Monsterland Season 1, Episode 4 explained: ‘New York, New York’

In Monsterland Episode 4, a wealthy CEO must pay for his sins after his company becomes responsible for a massive oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Monsterland Episode 4 might have been the strangest and most confusing hour of the horror anthology series thus far. While the first three episodes all had open endings, their overarching themes, characters and general plotlines made sense. They didn’t wrap the answers in a tidy package and hand them to the audience, but they were there for people to find if they spent a few moments thinking about what they’d just seen.

Episode 4 is a little nonsensical. It’s an exorcism horror with overbearing religious references and allusions, to the point where it’s hard to suss out exactly what the writers wanted audiences to walk away thinking.

Monsterland Episode 4 recap: Who is Stanley Price?

Monsterland Episode 4 revolves around the millionaire CEO of oil company Titan International, Stanley Price (Bill Camp). Stanley is on the hook for his company’s heinous decision to utilize drilling practices that resulted in a catastrophic environmental disaster, a 400,000-gallon oil spill into the Gulf Coast.

Not only was Stan warned of the risks this particular drilling operation, but when the leak started, he took to his yacht to hide. He told his staff to “lose a couple of zeros” when describing the situation to the EPA, severely underplaying the devastation.

Throughout the episode, Stanley is haunted by what he’s done. Yet he struggles to show real remorse. He’s surrounded night and day by yes men and PR people ready and willing to assist him in spreading the blame for the incident and help to cover his tracks with the citizens of New York, New York.

Then he has a strange dream of being prepared for a ritual He sees everyone he knows in a Last Supper-style arrangement in his living room. He shifts to an open coffin with his paid escort, Sharon beside him, and a group of businessmen surrounding him chanting a Latin hymn. Sharon recites a passage from the Bible, Mark 13:8.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, as well as famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

In summation, it’s a prophecy foretelling doom being brought to Earth so that from the wreckage, something new can be created. She tells Stan that he has been marked as the “vessel.” Stan = Satan?

After the dream — which might not have been a dream, Stan celebrates his 55th birthday at a huge party.  Regaling the audience with a rousing speech about his father, who died on his 55th birthday, Stan stops himself to question why a nearby cater waiter, Zeke, can’t stop staring at him. Zeke is unwilling to speak his mind, not wanting to get fired, but after some encouragement, he lets loose.

He says he was thinking that Stan will get away with what he’s done because he’s one of the many 1% who profiteers from the men who have the least. He’ll be contrite and then walk away unscathed to enjoy his private jet and caviar canapes. But Zeke is confident that in the end, Hell will wait for Stan and there will be retribution. Stan doesn’t think the world is that fair. He fires Zeke, immediately reneging on his promise not to fire him.

Moments later, Stan pulls out a long, disgusting feather and black goop from his throat. When he returns to his guests, he seems to be possessed as he recites part of Mark 13:8, urinates on himself, and then falls unconscious.

We skip ahead to a meeting with his doctor who informs him he has a large black mass in his stomach and refers Stan to an oncologist for further testing. He advises Stan to get sober. The CEO immediately ignores that advice to have a few drinks with his steadfast, loyal assistant, Josh (Michael Hsu Rosen).

Monsterland Episode 4

Monsterland Episode 4 — “New York, NY” — Episode 104 — Stan (Bill Camp) and Josh (Michael Hsu Rosen), shown. (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Hulu)

Monsterland Episode 4 recap: Who is Josh?

When we first meet Josh, he’s chasing down Stan’s former mistress/lover/staff member Syd, who has had enough of Stan’s binge-drinking, narcissism and manipulative tactics. She thinks Josh is going to force her to sign an NDA and refuses on the basis she wants to control her own narrative. Instead, Josh comforts her and tells her he would do the same thing in her position.

Syd gives him a self-help book by a woman named Marianne Westhart (Tina Benko). Somehow, though, Josh does get a signed NDA from Syd (or forges it), since he hands it over to one of his fellow staff members later in the episode.

As for who Josh is, he’s a Yale graduate who did his thesis on solar energy equity and yet he’s working for a corrupt CEO who wears a Harvard sweatshirt despite attending Boston University and getting expelled for plagiarism. Something doesn’t add up, points out an intrepid reporter who tries to get Josh to say something after cornering him in a parking garage.

