Fear Itself – Echoes (01/24/09)

The 2nd worst episode of the series according to the mostly useless IMDb ratings; even worse than New Year’s Day, which was nearly unwatchable.  But I keep an open mind.

fiechoes34aStephen has just rented a new house, and his girlfriend stops by.  He immediately gets the feeling that “there should be an art deco chair and an oriental rug right there.”  His deja vu brings on several jarringly edited, awfully-lit flashes to the past — exactly the motif that undercut New Year’s Day.

BANG — he is back in the present.  All of the boxes have been put away, but he has no memory of the last few hours.  Karen suggests ordering pizza, but Stephen says he will walk her home.  He has another vision where he hears a woman scream and sees a her stabbed.  Maybe.

fiechoes41The next day, Stephen has more flashes of a man holding a knife to a woman’s throat. He later hears a woman’s voice calling for Maxie.  He goes upstairs and in the same god-awful lighting sees a woman in the bathroom stripping down.  I try not to purposely be negative in these posts, so I am being honest when I say the woman is singing one of the most annoying, terrible, tuneless songs I have every heard — it doesn’t even make up for the stripping [1].  A few seconds later, he sees her pop to the surface in a bathtub of bloody water.  A hand forces her head back down.[2]

Stephen goes to a psychiatrist and tells him about his unconsummated relationship with Karen and his blackouts.  Under hypnosis, he sees the girl in the tub again, this time soaping herself up and with no blood; but singing that godawful song again.  In the mirror, Stephen sees Max’s face instead of his own.  When the psychiatrist plays back a recording of the session, Stephen is speaking in Max’s voice of killing Zelda.

fiechoes49That night, Stephen awakens to jazz music and sees Max and Zelda bathed in the awful amber lighting. They are playing cards just as Stephen and Karen had played Scrabble [3] moments before.  Once again, Max pulls a knife on her. Stephen tells this to his psychiatrist who hypnotizes him again . . . Max is at a party with Zelda.  She is dressed as a flapper and flirting with some of the other guests as she dances to a song that is almost, but not quite, The Charleston.  Max catches one of the men in the alley and beats him up, then curb stomps him, then kills him.

When Stephen gets home, Karen has thrown a party at his house.  Strangely, there was a lot of man-on-man action at Max & Zelda’s 1920s party, which I doubt would have been tolerated back then, The Shining notwithstanding.  The first two people Stephen sees at his 2009 party are flamingly stereotypically gay which I doubt would be tolerated now. Karen comes down the stairs just as Zelda did, in a flapper dress.  Karen starts flirting with the men just as Zelda did. In the alley, Stephen whacks the guy with a 2 x 4.

fiechoes38This is surely a waste of words but: In a featurette, the director made a point of saying that the walls were painted green in the present, but painted red in the past to reflect the passion of that era.  So why is Zelda’s dress green in the past, and Karen’s dress red in the present? So she did not blend into the back-ground under the awful lighting?

The two timelines, one that already happened and one currently playing out, proceed in parallel to the bloody conclusion.  Thus disproving the cliche that history doesn’t repeat itself, historians repeat each other.  To be honest, I really expected a different outcome in the present.  That would have been a cop-out, so kudos to them for committing.

Another good episode, though somewhat diminished by questionable lighting and editing choices.  It was well-written with an atypical relationship between the leads, Suggestions of reincarnation are sprinkled through-out, but are done subtly enough to not also club us over the head with a 2 x 4.  The track of the parallel timelines is well thought-out.

Special commendation must be given to the performances.  They are uniformly excellent right down to the psychiatrist.  Eric Balfour was menacing as Max and took on a great accent.  Aaron Stanford was great not only as the schlubby, confused Stephen, but also when he was channeling Max.  It was an interesting decision to cast Camille Gauty as both Zelda and Karen, but she pulls off both roles.  I’m not sure there were a lot of Hispanic flappers in the 20s, but that just makes her performance even better.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The song is Crazy He Calls Me.  I like the lyrics and the basic tune, but even Billy Holiday couldn’t do much with it.  It would just be nit-picking to point out Zelda was singing a song that would not be poorly-written for another 25 years.
  • [2] This makes no sense once you know the conclusion.
  • [3] Actually it is a Scrabble doppelganger awesomely called Word Food.
  • Same Director of Photography on both New Year’s Day and this episode. I feel like I’ve been DP’d just watching it.
  • Books on Stephen’s shelf:  The Forest Lover, The President’s Assassin, Prohibition, and The Girl is a Boy.  The first 2 are real, but I can find no record of the last two titles.  Or any relevance to this episode, so why bother to show them? Karen puts The Girl is a Boy on the shelf upside down — she is clearly trans-phobic.
  • Available on YouTube.
fiechoes33a

Why couldn’t this series have continued on Showtime!

 

One thought on “Fear Itself – Echoes (01/24/09)

  1. This is actually one of the episodes that I did like. I’m a nut for stories in which just maybe, we are bought here again doomed to repeat out past indiscretions with no escape . The episode plays you to make you think that Max and then his incarnation, in a fit of rage, murder their respective girlfriends. Yet Max and his reborn spirit can’t escape their ultimate fate.

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