A Contemporary Ceph-TV Seed List

Part I: On Three Second Series’ Octopuses, and Two First Season Squids

After introducing myself to the TONMO ceph-head community in November 2020, The Seeker was quick off the mark in throwing out a ceph-based movie recommendation. This was invariably because in my own introduction to the site I announced that I had just published a co-authored book on cephalopods and film/media with William Brown. The film The Seeker mentioned was Perfect Nanny/Lullaby/Chanson douce (dir. Lucie Borleteau, 2019) which I hadn’t yet seen. This is a French art film, based loosely on a real story from New York, that features a middle-aged white female nanny that hallucinates seeing octopuses in her home, as she gets to the end of her employment with a young hip Parisian couple whose kids she has grown to love. This was the scene The Seeker mentioned and hooked me on. I finally got to watch it after Christmas.

After viewing we discussed how the film posits the octopus as some form of uncanny monster, with unfortunate parallels to the creepy titular nanny. Indeed, the nanny (who ends up murdering the two kids and committing suicide in the couple’s home) is posited as some form of monster hiding in plain sight. By such means, the octopus becomes something of a nasty load bearing symbol in this story. As we noted in our conversational thread, a plastic octopus appears stuck to the wall of the couple’s bathroom early in the film, seemingly serving to foreshadow where the horrific bloody act will take place at the film’s conclusion. Also, the first signs of the nanny being a monster tellingly occur while she holidays with the family on the coast. And there, a camera ‘consciousness’ seems to isolate a series of stretched and drying octopuses captured by the local fisherman in close-up. The nanny also becomes obsessed with the couple having another child, in order to prolong her tentacular attachment to the family. Her unsettling erotic imbroglio is again subtly signalled by the film through a brief close up of a Hokusai ‘Edo-Porn’ print ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’ aka ‘Octopuses and the Shell Diver’ (1814).

If you like French art cinema and cephalopods, you’ll no doubt enjoy this film—and if you want more recommendations on weird art film and media that feature octopuses you can follow these links to lists we have written elsewhere (A Chthululist & 8 new introductions to The Squid Cinema from Hell. If you like these, and don’t mind tackling dense academic works you could also try a copy of our book for more).

However, as per another thread begun with Tonmo I want to begin a new thread/list here by discussing a spat of recent octopus appearances in contemporary streaming ‘television,’ and end with a discussion of interdimensional Squids and Squid monsters that appear in two other contemporary shows. Any others the community know of and would like to share with me/us, would also, like The Seekers’ recommendation, be very welcomed. I’d also be interested in any opinions or theories about these appearances and themes more generally as we work up our observations into an academic article/project.

Streaming Octopuses and Squids

The Twilight Zone': S02.E06. “8” | by Shain E. Thomas | Pop Off | Medium

The Twilight Zone ‘8’​

If Perfect Nanny paints the octopus as a kind of threatening monster, the first show I want to talk about here appears to invert this idea by depicting humans as the real monsters, and positing cephalopods as a species that might save or inherit the planet. Or at least, this is the twisted premise of a recent episode of Jordan Peele’s third resurrection of The Twilight Zone (2019-2020) series, entitled ‘8’ (S2:E6). Of interest to me/us, the episode which is about a super-intelligent new Antarctic cephalopod species aired about one month after the launch of our book, and appeared to index within its half hour running time many of the ideas and themes we explored throughout our 300+ page tome. ‘It’s like they’ve been reading our work’ four of our authorial limbs wrote to the other after encountering this episode in 2020.

While the episode’s Antarctic station setting unmistakably pays aesthetic homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), the story of a largely expendable team being unwittingly sent to recover a novel biological species also channels the plot of Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). Or at least, as the tense episode evokes both these science fiction horror precursors by employing a predatory creature to stalk and pick off the crew one by one in a claustrophobic ship/station (that otherwise protects them from an extreme environment), ‘8’ also plays with classified corporate-military intents lying behind the scientific mission to explore the ecological impact of human activities on this remote environment. Updating things too, the first contact story with a betentacled ‘alien’ creature also occasions (as was the case with Denis Villenuve’s 2016 film Arrival) an artistic sounding into the contemporary geopolitical tensions that have emerged between the USA and the PRC (the world’s two largest superpowers, military forces, and economies). Indeed, in this apparent ‘return’ and recoding of Cold War binary politics in the era of globalised capitalism, everyone in this icy locale appears to be a double agent of sorts. For, the US scientific team are only pretending to study global warming in Antarctica on the behest of a Big Pharma company named Troxell, which desires to secure a new cephalopod species in order to extract valuable chemicals and bioproducts. By degrees it also turns out that the single observer from the Chinese Antarctic Administration, Dr Ling Hai (Michelle Ang), is a double agent too, sent to recover a new octopus species for the purposes of genetic editing and gene splicing.

