The PR maven of The Fall of the House of Usher may be a cruel media tyrant, but you can't fault her style.
The most Roy-like of the Ushers and the family's morally nihilistic mogul of spin, Camille L'Espanaye (Flanaverse fave Kate Siegel) runs her publicity business and casually bullies her assistants Toby (Igby Rigney) and Tina/Beth (Aya Furukawa) all from a home office space as sharp as she is. But there's one prop I can't get my head around.
That "#1 Boss" mug.
In episode 1, Camille casually plans to boost the Usher reputation during the highly-publicised trial with a few well-placed profiles and interviews: Vanity Fair, The Late Show, Cosmopolitan, Fox News, wherever she has sway. Sitting on her desk all throughout her plans to manipulate public opinion through her PR connections is a gift shop novelty mug emblazoned with the words "#1 Boss".
Now, this is a show where nothing is an accident. Whether it's creator Mike Flanagan dropping Easter eggs from his own films or sneaking Poe references into every character name, story, or grisly death scene, every prop, costume, and piece of set dressing is deliberate and charged with meaning.
So, friends, what is this rando mug doing in Camille's office? It's the kind of thing you'd find in Michael Scott's office, not Camille L'Espanaye's. Not even Rufus Griswold has a crappy boss mug like this in The Fall of the House of Usher.
Camille's taste is modern, expensive, disruptive, cold, and refined. She wears Dion Lee and Alexander McQueen bodycon mini dresses, Givenchy turtlenecks, and Saint Laurent pumps. She wears Thistle and Spire lingerie as high-fashion office wear. Her office holds multiple abstract paintings and sculptures, what looks like a Le Corbusier Cassina chaise lounge, and a custom-built glowing light wall. On Camille's sleek white desk, she has a range of gallery-worthy objects: a marble half-dome sculpture and pen holder, a metallic sphere, her laptop, and... the #1 Boss mug. In fact, it's the only mug we ever see Camille use, sitting with it on the sofa in episode 2. This calculated, deeply unethical woman has undeniable taste and spends every minute of her life curating her appearance — why is this here?
I've laboured to figure out whether it's a reference to another of Flanagan's films, but that's left to the Ouija board, Hush mask, and Gerald's Game nods of it all. It's not a Poe reference, because Poe was writing in the mid-1800s and didn't really dabble in this brand of last-minute gift humour between the premature burials, demon cats, and swinging pendulums of his work.
Camille is not a sentimental person, so she's not keeping this mug as a reminder of a nice time or someone she loves (lol). It must be ironic? Or is it darker than that? The only people who we see in Camille's home office are Toby and Beth, whose assistant roles are revealed to include some problematic sexual requirements that neither felt they could question when they were hired. Perhaps it's a cold hard daily reminder to them of who's in charge?
My guess is that Camille was given this awful mug by one of her assistants or her siblings, likely an ironic Kris Kringle or an in-joke between them, and she thought it was twisted to drink from it in front of her minions. But knowing what we know of Camille and the lengths she'll go to to preserve her own carefully tailored image, a mug like this would have limited time in one piece, unshattered or unvaulted off a balcony.
How to watch: The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming on Netflix.