After Tess’ escape from Maine and Kumiko’s death, Falling Water episode 203, “Safehouse,” finally sees the unlikely dreamer family of Tess, Burton, and Taka reunited and standing against a common cause: taking down the Shadowman. It takes some time for them to get there, though. Catch up on all that and more in this week’s recap, below.
Tess meets the Shadowman and reconnects with Burton
Last we saw Tess, she had maced Mark’s eyes red, knocked Jeremy unconscious, and sped off in her car with Jeremy to get out of her cozy Maine hideaway. “Safehouse” opens with her and her son asleep and dreaming in her car on the side of the road.
Within the dream, they’re in a subway car, but something’s wrong: All of the passengers are staying balanced on the moving train not by hanging onto the handrail, but by giant meat hooks hanging from the ceiling and gashed through their wrists. Horrified by the blood dripping out of their fellow passengers, Tess and James run to the back of the train car and exit to move to the next one, but they instead find themselves at the base of a dimly-lit, red-tinted staircase leading up to a nightmarish butcher shop. Creeping up the stairs, they catch sight of the Shadowman and hear the incessant cicada-like hissing indicating his presence. He’s sharpening his knives and beginning to butcher a giant pig alive. They both wake up with a jolt to a police officer knocking on their window and telling them to move along. James apologizes as soon as he leaves: “I’m sorry, Mom. The Shadowman—he almost saw us.” (Later in the episode, James also leads Burton to the Shadowman in his dreams, so now all three of our heroes know he exists.)
Next we see them, Tess and James are back in New York City and staying with a friend of Burton’s; his longtime friends the Mirona family own a Sudanese restaurant and have a shabby-but-livable apartment for them to hole up in. “You’ll be safe here,” the chef and husband, Clinton, assures. Burton leads Tess upstairs while James gets to know his new neighbors, explaining along the way how Hull/Bedford killed Dr. Leon Ralston, the man Olivia was following for the firm, and how according to his contact and collaborator, FBI agent Diane Martinez, he’s being investigated now, too. “Hull/Bedford will do anything to protect their asses, it seems,” he says. “Their reach goes further than I ever imagined.” Tess asks if Taka is being investigated thanks to the firm’s retaliation, as well, and that’s when Burton breaks the news to her. “Your sister, it appears she’s murdered Taka’s mother. I’m sorry, there’s no easy way to say it.” Tess is distraught and disbelieving that Sabine would ever be capable of something so monstrous.
Taka realizes that the Shadowman may have infiltrated Sabine’s dreams
Taka is first shown this episode being absolutely inconsolable beside his partner, Alex. He believes there must be an explanation to why Sabine would do such a thing, while Alex (staying true to her brand) sees it in more black-and-white circumstances: Sabine is guilty because she didn’t want Kumiko living there.
“You weren’t here,” Taka responds. “She was standing here holding the bottle, her eyes were open, but it’s like she couldn’t see. She didn’t even hear the gagging.” It isn’t until speaking with Tess later in the episode that Taka pieces together the similarities between Mr. Morrison’s case and Sabine’s.
As it stands now, Taka believes that there was another dreamer—a powerful one who can influence others’ dreams—hiding in the Morrisons’ attic and forcing Mr. Morrison to murder his wife. Is it possible that the same dreamer infiltrated Sabine’s dreams and forced her to do the same thing? (From our vantage point it is, of course, very possible.)
To confirm the theory, Taka pulls strings at the precinct to sneak Tess in to speak with her sister about what she’d been dreaming the night of the attack. Sabine recounts in vivid detail nightmares where Kumiko would be cursing Sabine and accusing her of stealing her son from her. She’d also dream of cockroaches infesting their home—and of a shadowy figure watching the whole scene play out from the living room overhang. The dreams, Sabine says, began informing the way she felt about Taka’s mother; she began hating her. Tess takes out the drawing of the Shadowman that James drew earlier on, and she immediately identifies him as the man watching above her.
While an utterly far-fetched defense for any accused murderer (especially considering the power of dreams is not common knowledge among the standard public), Taka knows that claiming the Shadowman forced Sabine to kill his mother is the only way to exonerate her. Even though he’s on bereavement leave for his mother’s death, Taka spends hours scouring security footage from a lone camera in the alleyway adjacent to his apartment building and discovers that for the three nights leading up to Kumiko’s murder, the same RV pulled into the alleyway and parked for the night, just to pull out for good minutes after he dialed 9-1-1 once finding his mother choking on liquid drain cleaner. A begrudging Alex agrees to run the plates (which we later learn were stolen) if -- and only if -- Taka agrees to call the precinct’s counseling center.
