Walker Bait and Switch

Sunday night’s Rick Grimes finale encapsulated everything that is great–and frustrating–about The Walking Dead.

(Spoilers below)

The episode, “What Comes After,” continues the strong bounce-back the series has demonstrated this season. There’s an emphasis on moral dilemma, as evidenced by vigilante Maggie’s face off with Michonne and ensuing confrontation with Negan. There are clever call backs, all the way back to the show’s very first episode in 2010 (the hospital scene; Rick and Shane conversing in the police cruiser). There is payoff on long-teased elements, as that mysterious helicopter finally touches down on the plot line. There’s sublime imagery: the Boschean vision of a field of infinite corpses in huddled sprawl. Most of all, there’s the grandeur of Rick Grimes, who heroically lures a pair of zombie herds away from the settlements and onto the still-under-construction bridge, which he then destroys in a fiery act of self-sacrifice.

If only the episode had stopped there.

Instead, it proceeded to stifle the audience’s catharsis. Turns out, Rick didn’t die in the explosion, but washed ashore somewhere downstream, where he’s discovered by Jadis and whisked away by the helicopter people. I am okay with the decision not to definitively kill off Rick, and could even live with some lingering open-endedness (might he return to the series at some future point?). But no sooner did the episode finish airing than the show’s brass released word that Andrew Lincoln would be reprising his Rick Grimes character in a trilogy of TWD movies on AMC. Surprise! the tricksy producers proclaim, Rick’s ballyhooed send-off is actually into a spin-off. This takes the infamous dumpster fake-out with Glenn to a whole other level. The timing of the breaking news felt both off and off-putting: I was left with a bitter sense of emotional manipulation, of deceptive hype (that this would be the last we’d see of Rick) used to spike ratings.

This latest swerve points to the fundamental problem:The Walking Dead has gotten too big for its own good, and is too concerned with expanding its brand (seemingly to the point of media saturation). Once again it has lost sight of its own basic appeal to viewers, who are eager to invest in a core cast of characters and their week-by-week struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world.

The Walking Dead botched the opportunity for an unforgettable TV moment by reducing Rick Grimes’s fate to a Gimple gimmick.

 

Still Fine at XXIX

 

After twenty-nine years, the “Treehouse of Horror” shows no signs of falling into disrepair.

Kudos to The Simpsons for the show’s Cthulhu-themed episode opener; given the tendency for “Treehouse” to draw most of its raw material from film and TV, it was refreshing to see the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft invoked. The spoof of Lovecraft’s mutant characters goes swimmingly, including one fishy denizen of Fogburytown (a Simpsons stand-in for Innsmouth) sporting a “Wetsox” jersey. This intro (whose Homer vs. Cthulhu oyster-eating contest is especially precious, considering that Lovecraft’s nightmare creations can be traced back to the author’s aversion to seafood) also features my favorite line: told that he is about to sacrificed to an evil god from the ocean’s depths, Homer replies, “Spongebob?”

The first of the episode’s trio of segments, “Intrusion of the Pod-y Snatchers,” is probably the least effective. The satire (“Mapple”/”Steve Mobs”/[I-]pod[-obsessed] people) tends to be a bit facile. Nevertheless, the segment offers some wonderfully witty moments, such as when Lisa questions why aliens never use contractions when addressing earthlings, or when the plant version of pothead Otto is configured as a marijuana leaf.

Pre-judging by its title, “Multiplisaty” was the segment I feared I would least enjoy. I envisioned some lame lampoon of a Michael Keaton movie, but imagine my surprise when I realized Split was the true source here of Lisa’s Beast-ly insanity (the original Saw is also subjected to some clever irreverence). The segment presents some funny kills of Milhouse and Nelson (Groundskeeper Willie also receives his requisite axing) amidst its tongue-in-cheek commentary on the maddening behavior of males.

The final segment, “Geriatric Park,” proves the most adult-oriented; it’s imbued with gore and closes on a note of virtuoso innuendo (pterodactyl Agnes’s quip, “Virgin Air I’m not!”). Extended as it might be, the riff on Jurrasic Park/-World never grows tiresome. For me, the gag where the dentures fall out of drooling dinosaur Abe’s mouth makes “Geriatric Park” worth the price of admission.

