Tabula Rasa – Episode 2: Houdini

Starring: Veerle Baetens, Stijn Van Opstal, Gene Bervoets, Hilde Van Mieghem, Cécile Enthoven, Jeroen Perceval
Director: Kaat Beels, Jonas Govaerts
Writers: Veerle Baetens

Reviewed by Sidney Morgan


In the first episode, The Spectre, we were introduced to the various characters, the police investigation that was taking place, and Mie’s anterograde memory issue. This exposition was necessary. And now in the second one, Houdini, the story begins to move full steam ahead, and it is as beautiful as it is hypnotic.

Mie’s sketchbook to remember who she knows.

The story continues to take place both in the present and in the past, going back three months, the point in time when Mie, Benoit, and Romy moved into her parent’s house. In the present, Mie is still being kept at the local psychiatric hospital where she’s trying to recall her memories and piece them together. However, there’s the problem of stress and its effect on them.

She sees a picture of the missing man and claims not to know him. Something in her memory stirs, and woosh, memory reset. She takes a bath, hears a cat (although there are none at the hospital) and woosh, complete reset. It’s absolutely terrifying, enough to drive anyone mad. But Mie has a plan. She happens to be very good at drawing and sketches the faces of the people she interacts with. That way, if her memory resets, she can go back into her notebook and make sense of her surroundings and the people in it.

While Mie tries to put the puzzle pieces back together in the present, the flashbacks actually provide us with those pieces, even though we don’t quite know which pieces are part of the puzzle and which aren’t. However, there are a few clues. It’s hinted at that all is not well between Mie and Benoit, which had to have been expected. And if

Can Benoit (Stijn Van Opstal) be trusted?

Benoit is involved, what a great advantage he has. He can mess around with ‘reality’ and make Mie feel as though she’s misinterpreting or remembering wrongly. Just a little doubt, and her mind will do the rest. I only hope that the show doesn’t become a cliché, linking the disappearance to an affair. That would be disappointing. Finally, just to mess with viewers, it’s hinted at that Mie, our innocent and kind looking Mie, may have a violent streak in her. Maybe she did do something to Thomas after all. Only one way to find out!

Outstanding in Tabula Rasa is the use of imagery. Visually, the show is beautiful. The old house, with its falling wallpaper, its wide wooden staircase, and its mysterious contents is scary enough. Add the exterior, the wooded area, the overgrown yard, the old brick walls, and paint chipped wood frames, and you’ve got the ingredients for a frightening haunted house. It’s no wonder that Mie believes something to be off with it. But more interesting is the symbolic imagery used.

Mie dreams of a tree, its roots above ground, and a cloaked faceless man. Is this referring to the man being a stranger? Without a family? And when she dreams of herself dancing (she was a ballet dancer prior to her accident), she falls, cracks and breaks as though made of porcelain. Does this mean Mie’s hold on her sanity is falling apart? Is she so fragile that it would only take the slightest fall for her to break? Or are Mie’s memory’s trying to break out? And those scenes of the red sand, flowing, swept away in the wind, like her memories. Even the title, Houdini, suggests locked up secrets that are urging to be released. It’s brilliant!

Mie’s fragility on full display.

The performances continue to impress. Veerle Baetens as Mie is outstanding. Stijn Van Opstal as Benoit deftly mixes sympathy and care for his wife with suspicious behaviour. Hilde Van Mieghem as Rita, Mie’s mother, continues to add humour to a tense show and her introduction of Mozes, played by Billal Fallah, the new live-in nurse for her Alzheimer suffering husband, opens the door to a few funny moments. But the one who changed most from the first episode is Gene Bervoets, who plays inspector Wolkers. Pressured to get some answers and skeptical about Mie’s condition, he verbally aggresses her (and it’s a particularly nasty exchange). And we know what stress does to Mie, right?

Verdict: Continue to watch!

The first episode was one of the best I had seen in a long time. However, this second outdoes the first. There is a rich and complex story being told on multiple levels. Don’t miss out on this gem. It is a hypnotic and beautiful edge of your seat mystery.

Sidney Morgan

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