terry o’ quinn

666 Park Avenue, “Diabolical”

I am becoming way too invested in this show. To be specific, I have an embarrassingly real emotional stake in Jane and Henry’s relationship. Now, I’m not really a fandom guy (he said, glancing at his feet and clearing his throat) but when Henry had a “moment” with his new P.R. lady Laurel when she was tying his tie, my reaction was similar to that of someone who feels that their OTP is under assault.

My notes from that section include phrases like “I will end you” and “Girl, don’t,” and all other manner of things that make me sound like a wine-guzzling Supernatural fangirl. During Henry and Jane’s argument at the end of the episode, I was actually getting worked up about how upset Jane was. I mean, look at her, she had tears in her eyes! Why don’t you believe her, Henry? WHY WON’T YOU JUST LISTEN?

Don’t worry, Jane, I STILL BELIEVE YOU

This is pretty dumb. Not because fandom is dumb—something based around people liking things can’t be all that bad—but because a) this is not the kind of show where you’re supposed to care about the characters. This is the show where the creepy bald guy from Lost lives in a magical demon apartment full of evil birds.

And b) this show is definitely going to get cancelled.

There hasn’t been an official announcement yet, but as of this week, the ratings have dropped to just below four million people—nearly half of what the show started with. That itself is enough to kill a critically ignored show like this, but as I briefly mentioned last week, Hurricane Sandy flooded many of the show’s sets. I’m not too well versed in the business side of television production, but I’m guessing that when a show is in ratings free-fall, spending a lot of money to re-build the sets isn’t exactly a priority.

I knew from the beginning that this show was probably doomed. I didn’t think that I would ever be upset about it, though. Let’s be clear: this is not going to be a cult-classic, a “too good for TV” situation. There’s not going to be a fan uprising once it’s cancelled and no one is going to demand that the characters live on after the show has ended. Trust me, I’ve been on Tumblr: there is a fandom for this show, but it’s made up of about seven people, three of whom don’t know why they’re still watching and one of whom is me.

Last week’s episode was so “bleh” that I couldn’t even work up a mild sense of devotion to the show. “Let them cancel it,” I thought, “At least then we can stop pretending anyone cares.” This week, things are a little more complicated. Maybe I’ve lowered my expectations, or maybe I’m just developing the TV show version of Stockholm Syndrome, but I thought this episode was pretty darn good.

Back when episode two aired, I predicted that the best possible version of 666 Park Avenue was one where the plot developments came quick and the horror imagery remained constant. “Diabolical” was an episode of that version of the show, a show good enough to look someone in the eyes, nod and say, “It’s actually surprising good.” Not only where there a ton of good “horror moments” (the opening with the hapless thief, Dr. Todd’s debt being burned into his flesh, a straight-up severed head in a box), but a lot of things in the plot were clarified.

We now have a better idea of who Gavin is. Since the pilot, the show has kind of backed off from the more evil aspects of Gavin. Aside from the murdered councilman (which is apparently never going to be mentioned), he hasn’t actively done a lot of villainous stuff. Well, in this episode, when he figures out one of his associates is betraying him, he traps the man in a never-ending labyrinth of hallways, then decapitates him and deliver the severed head to his new enemy, Victor Shaw.

Speaking of Victor Shaw, his emergence as Gavin’s rival gives the show more direction and deepens the mysteries of The Drake. Shaw apparently used to own the building before Gavin “stole” it from him, and now he’s using the stolen red box as leverage to get it back. Now, instead of watching Gavin manipulate Henry to a still-unknown end, we can watch a battle of wits play out between Gavin and an equally slick rival. With all this wheeling, dealing and violent intimidation, Gavin is looking less like a vaguely demonic figure and more like a crime boss with a supernatural edge. Which is fantastic.

“Here, let me offer you a loan! Nothing bad has ever happened to someone who took a loan!”

We still don’t know what’s in The Red Box, by the way. We know it’s not good, from the ominous thudding noise that it emits, the fate of Shaw’s hired man and the fact that everyone in the show is frightened of it. There’s a vague suggestion that it might contain the obsessive lover that plagued Olivia before Gavin “trapped” him… which would make it 666 Park Avenue’s second locked object containing an evil soul.

Yeah, this show clearly has a thing for boxes. From The Red Box to the suitcase that held Peter Kramer’s soul to the locked-up basement to the gift-wrapped severed head… it’s definitely variations on a theme. But I’m willing to let it slide because it means the show now has a theme.

One of the oldest tropes of the haunted-house/hotel/whatever story is that you can’t escape it, no matter how much you try. It was only a matter of time before this cropped up in 666 Park Avenue—obviously Jane’s going to want to peace out eventually, and obviously the show has to keep her where she is. We’re only at the beginning of this plotline, but Jane’s situation is reflected by Gavin’s associate, running desperately through the halls of the Drake, looking for a way out that doesn’t exist. That’s why he shows up briefly in the middle of the episode, running past Jane in an explosion of terrible CGI: they’re both trapped in the Drake, Jane just hasn’t realized it yet.

You see that? Just last week, I never thought that I would be able to find anything that intelligent in this show. Sure, that sort of inconsistency is the reason why this will probably never be a “surprisingly good,” but it also makes the experience of watching it even more exciting. What will we get next week? The even-handed, sort-of-creepy portrayal of a woman caught up in something she can’t escape, something that began decades before she was born? Or will it be more pointless nonsense about Brian and Alexis? And what about the week after that? That episode is actually titled “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” which is crazy for about ten different reasons.

It’s almost a shame that no one’s watching this show… and that no one’s going to remember it when it’s gone.

  • If you don’t know what OTP stands for, trust me, you’re better off not knowing.
  • Another interesting thing I found while searching the ‘666 Park Avenue’ tag on Tumblr: by and large, people don’t seem to like Jane. First of all, NUH-UH, SHUT YOUR MOUTH, YOU DON’T KNOW HER. Second: I have some ideas about why this might be the case, but I don’t want to get into it here.
  • I’m surprised that Jane’s new cop friend made it through the episode. Still, he’s too open-minded and sympathetic to last long. I predict Death By Kandinsky sometime in the next two weeks.
  • Also: imagine trying to explain the character of Kandinsky to someone who’s never seen this show. “He’s a russian hit-man who didn’t exist until this report wrote him into existence after Gavin gave her super-powers and then he tortured her because she exposed him and then he tried to kill her boss but Henry stopped him and now… hey, wait, stop, I’m not done…”
  • I didn’t get a chance to mention this, but finding out that Tony the Doorman is also an enforcer for Gavin makes me incredibly happy. Tony hasn’t gotten many of his signature wisecracks in the last few episodes, but hopefully that’ll change soon.