‘Let the Right One In’: Demián Bichir & Andrew Hinderaker Break Down Heartbreaking Flashback Episode
[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Let the Right One In Season 1 Episode 7, “More Than You’ll Ever Know.”]
Everything in Showtime‘s Let the Right One In has been leading up to Episode 7 on Sunday, November 20. The flashback episode explains how Eleanor (Madison Taylor Baez) became a vampire and how her mother, Elizabeth, died. Brazilian actor Fernanda Andrade plays Elizabeth opposite Demián Bichir‘s Mark, and the story (told in flashback as Mark gives confession for the first time in 10 years) gives heartbreaking explanations for the season’s biggest mysteries. Bichir and creator Andrew Hinderaker spoke with TV Insider about the powerful episode and what it means for the rest of Let the Right One In Season 1.
In “More Than You’ll Ever Know,” viewers learn Ellie was attacked by a vampire when she was stargazing alone in her backyard. In the hospital afterward, no medical care made Ellie’s odd symptoms go away. Mark, Elizabeth (a nurse at the same hospital), and Zeke (Ellie’s godfather, played by Kevin Carroll) were desperate for answers, and they came when Ellie tried to bite Elizabeth and Zeke saw her protruding fangs. From then on, they believed the impossible, feeding Ellie with their own willfully drawn blood.
Through trial and error, the family figured out how to care for Ellie. At the same time, Mark began traveling to people who suffered similar “animal” attacks trying to find more vampires. (He briefly came across the Logan family in this search.) As weeks passed, Ellie got more and more bloodthirsty and began to starve. Fearing she could die without the right amount of blood (and knowing their bodies couldn’t reproduce enough blood to keep her fed), Mark and Elizabeth hatched the killing plan viewers have seen all season.
Mark would kill a nearby pedophile and get the blood back to Ellie in the one-hour window in which the blood stayed fresh. Zeke couldn’t support murder, and the downtrodden Mark couldn’t stomach letting his daughter starve to death. This broke Mark and Zeke’s friendship. Mark did ultimately make his first kill, but when a wrench in the plan caused the blood to expire, Elizabeth made the ultimate sacrifice and let her daughter drain her blood entirely. This sacrifice is still haunting Mark and Ellie 10 years later. They remain committed to jumping from place to place in search of a cure to make sure Elizabeth’s death wasn’t in vain.
Hinderaker tells us “the question of what you’re willing to sacrifice for your child” is Let the Right One In‘s key question. “Elizabeth makes the ultimate sacrifice. It is the act that sits at the center of the dramatic question for the show, but it’s also, frankly, the act that without which there would be no show,” he says.
While it was an act of ultimate love, Hinderaker says Elizabeth’s suicide “has trapped both Mark and Eleanor” on this path of finding a cure. “Mark is sacrificing so much to keep his daughter alive and to keep the hope alive that they’ll find a cure. At the same time, what he is doing and becoming is painful for Eleanor and creates a lot of shame that she has to live with. It’s that dichotomy that sits at the heart of a show and feels so essential.”
Bichir calls Elizabeth’s sacrifice tragic because it was a short-term solution — a decision Mark couldn’t have made neither then nor now. “They will have to feed again soon. And that’s exactly the tragedy that’s represented,” Bichir explains. “When her mom makes that sacrifice, it’s only for a meal. It’s not even a cure forever, so I think Mark has always been very clear that staying alive is the only way to help.”
Back in the future, Mark and Ellie are starting to see a glimpse of a possibly happy life in their connection with Naomi (Anika Noni Rose) and Isaiah (Ian Foreman). But these glimmers of hope are underscored by Mark and Ellie’s dark secrets. Will they ever stop chasing for the cure? Bichir says there’s no stopping, because atonement will only come with curing his daughter of this “illness.”
“He’s the type of a person who’s determined to do that for his daughter,” he says, “not only to honor his wife’s life, but he also knows that he needs to succeed in order to be able to look at himself in the mirror and be proud of whatever he sees. It would be very easy to just say, ‘Go ahead, bite me. Let’s be vampires.’ No, this is a special circumstance. I don’t see Mark and Ellie choosing the easy way out.”
Along with the pilot, Episode 7 was part of Hinderaker’s main pitch to Showtime. “It epitomizes what the show aspires to be, in that I think it is our most horror-centric episode, as traditionally defined, and also our most emotional episode,” he explains. “The works of horror that most speak to me, from classics like Dracula and Frankenstein to beautiful films like The Orphanage, and of course Let the Right One In, are works that use the horror genre to explore situations that are not only terrifying, but profoundly heartbreaking. This episode is a real effort to be in conversation with those pieces that traffic in horror to explore profound loss.”
Episode 7’s story, though only focusing on four characters, is the core of everyone’s grief in this series, Hinderaker says. “So much of what defines Mark and Eleanor, and to an extent what defines Naomi, Isaiah, Claire, Peter, and everyone in our story, is the absence of what was.”
Mark desperately wants to get what was back, but Zeke (in flashback and now) is on the side of letting the past go. His belief that others shouldn’t have to die so Ellie can live isn’t wrong, and neither is Mark’s desperation to keep his daughter alive.
“I’m a firm believer in that adage that the best scenes are right versus right,” Hinderaker tells us. “Zeke’s point of view is you cannot go out and murder someone. That is crossing a line from which there is no return, and I think he’s right. And Mark’s point of view is, ‘I have identified someone who is a child rapist, and you’re saying that person gets to live and my own child does not?’ Zeke probably has the higher moral ground, but he also isn’t the parent. For me, it creates really great drama. Another component of great drama for me, in addition to allowing both characters to be right, is that both characters deeply love each other. And they deeply love Eleanor, whom they’re fighting over.”
“Many things break in a family and within your closest circle of friends when there’s an illness in the family, when there’s an addiction problem in the family. Whoever experienced that before, they know how much it drains the entire environment,” Bichir adds of Zeke and Mark’s dilemma. “It’s clear that everyone reacts based on how much love we have for each other, but it’s always heartbreaking when you have to make a hard decision like that.”
Now that we understand what happened in the past, how does Episode 7 set up the show’s future? As seen in Episode 6, the beginnings of a family are starting to form with Mark, Ellie, Naomi, and Isaiah. This is the first time in 10 years Mark has taken off some of his “armor,” as Hinderaker calls it, to let some light in. But the secret guilt of killing Isaiah’s father is weighing on him, pushing him into the confession booth in Episode 6. Because of that, Hinderaker says, “We’re gonna come out of Episode 7 seeing a Mark that is a little raw, more emotional, and frankly messier, which will have bigger consequences.”
Let the Right One In, Sundays, 10/9c, Showtime