The fourth episode of a new series should mark the moment in which things start coming together, the show hopefully having settled into a groove that forms a make-it or break-it relationship with the viewer. Narrative isn't actually as important here as you would imagine, since serialized dramas so often fluctuate between stories that work and stories that don't. What matters more than anything is for the show's characters to be engaging enough to capture your attention at home, that they somehow jump off the screen. It's easier said than done, as proven by 666 Park Avenue's strong cast trying valiantly to provoke interest, Hero Complex once again confirming that this is a show that's hard to explicitly care about.
Like last week, the overall story is undoubtedly moving forward in one way or another, particularly with Gavin's ambiguous relationship with Henry and the political maneuvering occurring between them. But there's also a real sense of 'so what?' to a lot of it. Because we barely know any of these people, it's difficult to entirely grasp Henry's moral dilemma over his job at the mayor's office and his friendship with Gavin. Dave Annable is clearly trying here, but a lot of it is in vain, the script failing to grant Henry much definition beyond 'nice guy who does the right thing'. The story eventually crosses paths with Aubrey Dollar's doomed obit writer from last episode, but that, too, goes down its expected routes... passing various plotholes along the way.
Another problem is that 666 is struggling to define its own universe. While we've gotten a larger sense of the show's ensemble over the last couple of weeks, there's little in the way of cohesion between any of it. A significant chunk of screentime is given this week to Samantha Logan's psychic jewel thief Nona, as we learn about the recent fate of her parents, and briefly meet her seemingly catatonic grandma, who she for some reason is keeping hidden from everybody. But it's an example of the show introducing various different plot strands but struggling to flesh them out enough for us to care all that much. Right now it's just a bunch of exposition, and while that's expected for a freshman series, it's worrying that the writers haven't yet acknowledged that most of these subplots lack vibrancy. It probably doesn't help that Nona was absent last week, and that her similarly 'narrative black hole' co-stars, Writer Guy, Writer Wife and Window Girl, are missing from this episode themselves. It's hard enough to get a handle on these people when they actually are on-screen, let alone when they're benched for a week so early into the show's existence.
Thinking about it, cohesion is a major issue with almost every aspect of this show. All of the characters are split off on their own little adventures, be it Jane and the ghost girl she keeps seeing, the spooky luggage that spends an entire episode tediously unlocking itself, or Vanessa Williams and her daughter drama from last week. Because the writers keep everybody so closed off from one another, nobody ever talking with other people about their experiences, it only adds to the narrative feeling distant and individually unimportant.
666 Park Avenue has such a winning premise at its heart, but it's structurally uninspiring right now. The characters aren't strong enough for the show to operate entirely as a Faustian drama just yet, while the horror goofiness is being stretched out to absurd levels. Just notice how The Dead Don't Stay Dead ended with something moving around inside the luggage, and how this episode ends with the contents (some floaty dust dude) standing ominously over Jane and Henry's bed. It's effectively the same 'meh' cliffhanger spread over two whole episodes, and says a lot about the show's failings. C
Guest stars Aubrey Dollar (Annie Morgan); Jose Zuniga (Commissioner Pike); Wendy Moniz (Ingrid Weisman); Jenna Stern (Regina Wilson); Jim True-Frost (Peter Kramer); Misha Kuznetsov (Kandinsky)
Writers Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain Director John Behring