[...] Carson forced open the boyfriend’s bloodied mouth and pushed the drill between his teeth. Although nothing was shown beyond a few impressionistic frames, it was terrible to watch, and somehow I had forgotten that these were not real events and I had only to press the space bar on my laptop to pause them. Carson, whose face was now spattered with blood, looked directly into the camera and spoke. “The whole earth,” he said, “perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar on which all living things must be sacrificed without end, without restraint, without pause, until the consummation of things.” Then he went back to his grisly work.
The effect was strange and upsetting, doubly so because the line was entirely out of keeping with the rest of the show. Usually the actors never acknowledged the audience and Carson’s dialogue consisted of grunts and threats. Sacrificed without end, he said, and his eyes filled with sorrow. It was a different sorrow to mine, the sorrow of the accomplice who fears that watching will carry an unforeseen moral cost. Nor was it the sorrow of the victim whose screams formed the soundtrack to the image of Carson’s face. It was the executioner’s sorrow, the disappointment of a man who has been initiated into the great mystery of human suffering, only to find that it is just a puerile joke.
Finally the episode ended and as the credits rolled, I slapped the laptop shut before another could start. My breathing was ragged, my heart racing. I kept asking myself what I had just seen. The sense of transgression, of having done something wrong, was very powerful.