'Tell Me a Story' Season 2 Episode 1: From 'Phantom of the Opera' to Cinderella, the literary references in series
Spoilers for ‘Tell Me a Story’ Season 2, Episode 1, ‘The Curse’
The CBS psychological thriller anthology series that was picked up by The CW is an interesting watch. Season 2 of the show focuses on a struggling author with a dark habit, a lawyer, a successful pop star with a traumatic experience, and an underdog alcoholic musician who always has things going the wrong way. While as a psychological thriller, episode 1 only begins to set the tone for the show, what is interesting is the subtle references to fairy tales and other literary nods the show makes. For starters, the three Pruitt siblings -- Odette Annable as Maddie, Natalie Alyn Lind as Ashley Rose, and Matt Lauria as Jackson -- can easily be an archetype for the “three siblings” trope present all across literature - from ‘Three Little Pigs’ to ‘Cinderella’ to Anton Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’.
Maddie is a lawyer engaged to Tucker Reed (Paul Wesley), an author who has sleep issues and an inappropriate tendency to stalk. Is Tucker the big bad wolf from 'Little Red Riding Hood'? Ashley Rose is a country singer on the rise who becomes the target of a car bomb, which burns 27 percent of her body (including her face) and takes away her ability to sing. Jackson is a talented guitarist whose love for the sauce makes him the black sheep in the family. He leads a reckless life and has little care for the consequences.
Ashley Rose’s injuries turn her into a cross between archetypes of the titular Beast from ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and the eponymous Phantom from ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ - after all, she turns into a grotesque figure with half a mask to hide her burns. In terms of the Beauty or perhaps Christine, the innocent young soprano that the Phantom takes a liking for, one might guess it's going to be Beau (Eka Darville), a former cop-turned-personal security guard. For one, his French name literally translates to ‘beautiful’. In terms of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, however, the roles may work in different ways. We see that Ashley Rose has a stalker who burns himself all over his body, and who is undoubtedly in love with her. Is it possible that he is the Phantom here and Ashley Rose is Christine?
The literary references don’t end there. Jackson encounters a woman called Simone (Ashley Madekwe) whose character hints at ‘Cinderella’ symbolism. For starters, when she tries to leave the bar at midnight, Jackson asks if she will turn into a pumpkin - which is technically a bad analogy because Cinderella did not turn into a pumpkin, but we’ll forgive Jackson because he was drunk. For another, when she takes a very drunk Jackson back home, she leaves a bracelet that has a shoe on it. This one was a bit on the nose. Then finally, there is Rebecca Pruitt (Carrie Anne Moss), the mother of the three siblings, who perfectly fits the archetype of the steely evil witch or evil queen or icy stepmother, depending on which fairytale you prefer. She’s controlling, demanding, and seemingly unforgiving. ‘Tell Me a Story’ season 2 episode 1 makes for a good start. Hopefully, these literary references don’t end up being shallow and provide more context and meaning to this thriller.
‘Tell Me a Story’ Season 2 airs on the CW, every Tuesday at 9 pm EST.