We're finally past the point of no return as The Act episode 6 opens. At the Blanchards' little pink house, Dee Dee's (Patricia Arquette) voice calls out for Gypsy (Joey King), before we are forced to listen to the sounds of Nicholas Godejohn (Calum Best) stabbing Dee Dee repeatedly. The uncomfortably moment doesn't last long, though, as the screams transition to a flashback of Young Dee Dee giving birth to baby Gypsy.
Next comes the real purpose of the flashback: Dee Dee's mother Emma (Margo Martindale) arrives, immediately grabs Gypsy out of Dee Dee's arms, and says she is "Grandmamma who knows best." Not even a half a second passes before Emma starts making decisions about the baby and apologizing for Dee Dee now knowing what to do. Dee Dee sheepishly asks if she can give Gypsy her first bath, but Emma declines. Clearly, we're about to learn all about the (fictionalized version of) the woman who made Dee Dee who she is.
Back at the murder scene, Nick and Gypsy are making their escape in a taxi. The scene is almost entirely from Nick's perspective as he quietly waits for Gypsy. A smile creeps across his face when she puts her suitcase in the trunk and hops into the backseat with him in a dark brown wig. As the taxi pulls away, they cuddle and the sounds of the song "Bonnie & Clyde" by Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg wash over them. It lends a sexy filter to what was actually a very unsexy escape. That romanticism comes to a halt when they finally reach Nick's motel room, which is messy and dodgy. Gypsy seems conflicted, but looks at her suitcase — something she's never used on her own before — and smiles to herself before donning a rainbow wig and pink bra for her new beau.
"Candy loves what you've done with the place," she chirps from behind a camcorder. Nick is naked in bed, eating directly out of a pan of brownies. "Soon you'll be eating me," she suggests, before the scene devolves into uncomfortable sex. From the sound of things, the sex is awful for Gypsy. She asks Nick to slow down, makes a few noises that sound like she's in pain, and then asks if they can "just do it the normal way." Later, she asks about Nick's family and his life in Wisconsin. He doesn't have much to say, and Gypsy seems disappointed — almost as if she regrets upending her life for this person who can't seem to give her what she wants.
Back in time with young Dee Dee, Emma once again wrests baby Gypsy from her mother's arms and Dee Dee has had it. She coos as her child that they're going to go to the doctor "just you and me," but Emma doesn't allow that and gripes at her throughout the next day's doctor visit. Despite Emma's insistence the Dee Dee was wrong about her child, the doctor does find Gypsy has a real medical issue: Failure to thrive. He assures Dee Dee it's not her fault and that most infants grow out of it, but it's clear that Emma blames her. The doctor attempts to talk directly to Dee Dee, but Emma continually undermines her, which we'll find is not a one-time issue.
At home, Emma is not even being subtle about trying to take time with Gypsy away from Dee Dee, but Dee Dee fights back and demands some alone time with her baby. "You see that, Gypsy girl? Just the two of us, like it ought to be," she whispers, echoing a refrain she'd later use as a weapon against her teenage daughter.
Out on the road, Gypsy is not doing so well with her new lifestyle. When she and Nick go out to a diner for breakfast, two cops walk in and Gypsy realizes that they still have the murder weapon. After a close call with the cops, who pick up a medication bottle that Gypsy drops labeled "Claudine Blanchard" (a.k.a. Dee Dee) and hand it back to her, she and Nick decide to mail the murder weapon. (An ill-advised thing the real Gypsy and Nick actually did, believe it or not.)
The Blanchard family (at least in the Hulu version of the story) has some unpleasant experience with police, as we're shown in the next scene, when young Dee Dee is arrested for felony check fraud. The police say that her grandfather is pressing charges and put Dee Dee in handcuffs. She screams for Emma to turn her baby away — the scene is clearly upsetting Gypsy, who cries and reaches out for her mother — but Emma holds Gypsy up in plain sight of Dee Dee's arrest, making the situation worse for all involved.
Dee Dee is later sentenced to six months in jail (as for the real Dee Dee, no public record exists of such an event) as her mother plainly tells her that she can't hug her child with handcuffs on. Dee Dee pleads with her mother, saying she knows she could have gotten the money for bail, but Emma only has this to offer: "Sometimes the only way out is through." Martindale's ability to tap into the cruel tone of an uncaring mother is downright chilling.
In prison, we see Dee Dee spending all her free time writing letters to Gypsy, only to get no communication in return. When she finally gets out, it's her cousin Janet who comes to greet her, rather than her mother and Gypsy. When Dee Dee finally gets home, Gypsy doesn't remember her own mother, and Emma has no sympathy, begging Dee Dee to smile and thank her for her help. She's completely changed Gypsy's routine from what Dee Dee had established and Dee Dee is worried that the changes will affect her health. Later that night, Dee Dee is convinced that Gypsy is ill, but Emma insists that she's fine.