I’m forty-six now, and it’s occurred to me that The Simpsons‘ Halloween episode has been an annual staple of my adult life. Nearly three decades later, the macabre comedy of “Treehouse of Horror” still has the ability to reduce me to a gleefully-giggling child.

 

Zombie Omissions: Thoughts on Episode 1 of Eli Roth’s History of Horror

Roll out the talking heads and the walking dead. “Zombies”–the inaugural installment of Eli Roth’s History of Horror–ironically begins in the modern moment, with “the monster of the 21st Century” (as the undead flesh-eater is dubbed here by John Landis). I have to admit, I was a bit thrown by the outset of the series. First, because the decision to proceed via theme episodes portends an abridged history, and the exclusion of various facets of horror that don’t fall within clear categories. Second, the skeptic in me found this primary focus on zombies suspiciously self-serving, considering that AMC is the network that also airs The Walking Dead (which had its season premiere just last week). I’d call last night’s episode of the documentary series a crypto-commercial for the sagging drama, except for the fact that there’s little subtlety involved: Greg Nicotero literally has a seat at the table right next to Eli Roth!

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to be entertained by here. The myriad of film clips are aptly chosen, and the show presents a slew of genre luminaries as commentators. A lot of the discussion likely will fail to be groundbreaking (this just in: Romero’s zombie films feature socio-political subtext) for the veteran fan. Nevertheless, intriguing points are made throughout: Edgar Wright’s account of the impact of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video on the zombie subgenre; Stephen King’s thoughts on the mob mentality on display in such films; Max Brooks’s philosophizing about what makes the slow zombie so much more frightening than its faster counterpart.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given Roth’s resumé as a horror director, the show adopts a Fangorial approach, emphasizing more recent, and more graphic, titles (films such as White Zombie, I Walked With a Zombie, and Frankenstein are treated cursorily). While I understand that only so much can be covered within 42 minutes of run time, I wish more attention had been given to films/TV shows that provide fresh perspectives on zombies and the post-apocalypse. My biggest disappointment, though, is that this History of Horror appears to posit a strictly visual, aliterate audience: zero exploration is made of the zombie in horror fiction. For the love of all that is unholy at the Micmac burial ground, couldn’t Roth have asked King about the author’s foray into zombie territory in Pet Sematary?

Watching horror is great, but sometimes (having) read is better.

 

Amazing Creations

I think I’m in love…

…with Netflix’s new series, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, and its gorgeous, October-spirited star.

Think Nigella by way of Elvira; a bizarro Martha Stewart; The Muppet Show meets The Munsters. This clever variation on a cooking show features instructional segments mixed with bits of comedic narrative. When I first heard the premise of the show, I feared the creature puppets would be a juvenile intrusion, but these characters actually prove rich additions. They spice up the proceedings with some hysterically-funny adult humor (that never becomes tasteless). Perhaps most darkly delightful of all is Rankle, the ever-sarcastic mummified Eqyptian cat who looks like some feline Crypt-Keeper.

The ultra-talented Christine McConnell is to baking (and sculpting and sewing) what Ray Villafane is to pumpkin carving. Her treats (viewers with a yen for the Gothic and monstrous can feast their eyes on wolf’s paw donuts, spirit board cookies, a haunted gingerbread house, and edible shrunken head ornaments) are works of art that literally look too good to eat.

These curious creations of holiday fare are stunning to behold (it’s like watching Halloween Wars, but without all the manufactured ” reality” drama and annoying contestants). The show’s most enchanting element, though, is McConnell herself; putting the boo in beautiful, she manages to make co-star Dita Von Teese seem like the plain one here. Christine McConnell is the dream hostess for any Halloween party in the Macabre Republic, and her new steaming series is an irresistible binge-watch this High Holiday season.

 

Whoa, Check Out “The Body” on Hulu

I’m not waxing lecherous when I write that the inaugural installment of Into The Dark, Hulu’s new monthly anthology series, has a killer body. October’s holiday-themed film centers on a British hitman in Los Angeles who carries out an annual assassination on October 31st: the costumed revelry all around on All Hallow’s Eve provides the perfect cover as the deadly Wilkes works to transport and dispose of (in a strategic location, where the discovery of the corpse will have the greatest impact) his latest victim. On this particular night, though, Wilkes is bound for mishap with his plastic-mummified package; complications–and macabre comedy–ensue.

