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Cabinet Of Curiosities – Season 1 Episode 1 “Lot 36” Recap & Review

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Episode 1 of Cabinet of Curiosities begins with an old man shuffling across his living room and dumping another TV dinner in his bin, which is stacked full of them. This butcher ends up having a heart attack though, leaving behind all his belongings… to an abandoned lot. Lot 36 to be precise.

This Lot is thrown up for auction by a man named Eddie. It sells for 400 dollars to our protagonist, Nick, who owes a lot of money to a man named Tommy.

Just before Nick takes the keys, he’s shown a video of the Lot owner, who’s seen entering every day and dropping something inside. He hops in and hops out in the exact same ritualistic manner. He’s been doing it for decades – but what could be inside? It’s certainly ominous.

After getting a feel for the sort of xenophobic, angry man Nick is, hating on immigrants following his time serving in the war, he heads inside Lot 36 and notices that the place is much smaller than it initially appeared. Still, he begins sifting through the various items, intending to sort through the trash from the treasure.

Nick works quickly and bundles everything in the back of his truck. Before he can leave, a mysterious man shows up and smacks him with a hammer, going on to destroy the glass on his truck and demanding 12k by the following day. If Nick can’t deliver, then he’s going to be in a world of trouble.

Getting his items appraised, the candelabra isn’t anything special but the circular pentagram table certainly is. It turns out this is a Séance table, and with very old books in the drawer, the old lady, Agatha, decides to ring her associate Roland. She tells him to come quickly – and he certainly does.

Roland examines the table and the books, pointing out that this is actually a set of four so there’s one missing. While 3 would bag him 10k at auction, with all four it would be worth over 300k. It’s a massive amount of money, and not only would allow Nick to repay his debts, he’d also have a good chunk of change too.

Nick heads off to the Lot with Roland, where he points out thta these books are rare and together, work to invoke the spirit of a demon into a vessel. Roland actually knew the Lot owner, and admits that the guy fought for Hitler in World War II. Apparently he embraced evil on an unimaginable scale, destroying his own family and lusting for more power. He also invoked that aforementioned spirit from before, using his own sister as the vessel.

After this creepy, ominous history lesson, Nick heads back into the Lot, intent on trying to find the fourth volume. Roland and Nick uncover a hidden passage. It smells rancid, and Roland pleads with Nick to stay quiet and not touch or say anything, pointing out that if anything not from the natural world is found on the other side, he’s not to make eye contact or speak with it under any circumstances. It’ll sense the darkness in him and will be greedy for it.

The passage opens up into a big chamber, where the skeletal remains of a woman lie on the floor, its face hollowed out. Something is wriggling inside. Roland and Nick find the fourth volume… but Nick  steps right across a drawn pentagram on the floor and awakens a demon, which happens to be inside the carved out face of those remains. It’s Dottie, the sister of the Lot owner.

With tentacles protruding out, this strange creature chases Nick all the way to the front door after greedily gobbling up Roland. Nick scrambles for the front door but there’s a problem. The Spanish lady whom he was rude to earlier locks him inside as punishment for treating her ill. What comes around, goes around; Nick’s bad attitude and rudeness has come back to bite him. As he tries to run away, this creature eventually gets Nick.

The Episode Review

The idea of Guillermo Del Toro narrating at the beginning is wonderful and harks back to that era of Alfred Hitchcock, which is a lovely throwback. This tale is a nice way to ease into proceedings, with some great visuals and a nice mystery at the heart of this.

The way the story comes full circle, harking back to that idea of karma and treating others how you want to be treated yourself is a lovely way of giving this episode some thematic weight. The main character is certainly not very likable but at the same time, he’s not supposed to be.

Still, we learn a good deal about him and what makes him tick through the cleverly woven dialogue, including that he’s a war vet and hates immigrants solely because of his experience in combat. The show doesn’t come right out to say it and much like House of the Dragon, trusts its audience to come up with its own theories over this character.

Lot 36 is a decent way to set things up and while it’s not outright scary, it is a deliciously dark and moody opener that’ll whet the appetite for more.