This detail in turn serves to allow us to catapult sideways into a discussion of another series, this time from the Marvel cinematic universe: Jessica Jones (2015-2019). For those unfamiliar with this lesser known superhero, Jones’s (Krysten Ritter) back story involves being involved in a car accident as a youth, that (surprise, surprise) claimed the lives of her parents. Jones not only survives this fatal crash, though, but seems to recover with newfound super strength and abilities. This is explained by the involvement of a mysterious organisation known as IGH, which is associated in the Marvel Universe with genetic editing and unethical medical experimentations. In an episode entitled ‘AKA The Octopus’ (S2:E5) Jones meets up with a character called Dr Karl Malus (Callum Keith Rennie), a mad scientist who she recalls from her post-accident recovery. The villainous Malus has a particular love of octopuses, of course, and is watched by Jones while visiting a Giant Pacific octopus in an aquarium. He later explains his love of these creatures emerging courtesy of his gene editing research, noting that their DNA is like no other animal, and that no one properly knows where their genes came from: for they seem to have appeared ‘de novo’ (from nowhere). On an aside, we explore in our book a theory forwarded by over 30 scientists that hypothesises that octopus evolution on Earth has been turbo boosted by what is known as ‘panspermia’--the delivery of non-terrestrial DNA/RNA from interstellar comets (the argument being that there was not enough time for the complexity of certain octopuses or squids to emerge in the geological time frames given on Earth). For some, this is a crackpot stuff, but for us helps illustrate how the borders between science fact and science fiction are as flexible and bendy as our soft-bodied friends.

Marvel's Jessica Jones Season 2 5.jpg

Jessica Jones ‘Aka The Octopus’​

The appearance of the Giant Pacific octopus in Jessica Jones also occasions another brief aside to mention the appearance of a Weird interdimensionally-psychic Giant Pacific octopus called ‘Old Night’ in the second series of The OA (2016-2019). The weirdness of this show is delightfully off the chart, and the appearance of this inexplicable creature in an episode entitled ‘SYZYGY’ (S2:E4) would require the spilling of far too much ink to properly contextualise or do justice to the story. You just have to see it to believe it. In my humble opinion this series is worth a punt, with series 2 going ‘off on one’ in a really brave and creative way (all too rare for commercial media today). This weirdness and radical experimentation seems to have led to the show sadly failing to get a commission for its third series. All I want to say here is that Old Night (voiced by Eijiro Ozaki) allows the human beings attached to its suckers to gain telepathic access to other dimensions and characters (as per the show Sense8 (2015-2018), which features 'pods' of eight psychically linked beings, and we thus also included in our larger ceph-list). This focus on cephalopodic transdimensionality in turn innervates a final brief turn to some other alien Squid creatures featuring in contemporary screening culture.

The OA Season 2: A Tribute to Old Knight, the Telepathic Octopus That  Deserved Better | TV Guide

Old Night the Psychic transdimensional Octopus in The OA

I want to end this seed list here by talking about Watchmen (2019) and Lovecraft Country (2020). Two modern shows that feature transdimensional squids or tentacle monsters, but also articulate their storylines to the fractured racial history of what some call America’s ‘first sin.’ Watchmen is a real genre-bending show, and is worth watching for all the trans-dimensional squiddy action (including giant city destroying squid and millions of smaller ones that fall as rain), as well as its visceral recreations of the Tulsa race massacre in 1921. An important historical event that Lovecraft Country also locates one of its time-travelling episode in, within its otherwise Jim Crow era US setting. As the series' title suggests (based on the novel by Matt Ruff), this show also features many betentacled aliens and monsters drawn from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythology. Like The OA, it is also a show not afraid to change its shape, tone, mood, texture and genre from episode to episode, and so to my mind also formally channels the spirit of many shape-shifting cephalopod species. As it is also a series produced by Jordan Peele, it allows this list to make something of a spiralling return to end this provisional seed list of shows featuring ceph-creatures available through various streaming and internet platforms.

Comments and suggestions welcome

Lovecraft Country (TV Series 2020– ) - IMDb
This is great, @DHF8! Here's another reference to consider, that @octobot just picked up:
[Culture & Entertainment] - "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" Part 4: Eldritch Terrors seem familiar? Here are the sci-fi ...

Here's a direct link to all "Culture & Entertainment" stories picked up by octobot over the years!
Haha, brilliant. Cheers for that. I must admit, Sabrina has been off my radar, so thanks to the octobot and you, Tonmo, for the link. I'll surely check this out. Wishing you all the best for the new year when it rolls your way. Thanks again for sahring. Happy 2021!
Haha, brilliant. Cheers for that. I must admit, Sabrina has been off my radar, so thanks to the octobot and you, Tonmo, for the link. I'll surely check this out. Wishing you all the best for the new year when it rolls your way. Thanks again for sahring. Happy 2021!
This is great, @DHF8! Here's another reference to consider, that @octobot just picked up:
[Culture & Entertainment] - "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" Part 4: Eldritch Terrors seem familiar? Here are the sci-fi ...

Here's a direct link to all "Culture & Entertainment" stories picked up by octobot over the years!
Finally got around to Sabrina. Episode 3 in Season 4, 'The Weird' is utterly saturated in ceph and Cthulhu imagery, including a biology lecture and dissection class on octopuses and squids. It stars cosmic and terrestrial octopuses alike, and has more tentacles than you point a teenage wand at. It will certainly warrant a mention in our work. Thanks again for putting me on to this, and I'll keep an eye out for any other members or octobot catch.

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