Courteney Cox’s starrer horror-comedy series, “Shining Vale,” points out at the beginning that Women are roughly twice as prone to depression and demonic possession as compared to men, and in both these conditions, they suffer from similar symptoms like helplessness, insomnia, hallucinations, and whatnot. Hence, the opening text lays down the conflict that is going to traumatize our protagonist, Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox), who was once a famous writer but is now struggling to fill a single page.
It’s been 17 years since Pat’s first and last novel, “Cressida: Unbound,” came out, and since then, she has been going through a severe writer’s block. It’s quite ironic that Pat, who once wrote about women’s empowerment and liberation in her first novel, is now quite suffocated in her real life, a feeling that started tormenting her and influenced her decision to cheat on her husband with a plumber/carpenter. But her husband, Terry, is quite patient and wants to save his marriage and his family from falling apart, which is why he uses all his income and funds to buy an old mansion in Shining Vale, Connecticut. But even after Terry’s forgiveness and constant efforts, will he be able to save his marriage, or will it be haunted by yet another tragedy?
‘Shining Vale’ Season 1: Plot Summary
After Terry finds out about Patricia’s affair with the plumber, he decides to move to Shining Vale, Connecticut, from Brooklyn with their two teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake. Pat suffers from midlife and existential crises where her kids ignore her and her husband is always busy at work. She used to feel suffocated in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn and couldn’t concentrate on her follow-up book, for which she had already taken an advance from her editor, Kam. As the emotions piled up, Pat got carried away and started a short affair with a hunk, Frank, who happens to be a plumber, among many other things.
Three months ago, Terry and Pat consulted a therapist to save their marriage and were worried about Pat’s declining mental health. Terry took the decision and bought a new house in Shining Vale.
At the new house, Pat decides to take the attic to finish her book and send the first chapter to Kam as soon as possible, but due to her writer’s block, she fails to finish even a single sentence. As the tension builds, Pat starts feeling an ominous presence around her and starts hallucinating about a woman named Rosemary Wellingham, who happens to be the previous owner of the mansion and killed herself in the house.
As Pat consults with her misogynist therapist, Dr. Berg, about her visions, he convinces her that it is not a ghost, but an alter ego that Pat has created to unlock her creativity. Dr. Berg makes Pat believe that Rosemary is nothing but a muse that is helping her to finish the book and also prescribes hard drugs, especially Clonazepam, to cope with her anxieties.
Soon, Pat starts hogging the pills and loses control of her body; after which her visions start getting more frequent and stronger. Believing Rosemary is her muse, Pat makes a pact with her and allows her to possess her body to finish her book. Her editor, Kam, loves the first chapter that makes Pat believe Rosemary is indeed trying to help her, but as soon as she hands over complete control of her body to the demon, Rosemary starts revealing her ulterior motives that are influenced by the horrors of her past life.
Who Was Rosemary Wellingham? Was She Real?
Until the end of “Shining Vale” Season 1, Rosemary Wellingham kept her identity completely hidden. She helped Pat write her book, where she filled the pages with her explicit desires, which helped Pat learn about Rosemary’s backstory a bit, but nothing was revealed with exact certainty whether these facts were the actual truth or fabricated fiction for Pat’s novel. There is also a possibility that Rosemary doesn’t exist and is nothing but a creation of Pat’s psychotic and chaotic mind, which is why Rosemary’s story seems so similar to Pat’s real life; for example, Rosemary’s addiction to alcohol and her affair with the local grocer, Dan Harris. The second theory is relatively thin because, if Dan Harris was fictional, then it would be impossible for Pat’s son, Jake, to summon Dan’s ghost in the treehouse in the woods. Also, Jake often saw Rosemary’s daughter, Daisy, in the woods whenever he was wearing his VR, and thus it is probable that these two spirits were as real as Rosemary herself.
According to Pat’s vision and her novel, Rosemary Wellingham used to live in the same house as a family of four. However, unlike Terry, Rosemary’s husband was extremely possessive and dominative, and her children were real torture. One day, at the breakfast table, Rosemary found out about her husband’s affair with her secretary (just like Pat found out about Terry’s feelings for his colleague Kathryn). Shaken by the revelation and tormented by her family’s behavior towards her, Rosemary snapped and pulled an ax out of nowhere, butchering her entire family. It can also be speculated that she was the one who killed Dan Harris, as in a vision, a bleeding Dan warned Pat not to let Rosemary enter her body.
It can be surmised that Rosemary targeted and possessed Pat’s body because she resonated with her on many levels, like how her family ill-treated her, or how she started an affair with Frank, and most importantly, her alcohol addiction. But the narrative keeps other possibilities open, too, as Pat has a family history of psychosis. Her mother, Joan, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to spend some time in a mental hospital, which hints at the fact that maybe Pat has developed the same mental illness.
