I Know This Much Is True S1E5: It’s More Complicated Than You Think

Thomas looks into the distance outside Hatch
Photograph by Atsushi Nishijima/HBO

I Know This Much Is True S1E5 ends with Thomas getting out of Hatch. He and Dominick get into a car and drive away. Is this the right plan? I don’t know.

Sheffer expresses her own worries, along with those of Patel and others, and they have some weight. Thomas should probably be in a facility—not Hatch, dear God, but he is seriously mentally ill. I don’t know that Dominick is equipped to deal with that. He wants to, of course, but that’s sort of the hard thing. Wanting to help without expertise isn’t good enough. But when the so-called “experts” have failed you…

It would seem that what led to all of this was Thomas being raped. Ralph Drinkwater came through with the info, though he wanted his name left out of it. Hatch covered it up, and the deal to get Thomas out I guess perpetuates that cover-up.

Is it worth it? It’s one thing to say you don’t want the money a lawsuit could bring, but what about the broader issues of justice?

Is Killing Bunnies the Inverse of Saving the Cat?

A lot of I Know This Much Is True S1E5 is taken up by flashbacks to the life of Domenico Tempesta, Dominick and Thomas’s grandfather, as Domenick reads the memoir he wrote. I don’t think this works. Maybe the misogyny isn’t overblown in historical terms, but it sort of feels like a caricature I can hardly believe.

Domenico works in a factory
Photograph by Atsushi Nishijima/HBO

Domenico is a raging asshole. There is nothing redeeming about him whatsoever. He thinks of bunnies as vermin, gets his brother killed, throws a monkey into the river in a bag full of bricks because it annoys him, and treats women like chattel. When Prosperina cursed him, I was not only all for it but actually hoping she was really a witch who could do such a thing (though the hex on future generations was probably going a bit far).

Domenico wants a son. His wife dies bearing him a daughter. I’m more confident than ever that the story is going to be that he rapes his daughter to father Thomas and Dominick. And I’m not entirely sure if I Know This Much Is True will treat this as a shocking reveal. I hope that it doesn’t, insofar as I speculated that this was the case after watching S1E1.

Rather, I think it should be a question of the impact this has on Dominick. Surely he must see it coming, too, but it is the kind of thing one would not want to believe. Reading his grandfather’s memoir has already been torturous for him, as he sees what a despicable person he’s descended from. He thinks about quitting, but Patel urges him to push forward.

Let Me Tell You Something About You You’re Not Gonna Like

In I Know This Much Is True S1E5, a number of people urge Dominick to take care of himself, from Sheffer to Patel to Dessa. After all, he has had a serious accident, but more to the point may be the question of whether he should be subverting his own interests to Thomas’s as much as he is.

His position, that he owes it to Thomas, comes out most poignantly in the scene with Dessa as he insists that you don’t just walk away from someone you love who needs you. Of course, that resonates with their own history in a way that is unfair to her, but the harder question is whether he is right, or to what extent he is—is there a line?

It is one thing to say that you should do everything you can to help your mentally ill loved one, but as a practical matter, things are going to be more difficult. Imagine Dominick and Thomas living together, with the former taking care of the latter. Will Dominick effectively be able to go to work? Will he be able to date? What will his life look like? And it’s not as though there would seem to be an end in sight.

Then there is the question of what it means to help. Dominick himself seems to recognize that Thomas would be better off in a place like Settle, but Settle is closing. From what we’ve seen, his idea of helping often seems to be to tell his brother to calm down. How much has changed since they wrestled and broke a chair as young adults?

There is a broader question at play, of course, about the mental health system in the United States, if we can call it a system at this point. Any number of people might be best off with their families and medication. Others may be well serviced by private institutions, but of course one must be able to pay. And then there are the prisons.

Time was that people thought the mentally ill were possessed by demons. Into the modern era, they were thrown in with criminals as threats to society. Modern psychology didn’t really get going until the late 19th century, and from an historical point of view, that wasn’t terribly long ago.

There have certainly been problems along the way. It is easy enough to watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or something like that and come away with the thought that asylums were horrific—or to even base a season of American Horror Story on this premise.

But that doesn’t address the question of what we should be doing. Perhaps we do not know the answer, but we have to answer the question anyway. We answer it in practice, through the doing itself, one way or another.

Will I Know This Much Is True provide some kind of answer? Will the finale provide us with an account of what “this much” is? I don’t know, and I also don’t know if it should.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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