Netflix’s new gothic horror drama series The Fall of the House of Usher is an interesting blend of the literary works of the illustrious Edgar Allan Poe and the opioid-pushing Sackler family in the USA. Based on Poe’s multiple works and characters, and not just his short story by the same name, the series follows the Usher family, who have built a fortune out of their highly addictive opioids. Like the ill-fated family in Poe’s original work, the Ushers in 2023 are also headed towards a fatal fall. With eight episodes full of the grim and the macabre, The Fall of the House of Usher makes for a highly entertaining watch.
Plot Summary: What is the series about?
The devastating effects of opioids still looms large over American society in 2023, and The Fall of the House of Usher pins all the blame on the renowned and respected Usher family. Headed by twin siblings Roderick and Madeline Usher, the family and their pharmaceutical company, named Fortunato, have amassed unimaginable financial and social wealth. But, according to the findings of Assistant US Attorney Auguste Dupin, this wealth has been generated out of the sheer misery, torture, and death of thousands of common people who have grown addicted to the Ligodone painkiller produced by the Fortunato Pharma Company. Despite being claimed to have no side effects or addictive quality, the medicine is heavily addictive, often mixed up with other compounds to create dangerous street drugs, and is almost impossible to break a habit from.
After years of trying to pin the Usher family for their criminal acts, Dupin finally heads a lawsuit against Roderick and Madeline, but their influence still seems capable of saving them. However, a string of mysterious happenings starts to occur when the two youngest wards of Roderick die in unbelievably freakish accidents. Within just two weeks, all of the children and heirs to the family die in similarly weird ways, and Roderick Usher also seems to be suffering from some ailment. Around this very time, Auguste Dupin receives an invitation to meet and talk with Roderick Usher, with the promise that the man will confess his crimes to the attorney.
Still with a doubting mind, Auguste reaches the mentioned address, which is an extremely old crumbling house in the middle of a deserted street, where Roderick is indeed waiting for him. The once powerful but now dejected Roderick reveals that this is his childhood home, before talking about his life in detail. Seemingly shocked and grieved by the deaths of his six children, four of whom were illegitimate ones, and also expecting his own death soon, the man wants to confess all his wrongdoings while also explaining the real reason behind his children’s deaths. As Auguste Dupin sits to hear and record the testimony of Roderick Usher, deep and disturbing family secrets come out, all while the strong patriarch experiences a series of related hallucinations owing to his CADASIL disorder.
How had Roderick and Madeline built their family business?
A major segment of Roderick Usher’s confession is about his past, when he established their successful business along with his twin sister Madeline. While The Fall of the House of Usher reveals the entire plot only at the end, the sequence of events from the twins’ past become important in the later occurrences. From their childhood, the twin siblings were raised by their single mother, Eliza, and did not know who their father was. Eliza worked as a personal assistant to a man named William Longfellow, the erstwhile CEO of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals, and it was actually Longfellow who was the illegitimate father to the twins. But the man never acknowledged the children as his own and was extremely demeaning towards Eliza, too, keeping their ties a secret from the entire world.
Even during Eliza’s tough sickness, when the woman had developed CADASIL, Longfellow refused to provide any sort of help to her or her family. Roderick and Madeline buried their mother’s body mistakenly before she had even died, and in a strange moment, Eliza climbed out of her grave, walked up to her boss’ house, and strangled William Longfellow to death before herself falling dead. Following the death of their only guardian, Roderick and Madeline had to go from one foster home to another, and they were mostly deprived of any good or healthy childhood. After growing up, both looked for work at Fortunato, with Roderick interested in drugs and medicine and Madeline more passionate about technology and computers. But the CEO of the company at the time, Rufus Griswold, refused to take them with any seriousness.
Roderick first approached Griswold with a new product he had found on the market—a newly made opioid named Ligodone. Roderick wanted to bridge the gap between light-dose painkillers and heavy opioids with these new Ligodone tablets, as they could be prescribed to any patient in varying doses depending on their needs. The claims of having no side effects and creating no addiction were already stated at this time. Griswold turned down Roderick’s plan, saying that it was not of much value, but then proceeded to buy off the manufacturers of the drug and, in turn, the Ligodone drug itself. The CEO had realized the monetary gains that could be made with the pills, but he did not want to give Roderick any financial credit for it. The Usher siblings took note of this and patiently waited for their turn to strike. As soon as the Ligodone drug hit the markets, dead bodies started to crop up because of its effects, and a young police officer, Auguste Dupin, started to investigate the matter.
It was the very same Auguste Dupin who found out about the terrible malpractices of Rufus Griswold and his company. The real side-effects of the drug were being hidden from the public, human trials were being conducted without disclosing full information about the real effects, and documents and consent forms were being forged to test any and every patient they could get their hands on. After uncovering this, Auguste approached Roderick for help, as he needed the employee to testify against the wrongdoings of his boss. Encouraged by his simple and loving wife, Annabel Lee, Roderick agreed to help Auguste prepare the case, but he and Madeline had a different secret plan in mind.