Make no mistake, the humor here is blacker than a vampire’s cape, yet also never batty. The laugh-out-loud moments (hardly few and far between) are not the product of mere slapstick. Thankfully, The Body does not resort to an endless array of silly sight gags. Halloween Weekend at Bernie’s this is not.

Not a mindless romp, the film shows itself to be quite conscious of its horror heritage, starting with an I-camera opening sequence that recalls Michael Myers’s first kills in the original Halloween. Early on, one character jibes at the nattily clad body-dragger (played, somewhat serendipitously, by Tom Bateman): “Are you like the British American Psycho or something?” The references range from the overt (such as when Jack Baker–his very name an echo of another monster maker, Rick Baker–makes an ostentatious entrance to his own Halloween party dressed as a straight-jacketed Hannibal Lecter) to the more subtle (the climactic scene in the “Angus & Sons” funeral home, a nod towards Phantasm‘s Angus Scrimm).

The Body is distinguished by some strong performances. Bateman’s Wilkes is no laconic automaton: this killing machine finds joy in his grim work, and frequently flashes a wicked sense of humor. Another side of his personality is expressed as a philosophical bent; this thinking-man hitman is prone to deliver lines like “Halloween is the closest we come to admitting that we are defined by death.” It’s the gorgeous Rebecca Rittenhouse, however, who steals the show as the smitten Maggie, Wilkes’s willing accomplice in the effort to retrieve the wayward cadavar. She makes a difficult role look easy, whereas a lesser portrayal could have resulted in a ridiculously unconvincing Maggie.

Credit, too, goes to the screenwriters, who take the time to develop the characters so that their curious motives are never mystifying. At the same time, the film is fast-moving (aided by the ticking-clock device, as Wilkes struggles to meet his deadline for delivery of the body). If I had one criticism of the plot, it’s that the climactic twist (unlike the stealthy Wilkes) can be seen coming from a long ways away.

Post mortem: the toe tag for The Body should read “Good Mean Fun.” This entertaining first entry in the anthology series has left me eager to see what Into the Dark will cook up next month for its Thanksgiving-related edition.

 

Castle Rock Reaction: “Romans”

Castle Rock has been a weekly Wednesday must-see this summer, with the series featuring a stellar cast enveloped by various dark mysteries. Unfortunately, the 10th episode, “Romans” (as in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death”) fails to provide a perfect payoff on viewer investment. The season finale is surprisingly slow moving, with both Henry and the Kid spending a good portion of the episode incarcerated. The most rousing action–the Kid-kindled conflagration of violence at the police station–occurs midway through, and the tension never really ratchets up in the closing minutes, leading to a lackluster climax.

The episode features another visually striking scene of Schisma-frenzied blackbirds turned into feathery kamikazes. I have to wonder, though: would there actually be birds flying above the snowy Maine landscape in the middle of wintertime?

Best line of the episode–Warden Porter’s doorstep declaration to Molly about the Kid: “Warden Lacy was right. He’s the fucking devil.” Perhaps the only thing better than the blunt delivery of this line is what happens to Porter seconds thereafter: her sudden running-over by a bus full of Shawshank prisoners. Oh the irony!

“You hear it now?” (referring to the eerie sound emanating from the Schisma portal in the woods) seemed to be a season-long refrain, and repeatedly succeeded in throwing me out of the world of Castle Rock, because of its unintentional echo of those old Verizon Wireless commercials.

Young Henry’s attempt to elude his deranged father by walking backwards through his own footprints in the snow served as an obvious hommage to the climactic chase in The ShiningThe connection becomes even more explicit in the show’s mid-credits cut-in, when the Overlooked-authoring Jackie announces her plan to make a trip out west for further research (which we can assume is going to center on a certain Colorado hotel). A clever tease, no doubt, but one that also suggests that the series will be ranging beyond the town of Castle Rock and into the broader Stephen King universe in subsequent seasons, turning the show’s title into something of a misnomer.

Maybe I’ve been exposed to too many Easter eggs this season, but an idea about Diane “Jackie” Torrance’s name struck me out of the blue. Could the fact that she is both “Jackie and Diane” be a subtle verbal echo of a song title by John Mellencamp (with whom King collaborated on Ghost Brothers of Darkland County)?