Josh remains loyal to Stan throughout the episode. After his collapse at the party,  he stays with Stan through the night, learning the truth about his father, a drunk who died in a one-man crash on a dirt road. Stan dropped his father’s last name, Ransom, in exchange for Price. He paints his dad out to be a hero to rewrite history, something he does often — hence the Harvard lie and the spinning tale of the oil spill.

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That night, Stan succumbs to his possession. Josh panics when he sees Stan acting like Regan from The Exorcist and ties him to a chair. He contacts Marianne Westhart, a supposed faith healer of sorts who is all about “meeting people on the field of love.”

Together, they try to get through to Stan. Whatever is inside of him claims to be God or the “morning star.” In the Bible, both Jesus and Lucifer are referred to as the morning star, albeit for different reasons. The entity in Stan says he isn’t the Devil, but his vessel is a liar, and he could be too. According to the being, the signs of his impending arrival had been foretold for so long: fish-less oceans, thick smog, disease spreading like wildfire, wildfire spreading like a disease, etc. You know, typical world-ending stuff

Ultimately,  Marianne and Josh fail to get through to Stan until they use his real name: Stanley Ransom. Finally, Stan tearfully confesses to what he’s done and says he’ll do anything to make it right. Once Stan has calmed down, Josh frees him from his restraints. But it’s not over just yet. Stan suddenly grabs the scissors from Josh and uses them to slice open his belly, unleashing a massive, oil-slicked pelican (?). It bursts through the window and takes to the New York sky.

Monsterland Episode 4

Monsterland Episode 4 — “New York, NY” — Episode 104 — Tim (Mason Schneiderman), shown. (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/Hulu)

What did the ending of Monsterland Episode 4 mean?

When Josh finally goes home, he seems like a changed man. He admits to his boyfriend that he could have put Stan away when the reporter contacted him. Josh held onto his card, carrying it around like a rock. Memos, emails, reports detailing the lack of oversight, he had everything and he could have used it to stop Stan.

Here’s where I started getting confused (er, more confused) Josh says he could have stopped “everything.” Does he mean the oil spill itself, or whatever Stan unleashed into the world? Did he know about the whole weird possession thing?

His boyfriend says he couldn’t have done anything, he was just an assistant. But Josh claims that’s just an excuse. Every “tiny” yes empowers the corrupt. It’s how good men turn bad. It’s how bad men win.

Josh says that it’s too late now, “it’s out there.”

Then his s/o tells him that it’s not too late.

“Isn’t it?”

What I took away from the ending in a literal sense is the whole, “you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” thing. The bird,  or the oil spill, it out there. The damage is done. In that sense, Josh is right, it is too late. He didn’t try to stop the spill from happening when he first saw the emails and reports foretelling the eventual devastation. You can’t undo an oil spill, as we all know.

As for putting Stan in prison, I’m guessing Stan’s dead now. So again, it is too late to make him pay for his sins — unless he really does meet retribution in Hell, but that’s left up to the viewer to decide, I think. As Stan told Zeke, he doesn’t believe the world is that fair. Stan might never be punished. If there is a Heaven or a Hell, we have no way of knowing if he’d go up or down the elevator. If there isn’t — well, we can’t know that either.

In a grander sense, this episode shares some similar themes to Monsterland Episode 3. Like Annie, how complicit is Josh in Stan’s evil since he saw evil being done and said nothing? How often do we see this represented in real-life, often with major corporations and powerful business tycoons who do whatever they want with a staff willing to help them cover it up at the drop of a hat?

Given the many references to Christ and the second coming, this episode seems to be trying to give a message of hope, too. The biblical passage recited over and over is all about the idea that from the suffering and strife will grant the second coming, Jesus will return to restore glory. Is Stan really the vessel for Jesus? I don’t know, he seemed pretty demonic to me.

As I mentioned, Monsterland Episode 4 gets too bogged down in the allusions and references that it loses some of its core storytelling in exchange for hand-waving and obfuscation. It tries to do too much while not giving viewers quite enough to grasp at the real message, but I still enjoyed the episode overall and am really enjoying the show’s ambiguous nature.

Plus, we could see Josh again and get more explanation in another episode, as we’ve already seen Toni pop up beyond her introductory episode.

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What did you think about Monsterland Episode 4? What did you make of the ending? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

All eight episodes of Monsterland Season 1 are now streaming on Hulu.