Cabinet of Curiosities episode 5, “Pickman’s Model”: Ending explained

The spooky stories continue today as we inch closer and closer to Halloween with the new episodes in Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology series. Netflix has been dropping two episodes a day, which follow different actors and are written and directed by different creators. Episode 5, “Pickman’s Model,” is the first new story we got today, Oct. 27, and it stars Shadow and Bone‘s Ben Barnes. This one is based on the short story of the same name by H. P. Lovecraft.

The new episode follows an art student named Will Thurber (Barnes) who becomes haunted by another man’s dark and disturbing work. Despite his desire to live a normal life with his girlfriend Rebecca (Oriana Leman) and his classmates, a new student Richard Pickman (Crispin Glover) changes everything.

“Pickman’s Model” opens up in 1902 Arkham, Massachusetts, as we get to know our central characters. Will is a student at Miskatonic University, a place where he’s well-respected and well-regarded as a talented artist. We learn that there’s an art prize coming up that would be a great opportunity for anyone in the class. As it turns out, Will had already won it the previous year.

The students are surprised to see a newbie coming to class, a gentleman named Richard who quickly gains the professor’s attention for his style. As they sketch a male model who sits before them, Richard’s interpretation includes rotting skin. This is enough to alarm Will, who’d walked over to see what his work is like.

At first, Will is more intrigued than disturbed by Richard’s art, and he even goes to find him later on to get to know him a bit. Will finds him drawing out in the cemetery where he’s taking inspiration from a dead cat with its organs hanging out, and he urges him to try out for the big art prize. Richard shows Will his sketchbook, which is full of creepy drawings. But Will finds them interesting, telling Richard that his work is “powerful.” He becomes obsessed pretty quickly.

When Will returns home, he’s inspired to try and create dark art of his own but seems frustrated by the results. The next day he arrives at the university without anything to submit for the art prize, and discovers that Richard did try out after all. But evidently, his work isn’t what the professors were looking for, as they storm out of the room unimpressed. Will goes to Richard to find out what happened, and Richard explains they were “the wrong audience” for his art.

Richard invites Will to his place to check out all of his paintings, which Will accepts with no hesitation. When they get there, we see darker work than before, with Richard explaining some of the alleged histories of his family which includes sorcerers and dark magic during the Salem witch trials. One painting, in particular, depicts a woman hosting a party, surrounded by men who are either dead or mutilated. This is enough to scare Will into leaving, and he runs out.

But the scares aren’t over yet. If anything, they begin this night. When Will stumbles outside, he sees a horse and carriage with two people inside getting intimate. The carriage stops right in front of him and a hand appears, beckoning him to come closer. When Will walks over he’s frightened to see an undead human with scarred skin appear, and as it tries to grab him, he wakes up from what turns out to be a nightmare.

Will accidentally oversleeps the next morning and realizes he’s behind schedule for an important occasion. He arrives at Rebecca’s, and she’s displeased to see him arrive so late. Her family is having a big party and she’d been planning to introduce him to her father and other family members. But as Will starts meeting everyone, he also starts seeing things that distract him. At first, he sees a woman dressed in all black walk by the trees, and then he sees that scarred figure from his dream appear. When he meets Rebecca’s father, he believes he’s the same man from the carriage.

Unfortunately, Will ends up causing a scene and Rebecca tells him to leave. She thinks he showed up drunk and didn’t care enough to meet her family.

Will goes to Richard’s for answers, but when he arrives he’s surprised to see all of his things — including his paintings — are gone. All that’s left are a few creepy drawings on the wall.

We then get a time jump to 1926 and see what’s become of Will’s life. He and Rebecca are married with a young son named James, and they live in a beautiful home. Will works at a gallery with some of his former classmates, and he seems he’s happy. But that all changes when he receives a mysterious painting.

The night before he even uncovers the painting and sees what it is, he has a nightmare. This time, he sees that same sorcerer and her party from Richard’s painting in his own home. They’re dining on rotten food with bugs crawling all over, and in the center of the table is a severed head. Will wakes up and decides to check out the art he was sent, discovering a disturbing picture of children and monsters. He knows immediately who it must be from, and Rebecca confirms that by saying it was a man named Richard. Uh oh. Later on, their son James secretly checks out the painting.

