Roar Episode 5 may be the most changed story from the anthological novel of the same name. It also might be the weirdest, which is saying something when there are stories about returning husbands at a grocery store and finding teeth in your skin. The magical realism here is the most pronounced in a day-glow false positivity kind of way before the realities of darkness come. Living and sleeping with a duck is funny until you realize you need to substitute an I for U. Larry is a monster, and unfortunately, almost every woman has dated one at some point.
Elisa(Merritt Wever) is a single woman in her thirties. Dating has been challenging. She feels alone, rudderless, and adrift in life. After talking to her sister, who is married with kids, and another on the way, she feels even worse about herself. That’s when she meets sarcastic Larry, who says all the right things despite the fact that he is a duck. At first, he seems supportive, clever, and satisfying. But unfortunately, all of that is a facade for a new wave of emotionally abusive men masquerading as feminists.
She meets Larry, and he seems too good to be true. Larry encourages her to blow off studying and thinks her sister belittles her because she is single. He encourages every negative feeling she has while pretending it is to make her feel better. She takes him for a ride on her bike and invites him into her messy house. Like her life, her home has no direction and is cluttered with negative ideas and emotions.
Elisa admits to Larry she used to work on a political campaign before becoming interested in medicine because she thought it was the best way to help people. When the candidate lost, she was stuck in Denver with no plan for the future. She chose medicine because it seemed like the best way to help others. Larry seems very interested and supportive even, but he only enables her. Larry tells her she is “other-directed,” which should be a good thing but sounds negative coming from him. He also encourages her feelings of inadequacy and anger towards her sister, isolating her from her support base. To be fair, Larry is just as insecure as Elisa, though, and he says the things he does out of self-doubt instead of a calculated need to control her.
At first, things seem great. She begins cleaning up her place, puts a baby pool in the backyard for Larry, and makes all his favorite foods from their first date. She tries hard and even makes sourdough from scratch, but Larry is cruel and says no duck ever liked bread, and she could stand to stop eating it too. He later apologizes and says he self sabotages because he loves her. Then, her phone rings, and she ignores it in favor of talking with Larry, similar to how people sometimes throw themselves into relationships and neglect their friends and families.
When Elisa leaves the house for a few hours, she admits to Lily that she is dating someone complicated. She returns home to find Larry has shat everywhere. She was gone for a few hours, and he got mad and anxious and retaliated. Elisa tells Larry this isn’t healthy; it’s exhausting. After they make up, he asks her to take her pants off, and he gives her an incredible orgasm. In much the same way as sex is used in abusive relationships, Larry weaponized sex as a way to control Elisa.
In the aftermath of that, she is late to take her MCAT. She misses it and is told she will have to reregister in three months. She panics because she worries that she won’t have the courage to keep at it for three months. That’s what Roar Episode 5 is really about. It is about finding yourself instead of losing yourself in a relationship. It’s easy to lose ourselves in a relationship when a good one only reinforces who you are at your best.
When Lily arrives in a panic because she hasn’t heard from Elisa in over a month toward the end of Roar Episode 5, Elisa and Larry argue. She doesn’t want Lily to meet Larry because their relationship is very wrong. It isn’t because he is a duck. It is what he represents. Larry is an abuser and a taker masquerading as a “good guy.” His true colors are revealed when he calls her names and attacks her. Not only that, but he blames her for making him do it. Elisa manages to leave with only a cut on her head, and she and Lily finally communicate about what has been happening.
Lily says a good boyfriend doesn’t keep you from your family. She also admits that her life isn’t perfect, no matter how it looks from the outside. The baby was a mistake, and she is tired of being pregnant and caring for babies. She was looking forward to getting her body and life back before the surprise pregnancy. Elisa confesses to questioning her choices and missing the MCATs. Her sister tells her she is a great person who should feel better about herself. Lily is able to reach her and convince her to kick Larry out by the end of Roar Episode 5.
She calls Dave the animal control guy, and he captures Larry. He is kind and funny and asks about how she is. Dave tells her ducks are mean as shit and mentions a duck and patriarchy article in the New Yorker. He offers to drive her to the park, and she says she needs to only care for herself for a while. When she declines a drink and says it is too soon, he asks if he can call her in several months if she hasn’t met a nice doctor. She replies she doesn’t need a nice doctor because she is a nice doctor. The implication is she has realized she doesn’t need a man to complete her. She understands she has self-worth beyond her romantic relationships and a good partner celebrates who you are while giving you the independence needed to thrive.
Ironically all the things Elisa did to care for her ailing father set her up for a future as a doctor, even though she can’t see it that way at first. Her sympathetic side may have made her susceptible to Larry, but it will be the thing that allows her to succeed in her medical career.
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As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.