The climactic confrontation between Henry and the Kid bothered me on several levels. First, the air of menace surrounding the Kid (who could disturb without even moving or speaking) all season was dissipated by the writers’ resorting to cliche and having the character lamely pull a gun on Henry. The ensuing scuffle would hardly make for a main event at WrestleMania, but it did make me question continuity: time and again this season, we’ve seen the devastating effects of getting too close to–let alone touching–the Kid. Wouldn’t such rough intimacy here mean the imminent death of Henry? Finally, that brief glimpse of the Kid’s unmasked monstrosity felt like a cheesy rehash of Sleepwalkers. Is this supposed to be some ancient demon that Henry has encountered? If so, it would at least it would make for a nice twist: after all the speculation that Bill Skargard was playing Pennywise (in disguise) once again here on Castle Rock, he actually appears more akin to that deadly dealer in deceit, Leland Gaunt.

The “One Year Later” epilogue creates a fine sense of symmetry by returning the Kid to where we found him at the outset: as a prisoner secreted in the bowels of Shawshank. The time jump, though, causes a misstep by casting aside Ruth–after the incredible dramatic performance delivered by Sissy Spacek this season, it seemed a bit of a cheat to have her character die off-screen.

Castle Rock cannot be faulted for the ambition of its storytelling, but personally, I was not a big fan of the whole parallel-worlds plotline. The favoring of unsettling ambiguity over on-the-nose horror is a likewise admirable approach, but the show veered into obliquity and accordingly did not arrive at a satisfying resolution. Rather than positively chilled, the season finale ultimately left me feeling lukewarm.

Castle Rock Reaction: “Henry Deaver”

So it turns out, Castle Rock is located in the heart of The Twilight Zone

Episode 9 launches the long-anticipated Big Twist (and one that is not completely unexpected, since Odin Branch’s “talk” of multiple, abutting universes three weeks ago). When Bill Skarsgard’s Kid character mouthed “Henry Deaver” at the start of the series, he wasn’t simply asking for the African-American lawyer (Andre Holland) who seemed to be the show’s main protagonist, but was actually naming himself. The Kid is Henry Deaver–or more specifically, a version of Henry Deaver in a parallel reality.

This situational switcheroo is appropriately jarring. Suddenly watching Skarsgard play an eloquent, sharp-dressed urban professional–a doctor nobly working to reverse the insidious effects of Alzheimer’s disease–creates no shortage of cognitive dissonance after having grown accustomed to his season-long embodiment of a mumbling, Gollum-looking oddball.

A less appreciable jolting, though, occurs on the level of tonality, of genre. Last week’s events were the quintessence of American Gothic horror, but here Castle Rock veers towards cosmic science fiction. As I mentioned in a previous episode review, the latter genre trappings are more at home in other classic King locales–Derry or Haven, not Castle Rock. And the resort to a thinny-ish MacGuffin aligns the show too much with Stephen King’s Dark Tower multiverse, detracting from the uniqueness of his Castle Rock setting.

Nonetheless, the trippy scene inside the Schisma portal was well executed; the use of visual distortion and chaotic cross-cutting effectively establish the nature of this uncanny nexus. Those shots of a flock of black birds taking screeching flight recall the psychopomp circumstances of The Dark Half. On the negative side, the glimpses of a colonial-era version of young Molly reminded me of Sleepy Hollow (cf. the “John Doe” episode from Season 1), another series that somewhat lazily recurred to the woods as ground zero for anything weird or occult.

In the course of the episode, we finally come to understand why the Kid/Henry has such a toxic effect on those who get too close–it’s a side effect of sidewise movement, of crossing over and getting stranded in an alternate world. This “Typhoid Henry” revelation does make for an original explanation, but the resulting erasure of any conscious intent of malicious impact is a disappointment. “The Devil Made Them Do It” would have been too cliched, but “Stranger in a Strange Land” alone  proves an unsatisfactory substitute.

“Henry Deaver” not only goes a long way to clarifying the show’s story arc, but also serves to set up the direction that Castle Rock will likely take in subsequent seasons. Whereas American Horror Story can range across the country with each new season, Castle Rock is limited to the same small-town setting; now, however, the show can simply depict unlimited parallel-world Castle Rocks, and have an ensemble cast play different versions of their respective characters (this would also help maintain the suspension of disbelief, by preventing the weird shit from piling up too high in the same exact place). An ambitious gambit for sure, but I still have some doubts that this could be pulled off without disorienting/frustrating viewers.

