Monday, October 8, 2012

666 Park Avenue: Murmurations (1.2)

A lot of stock is put in a pilot, primarily because it's supposed to be the very best depiction of a show's premise, something that inspires confidence at the network and within everybody watching at home. At the same time, a great pilot can grab an audience's attention so successfully that further viewing should be guaranteed. But it's also a little fraudulent: second episodes are far more indicative of where a series is going, and what we can expect week to week. With all that in mind, it's disappointing that 666 Park Avenue followed up its unoriginal but arguably fun pilot with something so... basic?

The horror genre itself is so reliant on specific tropes and story tactics that it's rare for anything to be truly original anymore. Just ask yourself how many scary movies you've seen in the last five years that actually said something fresh or interesting. So it's not exactly surprising that 666 is awash in cliches and generic plotting. But there were definitely moments this week where the cliches became pretty unbearable. Case in point: I Only Have Eyes for You. Juxtaposing cheery songs from the 1950's with women running around helplessly and a dark sense of foreboding leaping off the walls is nothing new, but that track in particular is so deeply associated with genre storytelling that you were more likely to get thrown out of the scene in question than actually spooked by it.

From a storytelling perspective, it's already evident that 666 is doing that 'serialized mystery narrative' thing by slowly revealing little bits of mytharc in drips and drabs through each individual episode, a decision that instantly drains the series of much color or identity. Great serialized dramas can still create individual episodes that prove memorable on their own, but this kind of storytelling often proves pretty fruitless. Can you remember any specific episode from Ringer? Or FlashForward? They all just blur into one big lump.

The writers are at least trying to combat this with the various 'kooky neighbor' stories, this week a role assumed by Mili Avital's unlucky-in-love tenant, who is set up on a date by Gavin and winds up discovering her old-lady/multiple-murderer history. It's not particularly involving as a story, but at least breaks up some of the monotony elsewhere.

In regards to the main thrust of the show, Rachael Taylor is still wandering through the building, this week stumbling upon CGI birdies and creepy visions. Dave Annable remains 'the good husband', dutiful and responsible, but not all that interesting as a protagonist. Terry O'Quinn continues to be true-to-form and adds necessary fire to his character, while Vanessa Williams gets even less to do than she did last week. I need to ask where she's actually headed, since it seems a waste to use her so sparingly. It's not even like she's getting anything interesting to do in the smaller moments. She essentially just has filler dialogue at this point.

It's actually just the 'seduced writer' story that seems at all intriguing right now, if only because it's the one arc that feels headed somewhere purposeful. Sure, we're getting vague hints at the 'bigger picture' involving Jane and Henry (devil baby?), but that all seems a little low-key. Helena Mattson's freaky exhibitionist is thinly drawn at the best of times, but the ambiguity is carrying it well so far -- like with the subtle re-opening of the drapes, or Robert Buckley's quiet panic as his wife and peep show gal cross paths. Maybe it's the fact that this isn't getting the screentime that Jane and Henry's story is getting, and therefore feels less dragged out?

Murmurations wasn't horrible, but felt significantly sleepy as an episode. It's not at all a positive indication of how the show is going to operate from here on out, and considering the plummeting ratings, I have no idea who's really going to be around to see if the writers manage to shake things up. C

Guest stars
Mili Avital (Danielle Tyler); Mike Doyle (Frank Alpern); Michael Lewis (Raymond)
Writer David Wilcox Director Robert Duncan McNeill

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