In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Tamerlane Usher’s demise occupies a middle ground in terms of gruesomeness. The most harrowing deaths in the narrative are arguably Perry’s corrosive shower, Camille’s savage chimpanzee attack, and Frederick’s brutal dissection. Tamerlane’s passing is nonetheless a poignant and painful scene, marked by shattering mirrors and shards piercing her body. While it may be less graphic compared to her siblings’ demises, Tamerlane’s death possesses a striking beauty. The scene is aesthetically captivating, with the apartment enveloped in a lush, absinthe-green hue reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” Tamerlane is draped in a stunning matching gown, and the final slow-motion leap, culminating in the shattering of a ceiling mirror, adds a dramatic flourish. Despite the distressing nature of the sequence, it is undeniably a work of art.
However, the visual elegance does not diminish the fearfulness of Tamerlane’s descent. What propels her towards this tragic end is a distressing experience that resonates with many: insomnia. The series establishes that, both prior to and after the Usher family’s trial and the enigmatic deaths, Tamerlane has been depriving herself of sleep. By the sixth episode, titled “Goldbug,” her husband William expresses deep concern for her well-being. Regrettably, she dismisses his worries, consumed by stress and fixated on the ill-timed launch of her wellness brand. The episode predominantly revolves around the repercussions of prolonged sleep deprivation, a theme effectively and disturbingly portrayed by the cast and crew.
Everyone has encountered moments of losing their temper due to a rough night’s sleep. The ensuing morning might bring irritability, lack of focus, and an overall sense of being on edge. Tamerlane, regardless of her sleep schedule, tends to be high-strung and stressed, despite leading a seemingly privileged life as a wellness influencer. In “Goldbug,” she reaches a breaking point, lashing out at her accommodating husband. She utters hurtful words, alleging that their marriage was a facade, based on his public image and social media following, and accusing him of infidelity. This leads to their separation, but this fractured relationship soon becomes the least of Tamerlane’s worries.
As Tamerlane delves deeper into sleep deprivation, even an abundance of prescription sleeping pills proves futile. The concept of micro-sleeping, brief and involuntary episodes of nodding off, is effectively depicted. Time appears distorted, with moments seamlessly transitioning from normalcy to minutes later. Tamerlane’s perception of time starts to warp, entering brief states of autopilot. She revises her opening speech for the brand launch, only to discover it inexplicably scrawled over, with no recollection of having done so. This temporal distortion continues throughout the episode, emphasizing how time becomes elusive when one is running on fumes. However, temporal distortion is not the only illusion she grapples with.
The show doesn’t explicitly state whether Tamerlane has a history of severe mental illness. While she undoubtedly faces challenges and could benefit from therapy, her experiences extend beyond typical struggles. She begins to see a sex worker named Candy, who is actually another manifestation of Verna. This hallucination heightens her paranoia about her husband’s fidelity. What she believes to be interactions between Candy and William are, in fact, interactions between herself and William. Strangely, only Tamerlane perceives Candy, creating a disturbing sense of isolation.
What sets Tamerlane’s fate apart as the most horrifying is its potential universality. Few of us will meet the same demise as the Ushers, yet many will grapple with varying degrees of sleep deprivation. Tamerlane’s ordeal serves as a cautionary tale within a larger cautionary tale. While the circumstances might differ, accidents can occur when enduring prolonged sleeplessness, resulting in severe injury or worse. Tamerlane Usher’s passing, though not the most gruesome in the series, is an intensely terrifying scenario to witness, particularly because it could happen to anyone.