If the creepy mother/daughter relationship at the center of Sharp Objects made you uncomfortable, then Hulu's true crime series The Act will probably give you nightmares. Thanks to mom Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette), Gypsy Rose (Joey King) lives in the confines of her mother's Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy cage, where secretly-healthy Gypsy is subjected to countless, needless procedures, medications, and more. However, it's the moments in which Dee Dee puts on the mask of a good mother that is the most bone-chilling element of the series.
In episode 2, titled "Teeth," Dee Dee has all of Gypsy's teeth removed after it's discovered that one is rotting away in her mouth. Gypsy is, understandably, upset: She is no longer even close to the "pretty" ideal, the one Gypsy admires in the YouTube makeup tutorials she watches behind Dee Dee's back.
Dee Dee barely registers Gypsy's devastation, and instead tries to cheer Gypsy up the way that usually works — by singing the pair's favorite song, "I'll Be There" by the Jackson 5.
Except...there's absolutely nothing sweet or loving about a mother-daughter duet...especially since Gypsy can't even sing with her teeth so newly ripped from her mouth. It finally seems that Gypsy is getting it: Dee Dee is a liar, and continuing to live under her rules will only spell more pain and suffering.
Then comes the day for Gypsy to be honored at the "Child of the Year" ceremony — an award that Dee Dee, apparently, fought tirelessly to help Gypsy land. A toothless Gypsy isn't feeling so up for being celebrated — until Dee Dee hands her the dentures that the dentist allegedly only made for Gypsy this morning. Gypsy's slightly suspicious (after all, if Dee Dee knew how upset Gypsy was about losing her teeth, why hold back the new set of dentures until this moment?) but upon hearing her mother wax poetic on the award ceremony stage about her love of Gypsy, the teen changes her tune. As in, literally: Gypsy, with her new teeth, sings an off-key rendition of "I'll Be There," almost as an apology for being so defiant with her mother.
Gypsy's high, childlike version of the Jackson 5 track is bone-chilling, and not just because she's essentially singing the song to her captor. The lyrics are about a love that never dies, and a person who will never go away.
"I'll be there to comfort you/Build my world of dreams around you/I'm so glad that I found you," read the lyrics.
Creator Michelle Dean also pointed out that the child abuse allegations against Jackson 5 member Michael Jackson — recently resurfaced in HBO documentary Leaving Neverland — do eerily echo the events of The Act.
"[The Michael Jackson allegations are] another story where it's multi-dimensional because the abuse in that one spans a lot of different lives. So that's also a thing we're trying to say about this case [of Gypsy and Dee Dee], how wide the net of abuse can be cast," Dean told Bustle.
There's a reason why Dee Dee loves this particular song so much: Dee Dee will always "be there" for Gypsy Rose...and that means bringing Gypsy harm so she can reap in praise for mothering a sick child.