In Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the heart mesh device not-so-co-created by Victorine “Vic” Lafourcade (T’Nia Miller) seems like a cool but standard piece of TV medical tech. But it’s actually a perfect reference to the Edgar Allan Poe text the episode is based on.
In the 1843 story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe’s protagonist slowly loses their grip on morality and reality as they obsesses over the eye of an elderly companion. It’s this “Evil Eye” that pushes the narrator over the edge of their own sanity and sees them murdering the man in his bed.
One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
Right before the murder, the protagonist reveals they have pretty damn sharp hearing — “Have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses?” — and hears the terrified heartbeat of his victim, so loud that fears it “would be heard by a neighbor.”
You probably know the rest of the tale: They dismember the body and hide it under the bedroom’s floorboards. When police arrive, summoned by a neighbour indeed (who heard the shriek, not the heartbeat), the murderer endures their interrogation while seated right above those very same floorboards. It’s smug as hell. But when they can’t handle the sound of the victim’s “hideous heart” any longer, they lead the cops to “tear up the planks!” and hear their confession.
While Vic’s murder confession is equally disturbing, it’s the actual design of the device that’s a fun visual reference to Poe’s words. The fraudulent device “developed” by Vic — but really by her girlfriend, Dr. Allessandra Ruiz (Paola Núñez) — fits around the heart with a band fronted by a circular button with several smaller circles within it. Essentially, it resembles an eye, albeit with a yellow iris instead of a pale blue one, and a wildly dilated pupil, but an eye nonetheless. Vic has the device sitting in her office and tests it in her poor chimpanzees, so she stares at this “Evil Eye” every day, simmering in her guilt and ambition, knowing full well it doesn’t actually work.
We’re not blaming the eye for Vic’s actions of course, but rather the squidging heartbeat sound provided by demon Verna (Carla Gugino). However, the device’s constant presence could be enough to lodge in one’s subconscious.
This is not the only sly visual Poe reference by any means in this over-the-top series, so keep your own eyes carefully peeled.
How to watch: The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.