At work, Will has the painting returned to Richard, but he doesn’t get out of the mess that easily. His coworker Joe tells everyone that he has a surprise guest to join a committee meeting, an artist who he wants to join their upcoming exhibition. As you’d guess, it’s Richard, and he has several of his paintings up on display for the staff to check out.

That night, Will goes to find Richard in the cemetery to no luck, but he does hear creepy snarling noises and sees a creature walk by in the darkness. When he gets home, he tells Rebecca he has an awful headache and is surprised when she says they have a guest. Richard is in their home drawing pictures with James, and later the three adults have dinner together. Rebecca recalls holding seances with friends when she was in school, revealing that one time it felt real. She remembers everything going dark and quiet, and feeling like she was floating. Richard seems to understand exactly what she’s talking about, saying the weird feeling in her head was “sort of like a buzzing.” She agrees.

Will refuses to go to Richard’s home to see his work when he asks, and when he leaves Rebecca wants answers. She tells Will that he was rude all night and that people have been talking about his strange behavior. She asks if he’s been drinking again, which causes Will to come clean about what he’s been experiencing. “The darkness has a way of catching me,” he tells her of the disturbing paintings, but she doesn’t seem to understand.

Will has another nightmare about the dinner party and people chanting before he’s awoken by James screaming from his bed. There’s a breeze in his room like some type of spirit leaving through the window. Will’s had it now, and he finds his gun and heads to the cemetery.

Finding Richard there, Will orders him to stay away from his family, which Richard doesn’t understand. He asks him again to come to his home to see his new paintings, but Will understandably does not want to. Finally, they come to an agreement. If Will goes to see Richard’s work, Richard will leave his family alone and drop out of the exhibition. For the greater good, Will feels like he must do it, despite what might happen to him.

They arrive at Richard’s home which is pretty run-down and without any electricity. Richard leads him downstairs to multiple rooms full of art, all disturbing. As Will looks at the paintings in the basement, he hears that chanting again. He pours gasoline all over the canvases, feeling the need to destroy them. Richard doesn’t seem to understand, telling Will that “it’s only art.” Will tells him that his work causes madness, but Richard says it’s the world that makes people mad.

Richard goes to show Will something, but before he can, Will takes out his gun and shoots him. He sets fire to the paintings and seems regretful for shooting Richard, but is then interrupted by a huge monster that comes out of the well. It drags Richard’s body back down with it and Will manages to run away.

Thinking it’s all over, Will takes his family to the art gallery but is disturbed to find Richard’s paintings hung up on the walls. The same paintings he had burned. He finds Joe standing in front of one of the canvases chanting, and when he turns around, Will sees that his face is all bloodied and his eye is messed up. He orders Rebecca to take James home immediately and tells his co-worker Gabriel to burn all of Richard’s paintings.

What happens to Will Thurber and his family in Cabinet of Curiosities episode 5?

Things only escalate further when Will returns home. He enters the kitchen and sees Rebecca with her back toward him, cutting up food to prepare for a meal. He apologizes to her and walks up to her, turning her around only to be horrified by what he sees. Her eyes are carved out, and blood is dripping from her face to her neck and to the floor. Will feels like it’s all his fault for getting involved with Richard and bringing his family to the gallery where they’d be exposed by his work, but Rebecca doesn’t seem fazed. Instead, she tells him he’ll ruin the meal with all of this commotion.

With that, Will starts to realize the horror of his reality and asks where James is. “Soon we will feast,” Rebecca tells him. He looks at the oven, which is burning with steam radiating out of it. He walks very slowly toward it, not wanting to accept what’s going on. When he finally opens the oven door, he sees James’ severed head being cooked.

Before the credits roll, we cut to a closeup of one of Richard’s paintings with his voiceover saying: “Now it’s time. Time to see what awaits us all in the darkness.” We don’t get to see what happens next as the episode ends right there, so it’s up to the viewer’s interpretation whether or not this really happens. Is this just another dream, or have Will’s nightmares become a reality? Let us know what you think!

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is now streaming on Netflix. New episodes drop every day through Oct. 28.