With each season purporting to operate as a standalone, it will be interesting to see whether next week’s finale furnishes resolution or opts for further plot complication and a cliffhanging hiatus.

 

Catle Rock Reaction: “Past Perfect”

The blood hits the wall in episode eight, as Castle Rock serves up its grisliest fare so far this season (amidst all the carnage, one might almost overlook Odin’s fatal skewering through the eye).

The Castle Rock Historic Bed & Breakfast–a theme destination featuring “actual murders recreated in exquisite detail”–surely earns a five-star rating in the Macabre Republic Travel Guide. To no surprise, the first guests here are checked out early; the subsequent shots of the crime scene are gorgeously gory, with the naked, slashed corpses forming flesh-and-blood counterparts to the establishment’s mannequins.

The reference to Castle Rock as “the murder capital of 1991” arguably represents another subtle Easter egg dropped into the show–a hearkening back to the homicidal mayhem of Needful Things. Viewers needed to be very astute, too, to catch glimpse of the Salem’s Lot sign when Wendell gets off the bus.

Memo to Jackie Torrance: when you find something dripping a suspiciously crimson fluid, you probably shouldn’t dip your finger in the substance and then taste it! That’s crazier than anything your all-work-and-foul-play uncle ever did in the Overlook Hotel (ol’ Halloran-hacking Jack would have been proud, though, of your surprise axing of Gordon).

Most significant dialogue of the episode: the Kid’s admission to Henry that “I waited for 27 years. I rescued you from that basement and I didn’t ask for any of this.” His words are at once revealing and tantalizingly vague (whose basement?). They also offer further proof that the Kid is not the devilish nemesis the town has cast him as.

Still, let’s not make him out to be the second coming of John Coffey; Castle Rock is a long ways away from The Green Mile. That radio report about multiple patients at Juniper Hill lighting their mattresses on fire at the same time furnishes a perfect reminder that crossing paths with the Kid can be an excruciating experience.

Gordon and Lilith’s knife attack on Henry was American Gothic galore, one of the creepiest scenes we’ve seen to date. For a second there, I thought the show was about to go all Psycho and send its main character into early retirement.

The episode’s interiors–the former Lacy home turned murder-capitalzing inn, the Deaver domicile, Molly’s residence with its shadowed staircase–really work to reinforce a theme sounded earlier in the series: the notion that Castle Rock is a town full of haunted houses.

With “Past Perfect,” the narrative pace has definitely picked up; now it’s time for some payoff. Hopefully next week’s penultimate episode will begin to resolve the season’s different mysteries.

 

Castle Rock Reaction: “The Queen”

Castle Rock’s seventh episode clocks in at a whopping 60 minutes, and bigger ultimately proves better.

“The Queen” is aptly titled, as Sissy Spacek gives a regal performance in this Ruth-centered episode. Viewers get to share the sense of existential dislocation experienced by the dementia-suffering Ruth, who glides between the present and past memories as easily as crossing a threshold inside her haunted (not necessarily supernaturally) house. Along the way we learn the import of details from previous episodes, such as the dog that was buried out in the yard but doesn’t appear quite dead to Ruth. All the narrative looping can be a bit confusing (“The Queen” no doubt warrants repeat viewing), and the first half of the episode does drag on somewhat, but there is a terrific payoff at the end, both emotionally and thematically.

Ruth’s jaunts down memory’s winding lanes affords us our clearest glimpse to date of her reverend husband Mathew–and it’s not a flattering look. Overbearing and unbalanced (abusive without ever having to raise his hand or voice), Mathew forms the creepiest clergyman this side of Cycle of the Werewolf.

Arguably the most significant line of the episode occurs when Molly comes knocking and a desperate, disoriented Ruth answers the door by asking, “When are we?” My favorite exchange, though, was Ruth’s joking inquiry to Alan as to why so many magic tricks have pornographic-sounding names, and his response that probably because virgins invented them.

“The Queen” gives a quick nod to Stephen King’s Under the Dome: in an attempt to get Wendell out of the house and away from the Kid, Ruth sends him off to the mall in Chester’s Mill. It serves as a reminder of just how close these two towns lie on King’s fictional map of Maine.

