Sylvia – The Horrors of a Small Town

Life did have its surprises in Little House on the Prairie, even if the action of the series took place in a smaller town. The two-part episode Sylvia proved just that – although we believed that we came to know everybody until season 7, we were proved wrong. It was as if the small town of Walnut Grove was revealing itself continuously before our eyes.

The episode was written and directed by Michael Landon so, even if at times it seems to borrow a bit from the classic slasher genre, you know as a viewer that it isn’t exactly so. The POV shots when the stalker follows Sylvia are just a means of telling the story. But given the fact that Michael Landon had himself a terrible childhood, it makes you wonder if the scenes depicted in this particular episodes don’t have a little truth in there.

So there is a small amount of realism into the Sylvia story, which makes everything even more terrifying. As said before, we see the horrors of the enclosed universe which is Walnut Grove, even if we thought that such horrors cannot exist. I believe that the whole point was to show that bad things can happen, even if everything shows you that it is highly improbable.

I said in previous articles that Little House on the Prairie was a show for the entire family, although some scenes and even some episodes weren’t exactly intended for a younger audience. Sylvia is one of these episodes – we have a teenager who is blamed by her father to have the devil inside of her. Then we have the peeping Tom sequences, with the blame falling still on the girl.

Lastly, we have the rape scene, which is shot perfectly by Michael Landon – a POV style which shows us the stalker’s perspective, the birds flying as if foretelling that something bad is going to happen, the flowers falling and the camera focusing on them, and so on. As said, it may seem like Michael Landon borrowed heavily from the slasher genre, but even if he did so he still created some very intense scenes.

Even the jump scare from the second POV shot feels genuine, something that you don’t find usually in a genre film.

And what happens after the rape? Yet again Sylvia gets blamed, somehow mirroring the condition of every rape victim (there are still societies and cultures in our present-day times when the woman is blamed in such terrifying situations).

And this is one episode that doesn’t end well. Ultimately, the rapist returns and we find out who is him – as said before, Walnut Grove has its terrifying secrets, even if we believed that we came to know it. Ultimately, in a very emotional scene, Sylvia dies.

So forget all about The Monster of Walnut Grove. That was just a Halloween prank. Sylvia is real and Little House on the Prairie was not a show for the entire family any longer.


  1. inah says:

    I agree Sylvia was a very horrible way to tell how some victims are picked out and used then forgotten as life goes on.Mr. Dorfler was the original black smith,when did that strange Mr. Hartwig even get there? I noticed people like Mr. O’Neil didn’t last thee very long.The 2 episodes I think were the worst were, The legend of black jake and the older brothers..Made no since or had anything to do with the Ingall’s or walnut grove.

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