Author’s note: Four of the six episodes of Lore’s second season were provided for review.
Amazon’s Lore returns on October 19th with its second season based on the hit podcast, looking back on the darker tales of humanity’s past and the evil deeds committed just under the surface. The concept is the same from its premiere season, but there are some changes to the overall structure, and for the better.
As the first season at times relied too heavily on narration, the second season of Lore becomes centered on the drama and tells its tales in regular narrative fashion. The episodes work on focusing on the characters and the horrific events befalling them or caused by them. Through the dramatization of these moments in time, the show draws on its hours with careful detail and the occasional fourth wall break to explain a term or a situation when needed with text. It’s done in quick and useful fashion, more stylized choice than information piece.
Over the course of these four (out of six) episodes, Lore paints a picture of the power in the hands of those either too broken or so deep into the depths of madness that nothing can pull them out. “Burke and Hare: In the Name of Science” is about the famous murderers and the selling of their corpses to an anatomist doctor in 1800’s Scotland. “Elizabeth Bathory: Mirror Mirror” is about the 1600’s Hungarian serial killer noblewoman, and her reign of terror. “Hinterkaifeck: Ghosts in the Attic” is about the early 1900’s Germany hinterlands farmhouse which fell to tragedy. “Jack Parsons: The Devil and the Divine” is about the rocket scientist who happens to also be an occultist. Other episodes (not part of this review) include “Prague Clock”, about a curse causing the Black Plague, and “Mary Webster”, about a witch and a young woman, set before the incidents of Salem.
The show is focused on a piece of the history in these stories rather than the history as a whole. In Bathory’s episode, for example, instead of looking at the entire history, it’s a slice of time where the events are more impactful and tell the story in a succinct and more potent manner. There are times where short moments tell the missing pieces, but it is easy enough to clue in with the way the episodes tell their stories to realize the full picture. The show manages to draw you in with this approach, as it makes the horrors on display intimate and personal.
Of the four, the more successful two are of “Burke and Hare” and “Hinterkaifeck.” “Burke and Hare” has a style and charm to its storytelling, with a Peaky Blinders-esque score, dirty and grimy photography, and a unique descent into madness for Hare (Emmet Byrne) as the crimes play out. Both Byrne and Emmett J. Scanlan (playing Burke) are compelling performers and really work in tandem with the style of this episode to provide an episode worthy of the story. “Hinterkaifeck” plays out almost like a straight horror film, with point-of-view shots of the killer stalking his prey, sudden and unnerving violence, and a well-suited Thomas Kretschmann as the detective trying to piece together one of the most famous crimes.
The episode focusing on Jack Parsons, however, suffers from an inordinate amount of narration. It comes from Parsons narrating his life’s work, letting scenes play out like episodes before, but in shorter succession with voiceover taking on a lot of the runtime, as season one’s episodes did before it. It still works in its dramatic moments, and has Josh Bowman and Alicia Witt elevating the episode considerably.
Lore, in its second season, takes the foundation of the first season and makes it better. There are still some bumps along the way, but the personal tone for these myths and legends, and the bump up in visual and narrative style, manage to create a show ready to reveal the darker side of life.