Whenever Pat would overdose on drugs and let Rosemary take control over her body, Pat’s consciousness or her personality takes a back seat and zones out. She doesn’t remember a thing that Rosemary does with her body until the drugs wear off, after which she gains consciousness again. Maybe Pat was suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID), and she was probably the one who pushed her neighbor Valerie onto the new fence that killed her. Pat found Valerie’s pendant in the attic, which serves the theory, along with the possibility that on the night of the party at her house, it was Pat who drugged her rival writer, Claire Vanderbilt, and sent her to a coma. The entire narrative keeps swaying between these two possibilities, whether Pat was possessed or mentally depressed or both, but nothing is explained until the very end of “Shining Vale” Season 1.
‘Shining Vale’ Season 1: Ending, Explained
Whenever Pat’s family would ill-treat her, she would snap out and lose control of her body, and her other personality or Rosemary’s ghost would take charge of her. In her violent persona, she would threaten her kids to behave. That paves the way for the last discussion at the vintage Tiki bar (a similar bar from “The Shining”) between Pat and Rosemary, where Rosemary reveals to her that she butchered her entire family and later killed herself in the tub. At this point, Rosemary hinted at the fact that both she and Pat were the same person, driven to the brink by their families, and thus Rosemary tried to convince Pat to chop off her family and end the horrors once and for all. But Pat refused to follow Rosemary’s commands as she tried to highlight the fact that there is a mother inside her; hence the entire discussion serves the conflict between a mother who wants to protect her family and a woman who wants to be liberated.
To protect her family from herself, Pat decided to destroy Rosemary’s vessel, which was her own body. She tried to swallow the pills that instantly reminded the viewers of the suicide attempt that Pat’s mother, Joan, tried to pull off when Pat was just a teenager. Maybe this hints at the fact that Pat was slowly losing her mind, just like her mother.
Nevertheless, Rosemary finally convinced Pat that it was Terry who sabotaged her career and gave her writer’s block as her ink dried up soon after she married her. Then came the kids, which Terry wanted, and he made Pat a complete housewife, who would cook and clean the house for him while he stayed out all day and would flirt with Kathryn in the office. With these thoughts, Rosemary took control of Pat’s body again and went straight to the attic where Terry was reading the last chapter of Pat’s novel, in which she wrote about chopping her own family (another reference from Kubrick’s film).
Before Terry could run away or react to the madness of his wife, Pat appeared before him, wielding an ax in a total Jack Torrance avatar, trying to kill Terry. While Pat ran after Terry throughout the house, Terry, in fear, forgave Pat of her infidelity with both Frank and Blake, and finally, at this moment, Pat revealed that his forgiveness was something that tormented her. She cheated on him, and instead of leaving her or giving her a divorce, he bought a house in Connecticut, which exhausted her further. Pat finally struck Terry with the ax and inflicted a scratch on his head, and as he rolled down the stairs, Pat suddenly came to her senses and went straight down to check on her husband. At the same moment, Gaynor came in and confronted her mother about Valerie’s necklace, which she had buried in the backyard, thereby accusing Pat of murdering Valerie. Before Pat could defend herself, the drugs kicked in, and she fainted.
In the end, as Pat woke up from her sleep, she found herself tied to a stretcher, and a man informed her that she was being admitted to Shining Vale psychiatric hospital. The story repeats itself as Gaynor admits her mother to a mental facility for killing herself, the same way Pat signed the same papers for her mother, Joan. But before Pat could be locked up, she witnessed a group photograph on the wall in which the entire staff of The Shining Vale of Hysterical Women was standing in front of her house, which suggests the house was earlier used as a psychiatric facility. In the photograph, Pat saw a similar face that belonged to no one else but her most horrifying nightmare, Rosemary.
There is a date, June 23, 1859, written below the photograph that suggests that this particular picture might have been taken on the same date. However, it also creates a gap in time because Rosemary and her family, Elijah, Daisy, and Rolf, died on June 23, 1954, which means the woman in the photograph wasn’t Rosemary but someone else who existed in 1859. The photograph looked similar to the ballroom photograph at the end of “The Shining,” thereby paving the way for a theory that maybe Rosemary had an incarnation just like the Kubrick film hints at the end. Or maybe there is some deeper theory or reasoning behind it, which will be further revealed in “Shining Vale” Season 2 if the creators and producers decide to renew the show, the possibility of which looks thin. However, it will be interesting to finally know whether there was an actual ghost in the house or if it was just a fabrication of Pat’s psychotic mind.