Tension certainly ratchets up when we arrive at last to the scene between Ruth and the Kid. Once again Bill Skarsgard is masterful, understated yet creating an undeniable sense of menace. His quoting of the dead reverend’s lines to Ruth is chilling, and even an act as mundane as cooking up some eggs manages to have an uncanny effect.

The episode, though, is less an example of outright horror than of romantic tragedy–Shakespeare with a senior cast (and I’m not talking about high school upperclassmen). There’s a vicious swerve: after following the imperiled Ruth for nearly a hour and fearing that this will be the end for her character, we instead witness the sudden killing off of Alan Pangborn (accidentally shot by Ruth, who thought she was targeting the Kid). Just like that, Castle Rock’s long-time, knightly defender is removed from the chess board. The twist is gut-wrenching, so much so that at first the viewer might not stop to wonder if this dire event has been diabolically orchestrated by a revenge-minded Kid.

“The Queen” is not an easy episode, but it is an appreciable one. Viewers have to stay on the alert throughout, yet the work is rewarding. Never settling for superficial scares and facile reactions, Castle Rock makes it audience think hard and feel deeply, and this might make the show the most sophisticated genre series currently streaming.

Castle Rock Reaction: “Filter”

Castle Rock‘s sixth episode, “Filter,” opens with the re-burial ceremony for Matthew Deaver. I know that within the story, relatively little time has passed, but watching this plotline gradually spool out week-by-week has made the settling of Matthew’s remains seem like quite the protracted affair (no wonder he haunts Molly as a restless revenant!).

The mysterious duo who show up at the sparsely-attended ceremony appear even more conspicuous as they station themselves outside a giant camper. That vehicle could be a nod to the RV-riding psychic vampires in Stephen King’s novel Doctor Sleep, and thus creates a sense of wariness about the strange black man and his young white sidekick.

Best Line of the Episode goes to Ruth Deaver, her blunt utterance, “Coulda sworn we buried your father in that suit.” Terrific ambiguity here: is this just more absent-mindedness from the addled Ruth, or is there something sinister afoot (especially considering that the cadaverous, suit-clad Kid looks like he just lurched out of Night of the Living Dead)?

As Henry attempts to understand his vaguely-recalled childhood forays with his father, the episode leads us deep into the woods. “Filter” felt like it was approaching Pet Sematary territory here, and at first I wondered if that haunting sound Henry kept hearing was somehow Wendigo-related. Turned out to be something much more bizarre, though…

Ironically, “Filter” ends up saturated with exposition–that long scene in which Odin Branch goes on (via emphatic sign language and verbal translation by his protege Willy) about the Voice of God and the Schisma. All this mystic mumbo jumbo comes off like an infodump; more disconcertingly, it steers the story in a far-out direction that is at odds with King’s down-home Castle Rock narratives (in King’s writing, places like Derry and Haven are the more familiar sites of cosmic horror).

What’s in a name? The unusualness of “Odin Branch” causes viewers to ponder the moniker’s signifance. Anyone who’s read American Gods knows this character’s surname references the tricksy Norse god. So is Odin Branch an offshoot of that towering mythological figure? Does the name point to Odin’s self-sacrifice, his hanging on the worlds-spanning tree Yggdrasil?

A blind man could see that Henry was being lured inside the titular Filter–a customized anechoic chamber within the camper–so the springing of that trap wasn’t very shocking (Odin Branch’s sudden voicing of “Not deaf, perfect” did register high on the creepiness meter, though). More intriguing is the question of what Henry will be like once he inevitably escapes from such mind-bending confinement.

A large part of the suspense mustered thus far Castle Rock has centered on the uncertainty of the Kid’s nature. Is he a misunderstood victim or a malicious villain? The pendulum appears to swing towards the latter at episode’s end (was Alan sent off on a wild goose chase so the Kid could wreak havoc on Ruth’s home?), but something tells me there’s a further swerve coming and this character won’t prove to be the embodiment of ultimate evil.

The least satisfying episode of the series to date, “Filter” plays like a placeholder, a forestalling of more significant developments next week. Perhaps the episode will be better appreciated in retrospect, after viewers find out what happened to Henry and Ruth, respectively, and learn more about Matthew Deaver’s machinations and the Kid’s apparent quest for comeuppance.