is an ‘asshole’. And Luke still feels the sting of never being believed by his family, excluding Nell because it’s a ‘twin thing’. A nightmare wakes Luke in the middle of the night and he sees a vision of Nell in his room telling him to ‘go home’.
The next morning, Luke’s friend, Joey, skips out of rehab leaving him a note that implores him not to ‘follow her’. Though his case manager, Paige, discourages him from forming close relationships, Luke leaves rehab to find Joey. Interestingly, while Theo copes with her trauma by shutting people out, Luke actively tries to build relationships. Out on the streets, Luke is haunted by a waking nightmare vision of the same tall man in the bowler hat.
The Present – You Can’t Save Everyone
Luke eventually finds Joey and the story intersects with Steven’s story from Episode 1. This is the scene where Luke steals from his brother, but this time it’s told from Luke’s perspective. Luke first goes to Steven’s home where he learns that Steven and his wife are separated. Then we get another ‘adult’ flashback to an awkward dinner with Luke bringing Joey to Steven and his wife’s place. Steven is not supportive of Luke and warns him outright that Joey will con him. As it turns out, Steven and Luke’s counsellor are right – Joey takes the money Luke got from Steven and disappears with it.
Now Luke is left out on the streets alone and cold. As if that isn’t bad enough, Luke gets jumped and beat up for his coat and shoe. The scene is juxtaposed with Luke’s speech after getting his 90-day clean chip where he recounts the effects of his mother’s death). As he paces alone on the street, seeing yet another vision of ‘the man in the bowler’ hat, Luke keeps counting from one to six. It’s something he took from his childhood. Young Luke would arrange ‘six army men’, representing the Crain family, as a shield to protect himself. It’s as utterly heart-breaking as it sounds.
Things only get worse for Luke. After he calls into the rehab center, Paige and Steven find him on the streets and tell him that Nell has died. By the episode’s conclusion, we see Luke at his absolute rock-bottom. He tried to save Joey and failed. Now he learns he couldn’t save his own twin sister. A sobbing Luke collapses into his older brother’s arms.
Some Final Thoughts
The Twin Thing is another strong episode that balances scares with compelling drama. Nonetheless, we’re still four episodes into The Haunting of Hill House and we really don’t know much about the source of the Crain family’s trauma. To date, we’ve seen at least five different entities but know nothing about them. At this point, you have to wonder if Hill House risks cramming too much story into its back episodes. Still The Twin Thing is a fantastic bit of story-telling with more truly heartbreaking character arcs. The blind veteran’s story nicely bookends the episode and, arguably, the series so far. Regardless of how hard people try to escape their personal trauma, it relentlessly haunts us.