As great as Christopher Reeve was as Superman, there was a stiffness in his portrayal that wasn’t acting. He was able to exploit it for earnestness in Superman and add a comedic element to embody Clark Kent. Those are two fine achievements in a single film, but in other roles, that stiffness served no higher purpose. In that respect, Brandon Routh was the logical heir to the role.
He has that same stiffness, but it isn’t really a problem here either. He is, after all, supposed to be the stolid moral center of the episode. Even the opening shot (well, post-flashforward) has that vibe. We see him from the rear carrying groceries and my first thought was “That’s Clark Kent” — a square-shouldered doofus working below his pay-grade.
Bobby walks up the stairs to their apartment to find his wife Tracy in a towel. This is where the show’s roots on Showtime would have been an asset. Tracy shows Bobby a pregnancy test. He seems relieved that it is negative, because Tracy did not want a child yet. But then she is upset that he is happy that she got what she wanted. Sloppy writing or uncanny portrayal of domestic life? You be the judge.
Tracy wants to have their first child grow up in the suburbs. Some friends suggest they try The Commons. Well there was that thing where The Commons weren’t so welcoming when they thought the friends would have no more kids . . . but that was probably nothing.
Tracy and Bobby drive the Volvo — they’re fitting in already — out to the suburbs to the gated community of The Commons. They get a tour which informs them that The Commons was founded on a growing need for family values, good neighborhoods, friendly neighbors and low crime. There is a house for sale conveniently stocked with furniture almost as if the previous owner had been suddenly killed and buried out by the dumpster. Two days later, they are closing on the house.
At a community Christmas party, there seems to be even more tension than a typical Christmas party. One of the neighbors has an outburst kind of like Dan Collins in It’s a Good Life. His wife gives him a good slap and he falls through a glass coffee table. Something is clearly not right here.
One night as Bobby is channel-surfing, he comes across a channel showing the bedroom of one of his neighbors. Living in South Florida, I can tell you this isn’t necessarily a good thing. He witnesses a husband busting in on his wife and a neighbor who are having an affair.
The next night at the homeowner’s association meeting, her husband is asked what the appropriate punishment for his wife should be. Apparently his choice was to have his wife stand in the town square in a pig mask and have garbage thrown at her because that is what Bobby witnesses the next day.
The HOA President drops by one day to ask Bobby and Tracy if they need any help conceiving a child. Bobby reads the fine print in the Deed and finds that they are required to conceive within 6 months of joining the community. Failure to do so will result in the foreclosure of your property and loss of equity. Tracy isn’t entirely against this.
Finally, Tracy gets a positive on the pregnancy test. Their euphoria is as short-lived as their neighbor who they see running down Main Street. The neighbors, who have a Simpsons-like habit of all showing up together, agree that it was suicide when Bobby clearly saw that it was not.
Bobby and Tracy come up with a plan to get her out of the Community. She leaves, but Bobby stays behind to provide an ending for the episode. When the time is right, he makes a run for it — literally, on foot.
The neighbors take off after him with flashlights and an oddly eclectic mix of beating instruments — snow shovels, brooms, golf clubs, hockey sticks. So I guess this is a gun-free zone. Thank God, or he’d really be in trouble. Or, you know, safe.
Five years later, Tracy is the new HOA President. We see Bobby staring despondently at her through the window as she indoctrinates a new couple. The twist is that his legs have been amputated because he ran, but this ending seems botched in a couple of ways. It is revealed that he is in a wheelchair, then the amputation is revealed a few seconds later. I guess they were going for a set-up and a spike. Sadly, what they produced was an easing into the twist rather than a shock.
Also, the neighbor who had the outburst at the party was earlier revealed to have a prosthetic leg — so, ho-hum on the amputated legs. Maybe they should have given the neighbor a couple of missing fingers, or even a hand to get the ball rolling. Or a ball.
There is also the sudden embrace of the community by his wife. I can sort of accept this as the Rosemary Woodhouse Syndrome, plus this does seem an ideal place to raise a child (aside from the murders and dismemberment). However, their friend who originally suggested The Commons is also thinking of moving in now. This is a complete non-sequitur. He has no kids, has signed no documents, and has seen what Bobby & Tracy have endured.
Nevertheless, I liked it. But then I’m a sucker for a mysterious town or workplace. This episode had a lot in common with It’s a Good Life, Rosemary’s Baby, Devil’s Advocate, The Firm, Stepford Wives, etc. It isn’t as good as any of them, but it was sufficiently creepy to keep me on board.
- I’m ashamed of myself for not making the connection of another Superman confined to a wheelchair. There’s nothing funny about that; so it would have fit right in above.