When the case against Fortunato was finally filed, and Roderick was called to testify, he completely changed his account and stated that Griswold had done nothing wrong. Roderick stated that he had only agreed to help Dupin because the officer had been greatly troubling him and his family, as without his crucial testimony, Dupin’s case would not last. Griswold and Fortunato were free of any charges, and as a result, the CEO offered to make Roderick his closest work associate. It was this very moment that the siblings had been waiting for, since the board members of Fortunato Pharma were also extremely confident in Roderick and had full trust in him.
During a fancy New Year’s party, Madeline lured Rufus Griswold to the desolate basement of their office building and drugged him with heavy doses of cyanide in his drink. The twins then buried Griswold alive inside a hole in the wall of the basement, letting the cyanide kill him slowly over the following hours. To the world, it was reported that Griswold had suddenly gone away without informing anyone, and the company urgently needed someone to take over. Roderick Usher, the hero who had saved the firm, was backed by the board to become the CEO, and it was in this manner that the Usher family came to own Fortunato Pharma. Decades later, the company and the family have both thrived, but the guilt and resulting fear do not seem to have left Roderick. In his hallucinations, the man often sees someone in a Joker costume and hears the jingling of bells from the walls of his office’s basement. It was indeed Griswold who had been dressed as a joker on that fateful night, and the bells on the headpiece that he wore still tinkled after he was buried behind a thick wall of bricks.
Who is the woman behind the death of all the Usher heirs?
Following the betrayal against Auguste Dupin, Roderick Usher’s marriage with his first wife, Annabel Lee, ended, and he managed to win over their two children, Frederick and Tamerlane, with his newfound money. After this, the man also got involved in a number of affairs with various women, leading to a number of illegitimate children. Frederick works in his father’s pharmaceutical company, and Tamerlane is also involved with the business, but her interactions are more with her childless aunt Madeline, since Tamerlane has been developing a subscription-based service for beauty products as part of Fortunato’s new business profile.
Victorine, the eldest of the illegitimate children, is a doctor by profession and leads the new test trials for Fortunato’s latest medical developments. Leo is a video game distributor, but he mostly spends time bragging about his wealth and taking advantage of people who look up to his status. Camille is shrewd and cunning, and she heads public relations for the Usher family business. Lastly, Prospero is a young man looking to make money out of zero investment by hosting grand, exclusive parties with high membership charges.
Prospero plans one such party of revelry and debauchery at one of the old manufacturing buildings of Fortunato Pharma, and as part of the attraction, he arranges for sprinklers to spray water from the water reservoirs on top of the building. The man is unaware of the fact that the tanks had actually been used to store away toxic water, mixed with dangerous chemicals and acids, which had been stored away to hide it from FDA regulators. Therefore, Prospero’s party leads to a horrific result as his guests, and he himself, are burned by the chemicals and lose their lives. Before his death, though, a woman, seemingly uninvited, had approached him, and she was caught on the security cameras as well.
Similarly, this mysterious woman keeps appearing to every other heir and is also very strangely related to each of their deaths. Camille is killed by a violent test-lab chimpanzee, which initially seems to take the form of the woman. It is she who sells Leo a spooky black cat, which ultimately leads him to angrily chase it around his apartment and eventually fall to death from the very high balcony. All this time, Roderick had known about his failing health, and he needed Victorine to test the latest artificial heart that their company had been making on human subjects. Knowing that human trials would be dangerous, Victorine was looking for someone gullible enough to volunteer herself for the clinical trials, and that was when the mysterious woman appeared to her as a willing patient looking for any miraculous surgery. When Victorine’s girlfriend Alessandra got to know of this malpractice, the two had a fight, leading to Victorine accidentally killing her girlfriend. Out of shock and grief, Victorine then committed suicide.
The woman again appeared as a sex worker to Tamerlane and her husband Bill, who had an arrangement between themselves. While the hired women were to sleep with Bill for only one occasion, Tamerlane was made to believe that Bill was establishing a relationship with the woman, and as a result, the eldest of the Usher daughters accidentally killed herself with a fireplace poker. The remaining of the Usher siblings, eldest son Frederick, dies resulting from an overdose when he accidentally snorts a heavy dose of paralytic instead of cocaine. Lastly, the youngest heir, Frederick’s teenage daughter Lenore, dies mysteriously without any discernible reason, but in a totally painless manner unlike the others. This leaves no heirs of the Ushers alive.
