Monday, October 15, 2012

666 Park Avenue: The Dead Don't Stay Dead (1.3)

Is the fact that stories are being built at all enough to say this was a pleasant hour? Regardless of none of said stories being particularly fascinating? 666 Park Avenue is in a difficult bind right now, the ratings tumbling with every passing week and a feeling brewing that the show isn't long for this world. So where do we at home go from here? Do we abandon ship before it inevitably sinks? Or just keep on watching, despite being fully aware that ABC will yank this in a couple of weeks? If you're doing the latter, then it's probably best to try and spot the goodness on offer. The Dead Don't Stay Dead was another episode with little universal success overall, but, unlike last week, there were actual bits of gold here and there.

Presumably responding to a late-night phone call from her manager demanding more screentime for her client, the writers have gone and given Vanessa Williams an interesting angle to play. You spend a lot of this episode anticipating a Faustian twist of sorts in regards to Olivia -- the way she practically chains herself to Jane is itself suspicious, likewise the ambiguity of her daughter's suicide; but the show eventually pulled a delicate sleight of hand in the end, the twist being that there actually wasn't a twist at all. We still don't know if Olivia is literally human, but she's exhibiting human qualities that easily make her one of the show's few spots of interest. Her daughter did kill herself, only she left a suicide note bearing sinister warnings about an unknown man (potentially Gavin), a note that Olivia has kept hidden from her husband ever since she found it. Williams has been given these random moments of family-driven sadness throughout her years on ABC, but it's something she's particularly great at owning. By making Olivia a depressive shell with secrets of the more earthbound variety, it opens up the show's themes and agenda, revealing that it's not all going to be devil hooey.

Building of long-term arcs also occurs with Gavin and Henry this week, Gavin pushing his protégé into some kind of future political arena. Again, this came as a surprise, particularly since all the baby talk last episode seemed to imply a Rosemary's Baby deal over the coming season. Instead Gavin's sights seem to be set on far more extravagant pastures, tying in the city itself and stake in various Manhattan building projects. It's something different, which is cool, even if Dave Annable is struggling to grant Henry much more definition other than 'wide-eyed patsy' at this point.

Less interesting is Jane, still wandering around the building being spooked by cliches. We had birds last week, now creepy little ghost girls, and next week presumably a monster in the luggage. Meh. They need to get off this track, or at least make Jane a more active protagonist. She just seems to be walking from ghoul to ghoul.

Similarly tired is this whole 'tenant of the week' deal. What could have been a showy Twilight Zone riff has quickly become a kind of supernatural Love Boat, Gavin randomly encountering somebody in the building who then goes off into their own horror subplot. Aubrey Dollar's story, in which her romanticized obituary columns come to life, had some initial promise, but became more and more detached from everything as it went along -- until it seemed like writer Matt Miller forgot that the story even existed. I'm assuming it'll be followed up next week? Blah.

It's still hard to particularly like 666 Park Avenue, even more so considering the numbers it's getting every week, but there were definitely areas here that seemed to be building to interesting places. While last episode bottomed out into nothingness, The Dead Don't Stay Dead at least progressed somewhat, even if the show itself remains a little confused as to what it's doing. B-

Guest stars
Aubrey Dollar (Annie Morgan); Misha Kuznetsov (Kandinsky); Clark Johnson (Bill Edwards)
Writer Matt Miller Director Alex Zakrzewski

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