Tuesday, December 4, 2012

666 Park Avenue: Hypnos (1.9)

I was once a huge fan of the horror genre. Especially when I was around 13-14, which I guess was pretty expected from an age/gender standpoint. But it's also a genre that I don't particularly enjoy anymore -- it takes a lot to genuinely rattle me, and most modern horror awkwardly fumbles into 'been there, seen that' territory. It's something I thought a lot about here, Hypnos heavily exploring the Drake as a plot construct and its violent history, a story that only ever felt derivative. It probably didn't help that the show cast Whoopi Goldberg in a role that merely cribbed off one of her most famous performances, but Jane's journey to the past got me wondering if 666 Park Avenue honestly ever had an interesting story to tell.

Jane Van Veen is descended from devil worshipers and killers, which is what we pretty much already knew. Hypnos takes her literally back in time, Whoopi's vision tea placing her in the body of a girl in 1927 working as a nanny for Jane's grandmother, who was sacrificed by Peter Kramer and his acolytes. Which is all... fine. I don't know if I was expecting more? I've always considered horror the toughest genre to mine new creativity out of, and while there are certainly ways to exploit old clich├ęs (American Horror Story does it every season), there's a creatively underwhelming feel to 666 Park Avenue that prevents it from hitting that higher level. It's always been base-level spookiness.

Ghost regression as it was, I actually liked Whoopi here. She's become so annoying and batshit as a 'personality' over the years that it's easy to forget what an absorbing actress she can be, and she gave Maris a soft, confident quality that made her one of the more fascinating Drake tenants depicted so far. Her bartering with Gavin was also fun, even if the symbols on the door and the white bird motif both asked more questions than they did give answers.

In regards to Sasha, it was pretty easy to peg her alternate identity from just glancing at the guest star credits. Laurel has been an odd presence this season, more because Henry's political saga is so uninteresting as a story arc, that it made sense for her to be exposed as Gavin and Olivia's daughter. Again, the show is giving out more mystery than it is answering questions, and I'm not sure I totally understood what that final scene was supposed to say (had Gavin and Laurel already met? I can't remember...), but all the actors involved in this story are continuing to deliver great work. Vanessa Williams, in particular, was ridiculously sympathetic this week, sourcing a ton of rage and desperation during her scenes with Victor Shaw.

So Hypnos wasn't bad from a purely 'in-episode' perspective. But the overarching ideas at work remain pretty generic and uninspiring, something that would have fundamentally harmed the show long-term if it hadn't already been canceled. I'm assuming we'll get the final episodes in January, but I'm not sure I'd be too unhappy if we didn't. There's been some fun along the way, but nothing particularly strong. B

Guest stars
Whoopi Goldberg (Maris Elder); Raul Esparza (Phillip Perez); Teddy Sears (Detective Hayden Cooper); Nick Chinlund (Victor Shaw); Tessa Thompson (Laurel Harris); Jim True-Frost (Peter Kramer); Misha Kuznetsov (Kandinsky)
Writers Ellen Fairey, Matthew Tabak Director Stephen Cragg

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