The woman is eventually revealed to be named Verna, and although each of the deaths can be attributed to psychological or physical reasons, photographic evidence of Verna ensures that the supernatural has been involved in each case. The real story of her dates back to 1980, when Roderick and Madeline Usher committed the murder of their boss, Griswold. After the act, the siblings had gone to a nearby bar to establish alibis for themselves, and here, they had met with the charming bartender, Verna. Gradually, over the night, the woman magically revealed everything about the Ushers and then offered them a deal. According to her, the Usher twins could easily avoid any police and legal trouble because of their murder and would very quickly rise to extreme heights of success and wealth. But in return, they had to agree to the condition that all of their heirs would die at the same time that the twins would die with them.
Essentially, Verna is the Devil, and the Ushers had made a classic deal with the Devil, through which they gained immense success but at a terrible cost. The siblings had never talked about this to anyone and had even considered this experience a hallucinatory dream since the bar did not even exist in real life. They had chosen personal success and money to be higher than legacy or successors, and so the house of Usher was indeed destined to end one day. When Roderick was sick and close to death, all of his children’s lives had been claimed by the Devil before his fall.
What happens to Roderick and Madeline Usher in the end?
After this elaborate confession to Auguste Dupin, Roderick also talks about the very recent developments. Although stating that his granddaughter Lenore had been texting him throughout the night, the man now reveals that Lenore is actually dead, and it is instead an AI replicant that had been texting him with the single word “nevermore (a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, The Raven.” It was young Lenore’s death that moved Roderick the most, presumably because she was innocent unlike the other children.
A few days earlier, Madeline convinced Roderick to kill himself by telling him that his death would end the suffering of the family, and Roderick had taken multiple pills as well. It was not too strange that the cold-hearted Madeline tried to keep all the wealth for herself, but Verna disallowed such an ending for the family. As the maleficent Devil, she wanted both the siblings to suffer together, for they had agreed to the horrific deal together.
Instead, on this very night, a few hours before Dupin was invited to the house, Roderick called Madeline and then poisoned her with cyanide, just like they had once done to Griswold. By now Roderick was convinced that he would die, either due to the supernatural or his failing health, but he wanted to ensure a similar fate for his sister, either out of jealousy or simply to give her a less painful end, since the Devil would kill her too. But the man also wanted to honor his sister like an Egyptian pharaoh, and so he replaced her eyes with two large sapphires without realizing that Madeline was still actually alive. Towards the end of Roderick’s confession to Dupin, right before the attorney’s eyes, a horrific figure of Madeline, with sapphires instead of eyes, clambers out of the basement and chokes her brother to death. At this same time, the entire Usher house starts crumbling and falling, and as Dupin runs out, the building completely collapses on top of Roderick and Madeline, marking a literal and symbolic fall of the house of Usher.
What Happens To Arthur Pym, and Juno?
At the end of The Fall of the House of Usher, information about the remaining characters is also provided. Roderick’s last wife, Juno, who was also once a patient of his, inherits the entire Usher wealth and business. Driven by her goal to get rid of her Ligodone addiction, Juno wrote off the entire inheritance to addiction recovery and other rehabilitation programs under a new organization called the Phoenix Foundation, so that the wrongs of the Ushers could be made right in some way. The family’s trusted enforcer and lawyer, Arthur Pym, is the only one arrested for the malpractices of the Ushers, as his involvement has been proven by the existence of a specific file. In fact, the Devil, in the form of Verna, had made a similar offer to Arthur, saying that this file would never be found and his role in the corruption would never be uncovered if he agreed to give something in return. However, Arthur Pym had refused, stating that he was unwilling to essentially sell his soul to the Devil and, therefore, was imprisoned.
Why Does Verna And Dupin Visit The Grave?
During The Fall of the House of Usher‘s ending, Auguste Dupin visits the Usher family graveyard and leaves the confession tape there, since the attorney had now retired and did not want to build any further case. Through this entire case and Roderick’s confession, Dupin had realized that the greatest wealth one can wish for is the blessing of family and a legacy. Having heirs to carry forward one’s name is far greater than any materialistic wealth, and this is why Dupin now wants to spend time with his family, and enjoy the wealth he has only recently realized that he possesses.
In the ending sequence, a raven perches on the pillar tomb of the Ushers and looks ominously at Auguste Dupin, but Dupin isn’t shaken by its gaze because he knows he has done his job, and he is going back to his family as a content man. Once Dupin has turned his back on the Ushers for the last time, Verna appears to grace the graves of the Ushers with relevant items that led to their deaths. She places a whiskey glass on Roderick’s grave as it was through this glass that he had a made a deal with Verna and signed his own death certificate. Verna had started this journey to teach Roderick and Madeline Usher a thing or two about the corrosive nature of ambition and greed, but her visage had a touch of melancholy because of the collateral damage the Ushers had caused. Would it have been better if she had killed the twins in her imaginary bar that fateful night? Would it have saved the world from so much suffering? We don’t know. What we do know is that humanity is better off without people and families like the Ushers, who claim they can ease our pain but end up adding to it while making money off of our miseries.