666 Park Avenue, “A Crowd Of Demons”

As of last week, The AV Club has ended their coverage of 666 Park Avenue. The way I see it, that makes me the only legitimate blogger still writing about this show. Indeed, it is a lonely realization, but more than that, it brought me to a question: do I actually like watching this show?

It’s an irrelevant question, since I’m not going to stop watching until the show is over. I have committed myself to the covering of 666 Park Avenue, and now we are bound together as one being, in defiance of all sense and reason, from now until the end of time, or until the show gets cancelled.

Which do you think will happen first, Prezbo? I mean, uh, “Peter Kramer.”

Still, I had this nagging worry throughout “A Crowd Of Demons” that maybe, just maybe, this show isn’t that good. Worse, I started wondering if it would ever get better. I realize this is a sudden turn-around from my somewhat-unsupported optimism of the past few weeks; maybe this gives you an idea of how much faith I put in the AV Club. But I think it has more to do with this episode being a disappointment in almost every way.

First off, there was that opening scene, which was so unsubtle and loaded with bald-faced exposition that it elicited more than a few groans. When I saw that we were flashing back to 1929, I was excited: a little bit of period style couldn’t hurt the show, and maybe we’d learn more about the history of the Drake and the Order of the Dragon, who were such a big deal in the first episode and have been pretty much forgotten about since then.

On the first count, I was immediately let down. Apparently, in 666 Park Avenue the only difference between the 1920’s and the 2010’s is the kind of hat that people wear. And while we did learn about the Order of the Dragon (kind of? I guess?), it was done in such an artless way that I regretted ever wanting it.

Apparently, Creepy Smoke Guy from the suitcase in the last episode (real name Peter Kramer) was involved with the Order and one of their wacky occult schemes, which made him go crazy and murder his wife. The moment immediately before the murder was actually pretty creepy: Kramer brandishes a weapon and approaches his wife, his left eye vibrating unnaturally while he says, “In heaven you will be truly happy.

It’s an effective moment immediately ruined by the show rushing to the next bit of exposition. Somehow, the dying woman is able to walk calmly to her daughter’s room, find her under the bed and giving her a necklace, warning her to “keep it safe, keep it in the family,” and boy, I don’t think that’s going to look good on a tombstone, do you? “Here lies Mrs. Kramer: Killed Whilst Giving Her Daughter A MacGuffin.”

Oh, by the way, that necklace is the same necklace that Jane has. The one that Nona stole from her and then returned last week? We still don’t know exactly what the significance is, which I don’t mind, but… I’m sure there was a better way to introduce it.

Anyway, he rest of the episode was pretty bleh. You’d think an episode of this show set during a Halloween ball would lead to something pretty crazy, but the setting largely went ignored… though it did lead to a pretty funny scene where the Dorans give Jane a costume to wear and it turns out to be Tippi Hendren from The Birds. Other than that, we got some forward movement on Henry’s rise to political prominence and a weird continuation in the Brian/Louise/Alexis plot. We find out that Louise is addicted to pills for some reason, and Brian’s mad because she’s been hanging out with some doctor, and Alexis tries to make nice with Brian, but it turns out that she’s just trying to wreck his marriage… it’s a mess.

Meanwhile, Jane and Henry continue to be weirdly adorable.

By the way, I had no idea that Brian and Louise were married. I’m sure it was mentioned in the first episode, but that plotline is so thoroughly baffling to me that I must have just ignored it. Seriously, where is this going? Clearly, Gavin is positioning Henry to influence the city for his own devil-ish designs (whatever they may be), but Brian/Louise/Alexis is starting to seem like it belongs on an entirely different show. Maybe we’ll find out that Alexis is actually the ghost of Gavin and Olivia’s daughter. Whatever it is, the creators better tie these characters into the show sometime soon, because I’m ready to write them off entirely.

But right as I was trying to decide if it’s too late to start writing about this season of American Horror Story, this show pulled out something cool. During the Halloween ball, the power is cut, and the ghostly Peter Kramer pursues Jane through the building in a sequence that plays as a totally acceptable recreation of a slasher film. All the tropes are there: the moody lighting, the close call in the dumb-waiter, the innocent bystander who gets stabbed when he tries to help the heroine… there’s even a jump scare! I know, I know, the jump-scare is a pretty cheap way to shock people, but you’ve got to admit, not a lot of television shows would take the time to pace one out this effectively.

Of course, it all falls apart in the end when Peter, his eye all a-twitch, attempts to murder Jane, misses and stabs the wall, at which point hundreds of birds fly out of and peck him to death, in one of the most ridiculous call-backs I’ve ever seen. So, the evil birds from episode two are still living in the walls and… they’re protecting Jane? What? Why? And also, why does the Drake dissolve the bodies of Kramer and his victim into a pile of CGI goo as the police are about to discover them?

The show probably plans to address these mysteries soon—unless, like the councilman that Gavin murdered in episode three, they just got forgotten about—but I hope the creators either work on the subtlety of the show’s writing or just go full-on, balls-to-the-wall, American Horror Story-style crazy… because this is a show about an evil apartment complex, and there’s not a lot of middle ground.

  • Aaaaaand right as I was editing this article, I discovered this lovely piece of news: Hurricane Sandy has done serious damage to the sets of 666 Park Avenue. “Serious damage” as in, the whole thing was flooded with water. I wish I could predict how this affects the show’s future, but I have no idea what it means, if anything. Considering that the ratings have continued to slide downhill (4.61 million for this episode), I don’t really expect good news.
  • Seriously, is no one going to mention that dead councilman? As of last episode, he was apparently still making calls, since his office cancelled Henry’s appointment.
  • Also, with Jim-True Frost appearing as Peter Kramer, that marks two veterans of The Wire to cameo on this show. Maybe Gavin can get a meeting with Mayor Carcetti soon?
  • This show is becoming really fond of the episode-ending montage, isn’t it? In all fairness, I had never heard this week’s song before (“The Stations,” by The Gutter Twins) and I quite liked it.
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