Spoilers for ‘The Power of the Dog’ ahead. 

Exploring themes of dominance and sexual repression, The Power of the Dog is an adaptation of Thomas Savage's 1967 book about the Burbank brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons), who inherited their wealthy parents’ Montana ranch. Phil — through hard labor and a good dose of toxic hypermasculinity — rules the roost by generally just being an assmonkey to everyone, while brother George meets Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow of a local doctor who killed himself, and marries her. Rose has a son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and it’s the soft-spoken Peter with his decorative handmade paper flowers who brings out the underlying desires in toxic Uncle Phil.  

Throughout the movie, we watch Peter watching Phil prance around and berate Peter’s mother Rose every chance he gets. Seriously, the dude’s a giant dingus. But while Peter gets his in the end by gaining Phil’s trust and then poisoning him, the boy himself leaves some question marks in the minds of the audience as it’s somewhat implied that he may have had something to do with his own father’s death. It’s also been suggested that maybe the kid’s a bit too into his mother. 

Netflix

Bet he would’ve loved Norman Bates.

Not according to the book, though. 

In the original story, we actually meet Peter’s dad Dr. John Gordon early on — a gifted physician who seems to choose kindness over ambition, and who stands in stark contrast to Phil. Dr. Gordon crosses paths with Phil and his band of merry MRAs, and Phil not only unleashes his brand of emotional abuse onto the poor doc but also beats him up pretty bad. Gordon is left a mess, and it isn't long before he turns to alcohol, then suicide. Yeah, Phil beat and bullied Rose’s husband and Peter’s father into killing himself. That … kind of changes a lot.

Not only was Peter trying to protect his mother — who was becoming an emotional wreck dealing with Phil’s constant bullying — but the young man was also getting his revenge for the fact that Phil robbed him of a father and, ultimately, robbed him of having a kind male figure in his life.

That, and Peter was clearly just not that into him.

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