- In The Fall of the House of Usher, many fans were relieved when Mike Flanagan confirmed the fate of Pluto the cat.
- Napoleon “Leo” Usher is one of the more likable Usher siblings, but Edgar Allen Poe’s original story “The Black Cat” hints at even darker possibilities for his character.
- Given Leo’s character arc in juxtaposition with the narrator from “The Black Cat,” Pluto may have potentially saved his romantic partner.
The following article contains spoilers for The Fall of the House of Usher, Season 1, Episode 3, “The Murder in the Rue Morgue,” and Episode 4, “The Black Cat,” streaming now on Netflix. This article also discusses animal cruelty.
In Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher, many fans were horrified by the assumed fate of Pluto the cat. They were relieved when Mike Flanagan confirmed Pluto’s survival in post on X. In Flanagan’s post, he specifically mentions that Pluto’s fate in The Fall of the House of Usher diverges from the cat’s fate in Edgar Allen Poe’s original short story “The Black Cat,” where the cat remained deceased.
The changes to Pluto and her fate in The Fall of the House of Usher are central to Napoleon “Leo” Usher’s storyline. Leo is possibly one of the most sympathetic Ushers, but Poe’s “The Black Cat” shows that Leo may have been hiding a much darker side. Comparing Leo’s character arc to “The Black Cat” reveals that Leo could have turned far more sinister, and Pluto may have actually saved Julius, Leo’s boyfriend, from a grisly fate.
‘The Black Cat’s’ Main Character Was More Murderous Than Napoleon Usher
In Poe’s “The Black Cat,” the narrator begins the tale as an animal lover. However, he soon confesses that he became abusive to both his wife and his pets. Throughout the narrative, which serves as the narrator’s confession, the narrator attempts to downplay his actions and dodge accountability. He blames “that Fiend Intemperance” and alcoholism for his moodiness. He also states, “I blush to confess it,” as if his actions are a mere embarrassment instead of the gross mistreatment of his wife and all the creatures around him.
Leo Usher is not nearly as blatantly cruel as the narrator in “The Black Cat.” He is the only Usher family member, aside from Lenore, who actually seems to try to bond with his siblings and shows true remorse when Perry and Camille die. Leo generally is kind when talking with Julius in most of their scenes together. However, Leo does not seem to respect Julius at all, as shown by his cheating and Leo’s general reluctance to include Julius in family affairs. Leo also seems to resent Julius’ concerns about Leo’s increasing drug use. In general, Leo seems to keep Julius at arm’s length despite their romantic relationship.
At first, the narrator spares Pluto in “The Black Cat” because they have a special bond, but eventually, the narrator attacks Pluto, too. The narrator states, “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?” The “vile or silly action” that the narrator is trying to downplay is the narrator’s violent murder of Pluto. While the narrator tries to blame anything but himself for his actions, his murder of Pluto is in cold blood through no fault of Pluto’s own.
In contrast, in The Fall of the House of Usher, Pluto is mainly Julius’ cat, not Leo’s, and Leo just seems a little annoyed by Pluto in general. Leo also has no recollection of actually harming Pluto. Leo awakens from a drug and alcohol binge to discover that he is covered in blood. Once Leo discovers Pluto’s corpse, he, like the narrator of the original tale, still tries to dodge accountability. He hides the evidence and tries to acquire a duplicate Pluto to fool Julius. Also, since the corpse of Pluto is revealed to either be a drug induced hallucination or Verna’s psychic manipulation, Leo never actually harms Pluto at all. Thus, like most of the Ushers, Leo is not a great person, but he is still far more sympathetic than the original narrator of “The Black Cat.”
Pluto the Cat Might Have Been Julius’ Savior in The Fall of the House of Usher
Even though Leo’s most violent moments are hallucinations, there is still the implication from the original story that Leo could have taken an even darker turn. In “The Black Cat,” the narrator does acquire another cat, but this cat is not meant to fool his wife into believing that Pluto survived. However, the cat does remind the narrator of his guilt, and he continues his cruelty. In a moment of rage, the narrator attempts to kill the new cat with an axe, and, when his wife interferes, the narrator kills her instead and, as in “The Cask of Amontillado,” hides her in the walls of his home. However, he accidentally seals the cat inside with her as well, and when the police come, the cat yowls, revealing to the officers the truth of the narrator’s crimes.
There are subtle implications in The Fall of the House of Usher that Julius might have been in similar danger from Leo. When Leo first awakens, covered in blood, he immediately assumes that he might have hurt Julius, as shown by Leo checking their bedroom to see if Julius is unharmed. Later, Leo decides to break up with Julius because Julius asked him to take less drugs, and Leo tells his older brother Frederick that Julius “is dead and he doesn’t know it.” While Leo means that their relationship is over, his use of death here has darker implications due to the original story.
Still, unlike the narrator of “The Black Cat,” Leo does seem to have moments of clarity. After one of his hallucinations, Leo does have a moment where he considers “laying off the drugs,” but the sounds of the cat yowling in the walls ignite his anger once more. Later, as Leo uses a replica of Thor’s hammer to destroy the walls of his home, he has a hallucination of Verna dead within the walls, in a clear nod to the narrator’s wife in the original story. When Julius does not see this vision, Leo seems to have a moment where he could realize the truth, but then he hallucinates the new black cat on the balcony railing, and Leo plunges to his death trying to attack the cat once more. After Leo’s death, Pluto the cat, alive and well, approaches Leo’s corpse, purring, either unaware that Leo is dead or aware that Julius has been spared Leo’s wrath.
Thus, while Leo does not actually physically harm Julius on purpose in the series, the implication is that he might have eventually done so in a fit of drug-induced rage. This possibility is supported by Poe’s “The Black Cat,” which had a far more cruel and murderous narrator. Leo’s hallucination of the black cat became a figment that Leo could displace his anger onto, sparing Julius the worst of Leo’s rage, but the drugs and Verna’s manipulations ultimately lead to Leo’s downfall as Pluto the cat lives on.
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