The disagreement starts a fight that ends with Emma cruelly telling Dee Dee, "When the cops came I could have told them you weren't here. But you needed to learn your lesson. I knew she was better off with me from the day she was born." Dee Dee's reaction is to feed her child just a little more cough medicine (Emma mentions she already gave her some), giving us a visual that's not unlike Dee Dee's feeding ritual with teenage Gypsy.
Back in 2015, it seems Gypsy and Nick have hit a snag. Nick didn't actually buy their bus tickets to Wisconsin. Gypsy is visibly frustrated as she works to fix the situation that Nick clearly couldn't handle. Later, she does the talking when they return to the motel and ask for another two nights. When night falls and she and Nick have sex, Gypsy lies there motionless, completely disinterested in the experience as Nick goes for it with gusto and their neighbors audibly fight. Her face isn't dissimilar from every look she made when she felt trapped by her mother.
Gypsy tries one last time to connect with Nick by offering him a sleeping pill so the next day will "come faster." Nick declines and Gypsy is upset. "But we're supposed to do everything together like Cinderella and Prince Charming," she says. (I'm not sure that was the exact point of that fairy tale, but I digress.) His refusal shakes Gypsy to her core.
Then we jump back to 1995, when Gypsy is four years old. Dee Dee seems to be a bit more in control than the last time we saw her as she helps a mewling, ungrateful Emma out of her wheelchair and into bed. Emma seems to be on her deathbed, but she refuses a stay in a hospice and demands an Ensure and a percocet from Dee Dee. Her daughter only agrees to the percocet and cruelly whispers, "The only way out is through." Even though she seems to be withholding food, she does respond by climbing into bed to cuddle when Emma cries, "Dee Dee, I need you."
Later, a nurse comes by and says that Emma's tolerance to morphine and pain meds is shot and that Emma only has a few more days to live. He also calls Dee Dee a saint, unaware of how Dee Dee has actually been treating her mother (it would seem that the denial of Ensure was not a one-time thing). To confirm our suspicions, Emma later calls out for her help, and Dee Dee simply smiles and turns up the TV volume to tune her out. Shortly after that, Emma appears to be on her last leg and Dee Dee tries to show her affection, saying "I know you did your best to always love me." Emma, however, leads with cruelty even as she's about to pass away: "You made it impossible," she manages. A distraught Dee Dee runs to Gypsy's side and professes that Gypsy has a mama who loves her.
After Emma's death, Dee Dee is preparing to move since she can no longer afford Emma's house. Her cousin finds a handful of letters from Gypsy to Dee Dee, presumably from when she was in prison, that were never sent. The narrative seems to be that Emma deliberately kept Gypsy from her mother. Moments later, she notices that Gypsy snuck outside to the trampoline Dee Dee forbid her from jumping on and uses her hurt feelings over the letters to hit full-blown panic. She runs outside just as Gypsy falls off the trampoline and gives Dee Dee a real reason to fear for her life.
That night, when Dee Dee and Gypsy return from the hospital. Dee Dee insists on carrying Gypsy though the girl insists she can walk. Still, "for now" Dee Dee puts Gypsy in her grandmother's old wheelchair — the object that would become Gypsy's prison for several years.
Back in the more recent past, Gypsy encounters a mother and daughter at the motel vending machine, and as the little girl screams "mommy" Gypsy has a full-on panic. She takes it all out on Nick and demands that he start thinking and making better decisions because she can't be the one fixing everything all the time. She screams at Nick, which makes him cry but ultimately work harder to make her feel better. He promises to always love her and take care of her and that seems to calm her down.
Gypsy gets back on board, and the next day, she smiles as she and Nick head to Wisconsin and the lyrics of "Bonnie & Clyde" waft over their escape once more. Only, the song doesn't feel quite the same this time, knowing what we know about Dee Dee's (again, fictionalized) devastating history with her mother before she drove her daughter to ask her boyfriend to kill her.
A Few More Heartbreaking Details:
- When Gypsy is born, the doctor asks who the father is and Dee Dee doesn't answer. It's a bit of a nod to the way she later excluded Rod Blanchard from her daughter's life.
- Nick comes out of the Blanchards' home holding a brownie pan after murdering Dee Dee. It's either a dish made by Dee Dee for some bake sale that Nick has since swiped or something made by Gypsy for their journey. Either way, it speaks to Nick's ability to focus on the wrong details, which we see later as he makes all the wrong moves with Gypsy and their escape.
- Emma says that Gypsy has her daddy's eyes — which is just another subtle way of cutting into Dee Dee's already fragile emotions by involving the man who's not even there in Gypsy's life more than Dee Dee.
- In one of the flashbacks, Dee Dee seems truly happy, filming videos of two-year-old Gypsy like any normal '90s mom with a Camcorder and trying to teach her words like "cranium." It's a sweet, humanizing moment for Dee Dee, but all the more heartbreaking given the context.
- "Want me to call you a thief? I'll call you a thief," says Emma when Dee Dee is released from prison. But Dee Dee, it seems didn't stand a chance. "I learned from the best," she retorts.