The Fall of the House of Usher, the new Netflix series, revolves around the decay of Roderick Usher’s family. He had two children from his first marriage with Annabel Lee, and the rest of them were from his illegitimate relationships with various women. However, unlike how Mr. Longfellow treated Roderick, Madeline, and Eliza, Roderick had a policy where he kept the doors open for all his children as long as they had his blood flowing in them. The youngest one was Prospero Usher, and, apart from giving him access to all the wealth in the coffers of Fortunato and the Usher family, he was given one whole year to come up with a business venture, i.e., something that’ll allow him to earn and become self-sustainable. And all he wanted to make was an exclusive nightclub that would be the hub of all kinds of debaucheries, which would then be turned into a franchise spread all across the globe. Given the staleness of the idea, Roderick immediately rejected Prospero’s and told him to go back to the drawing board. On top of that, like the rest of the siblings, he was tasked with finding the informant in the Usher household who was leaking confidential Fortunato data to the FBI.
Prospero Usher’s Vices
I don’t know if you can count arrogance as a vice, but the way Prospero talked to Roderick and Madeline gave us a good idea of who he was. I mean, Roderick and Madeline didn’t deserve any kind of respect because they were murderers, but Prospero didn’t know about that. They were his father and his aunt, and the privilege that he enjoyed was because of everything that they had done. So, yes, maybe he should’ve treated them respectfully. If he did, he would’ve heard what Roderick and Madeline were talking about when it came to doing something to change the world. But I guess all the drugs, sex, and absolute impunity he enjoyed for being a part of the Usher household kept him from really processing the advice that he was getting. I mean, he threatened to murder one of his two friends (who were probably around him because of his money) because he suspected that they had eaten a rare egg that was meant for him and him alone.
Anyway, coming back to his nightclub idea and his penchant for not taking solid advice, Prospero barged into a meeting where Fortunato was being accused of flouting all kinds of environmental norms. And all he took away from that conversation was that one of the factories that were about to be demolished looked like an amazing place to do an exclusive party, which would show Roderick that he had the ability to turn that into a business venture. Now, I don’t think everything that he did up until this point was blasphemous because we live in a world where narcissism and “bad boy” behavior are considered to be enviable traits. That said, the two mistakes that he made after that move actually defined Prospero: he didn’t check the sprinkler pipes before the proposed rain dance, and he invited his sister-in-law, Morelle, to commit adultery while planning to use the footage of her treacherous act as leverage against Frederick Usher.
Why Was Prospero Usher’s Death So Violent?
There’s no point in discussing Prospero. If you have watched until the end of The Fall of the House of Usher, you’ll know that there’s no reason behind the deaths. It’s just the result of a deal between Roderick, Madeline, and Verna (which is an anagram of the word “raven,” which is a creature that is synonymous with Death). Instead, here we are talking about the reason behind the violent nature of Prospero’s Death, because, oh my god, was it horrifying? Almost a hundred people screaming at the top of their lungs while being sprinkled with toxic waste that was melting their skin was grotesque and kind of puke-inducing. But did Prospero and the rest of the crowd need to go out like that? No, absolutely not.
Verna actually approached Prospero in one of the rooms and told him to put a stop to it. She knew that Prospero was too young to understand that his ignorance wasn’t limited to him. His ignorance would cause the demise of those who believe in him and follow him. However, Prospero didn’t understand the gravity of Verna’s words. So, instead of calling off the party, deleting all the footage of the partygoers that he had recorded under the garb of anonymity and exclusivity, and opting for a peaceful death, he went ahead with his plan of doing the aforementioned party. To be honest, Prospero’s Death didn’t even have anything to do with Verna either. It was actually a result of Prospero’s ignorance as well as Roderick and Frederick’s inefficiency when it came to demolishing the factory before it was turned into a nightclub. In a way, you can say that the toxic waste washed off the skin of privilege that Prospero flaunted all the time and exposed the real version of him, thereby proving that one’s youth doesn’t make them impervious to Death.
The Connections Between Prospero Usher’s Arc and ‘The Mask of Red Death’
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Mask of the Red Death told the story of Prospero, the ruler of a land that was plagued by a disease called the Red Death. People who caught the sickness would suffer from extreme pain, dizziness, and bleeding until they died. But instead of tending to his people, Prospero took a thousand of his “friends” and hunkered down in one of his many palaces. “Hunkered down” is an understatement because Prospero and his friends essentially partied there 24/7 without any worry about the Red Death. At the end of the fifth month, Prospero arranged a masquerade party. Seven rooms were arranged for dancing, merriment, and, you know, other activities. Each of them was colored differently, i.e., blue, purple, green, yellow, white, and violet. The seventh room was a little different. Its floor and hangings were black, and it was lit with a red light.
To make things even more ominous, that red room also had a clock that made a sound so loud that the music and the dancers stopped in their tracks until the clock was done chiming. However, nobody went into that seventh room because it looked way too scary, and nobody wanted to ruin the vibes. At 12 AM, though, the vibes were indeed ruined by a mystery masquerader whose clothes apparently had blood on them and whose face was that of a dead man, with red spots on them, much like the victims of the Red Death. Prospero was upset at this intruder and wanted the masquerader to identify himself because this was an exclusive party, and he knew everybody who was in there, except for this guy. The masquerader didn’t respond and instead made his way to the red room, and right as he was about to enter it, Prospero rushed at him with a knife. And just as Prospero was about to kill the masquerader, he turned around and revealed himself to be the personification of the Red Death. Soon after that, everyone in that walled-off palace died, thereby making the Red Death the ruler of the land.
Even though this doesn’t need to be pointed out, the character of Prospero in The Fall of the House of Usher was the same one as the ruler in The Mask of Red Death, and so was the name of the episode in which Prospero Usher died. Both of them arranged masquerade parties. Now, I was under the impression that Prospero Usher’s party was a reference to the irresponsible COVID parties that happened during the peak of the pandemic, and I was kind of right because the party in the original short story was exactly that. Verna entered Prospero Usher’s party dressed as Death, complete with a skull-faced mask, much like the Red Death entered Prospero’s party. Verna wasn’t as ruthless as the Red Death because she not only gave Prospero Usher a chance to stop the party, she also got the staff to leave before the toxic rain party began. Verna even tried to get Morelle out of there.
Meanwhile, the Red Death simply killed every single one of the partygoers. Also, the number of people present at Prospero’s party was in the thousands, whereas Prospero Usher invited a hundred people. A thousand people being turned into a puddle of flesh and bones would’ve been a nightmare. So, it was a good decision to limit it to a hundred people. Much like how Prospero sealed the doors of his palace, Prospero Usher locked the doors of his nightclub, thereby disallowing anyone to escape. Prospero had seven rooms for dancing, and Prospero Usher had 12 bedrooms and one dancing floor. The Red Death and Prospero’s confrontation happened in the dreaded red room, and when the rest of the people rushed in to see what had happened, they died there along with Prospero. Verna and Prospero Usher’s first confrontation happened in the red room, too, but he and the rest of the partygoers died in the dancing arena. Also, Prospero probably didn’t have any intention of using that party to manipulate his friends, while Prospero Usher was definitely using the party to hold multiple people hostage. All in all, you can call Prospero’s episode in The Fall of the House of Usher a very faithful yet modern adaptation of Poe’s The Mask of the Red Death.