Woody’s assignment for Taylor Bennett is nearly complete
We learn this episode that for unknown reasons—and despite herself being a capable, strong, intelligent woman—Mayor Elizabeth Harding’s reelection campaign is in danger of being thwarted by billionaire investor Taylor Bennett and her new hire, Woody Hammond.
We saw the mayor and Woody getting to know and trust each other in Elizabeth’s dreams of her childhood (and in the real world thanks to Woody’s sizeable donation). But this episode opens with Elizabeth telling him they can no longer accept this generosity due to the FBI investigation of his previous employer, the Hull/Bedford firm. He convinces her otherwise, however, by suggesting that a political actions committee that supports Elizabeth take the donation rather than the Harding campaign itself.
Later that night, they’re dreaming together again when Woody follows her home and parks outside her home. It begins as a hot-and-heavy sex dream on top of Elizabeth’s desk, but they’re interrupted as her campaign staff buzzes in and out of the room.
Elizabeth’s daughter, Amelia, also enters and asks who the naked mystery man is. “Is that Greg?” she asks. “Are you going to tell dad it’s another surprise pregnancy?” At that line of questioning, Elizabeth becomes distraught and her dream ends. Is it possible that Elizabeth has another child with a male lover? Woody thinks there may be something there, and assures Taylor in his next meeting with her that if he can get more information to confirm his suspicions, the ensuing blackmail would be the end of Elizabeth’s political career.
Tess, James, Taka, and Burton come together to take down the Shadowman…
...but that’s easier said than done. Tess is at first reluctant to use “my son as bait for some psycho-dream killer,” but is convinced when James tells her that it’s the only way and that the Shadowman must be stopped.
The four of them decide to dream together and to let James lead them to their nemesis. They begin the dream on a subway, just like Tess did earlier on, only the car is empty. Exiting the train through the back door, they again find themselves at the base of a staircase leading up to the ghostly shop. Walking up to the room, though, they realize that these aren’t pigs on the meat hooks: they’re the human victims-turned-corpses of the Shadowman, including Mrs. Morrison and Kumiko.
As soon as that realization hits them collectively, that’s when the signature rattling and hissing begins ringing throughout the room. Looking down the floor, we learn that the hissing is actually the scuttle and spreading of giant cockroaches in the Shadowman’s wake. He appears at the bottom of the stairs. The bodies on the hooks open their eyes and begin whispering, “I see you,” all the while the Shadowman is getting closer and closer. He enters, and soon enough, he sees his unexpected company, too.
It’s the first time we get a good look at his face, which is best categorized as a formless, mushy mass of flesh. He takes his pointer finger and with a long, razor sharp nail, punctures a hole where a mouth should be into his own face, and from it, lets out a deafening roar. “Change of plan,” Burton says. “Let’s get out of here!” At that, James runs to the other side of the room and flips off the lights, and in just the next frame, light floods the trio’s sleeping quarters and they wake up with a start. James stands over them at the light switch, sullen.
Despite the obvious danger they were in, Taka is convinced that they should continue dreaming together. “That might be the only way to save Sabine,” he says. That’s when Tess realizes why Taka took his mother home: so that they could dream together. Perhaps Kumiko was getting too close to revealing who he is, and that’s why the Shadowman had her killed? She’s worried that he’s seen all four of them now, including James, but acknowledges that none of her tactics of hiding out and running away has worked for her and her son’s safety thus far. She draws in a breath: “Let’s find this bastard.”
- This isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jeremy. Tess runs into him on the streets of New York this episode and beats him with a brass door stop before he has the chance to speak with her. “I told you if you followed me, I’d kill you. Stay away from me and my son,” she says, before running away. Speaking with Taka and Burton, it’s unclear whether Jeremy works with Hull/Bedford, Bill Boerg (who as far as they know, has divested his fortune and fallen off the face of the earth), or a new entity entirely.
- And lastly, Dr. Leon Ralston isn’t the only one murdered and staged as a suicide by (presumably) Hull/Bedford. Just for working with him, FBI agent Diane Martinez meets the same fate this episode. Tess and Taka are truly the only ones Burton can count on and trust.