Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In Which I Review Dead of Summer (1x5)

So, how do you stay alive in the woods? Easy; by not going into them! Obviously none of the campers in this week's episode "How To Stay Alive In The Woods" know this very basic rule that is made apparent in every horror movie made. If you suspect your childhood camp of housing Satanic rituals, murderers, and possibly demonic entities then Common Sense 101 means you stay in a public, well lit area with lots of witnesses. But of course, the gang ventured into the woods for "reasons." This show is one inorganic plot point after the next; it pushes its characters into situations for no logical reason other than the writers need something to happen to advance their plot. It's a shoddy writing practice because it means I can't trust what the writers tell me about a character from week to week. Cricket decided she wanted a mix tape type of relationship and had moved past Alex, accepting that a one night stand wasn't in her deck of cards. But this week, after this revelation and coming to terms with it, Cricket is persuaded to go meet Alex in the woods--not because it made sense for her character (she's barely interacted with Alex since their almost tryst) but because the writers needed to kill a character and her number was up. Oh, and Joel got a flashback this week. Grab your trusty video camera and let's go!

Do you feel like you know and understand Joel as a character? I don't. Very early on it was established that Joel is the "watcher" type; his video camera is never far from his hands and he delights in movies, direction, and trying to tell a story. All of those characteristics are intriguing enough to get a character off the ground but from there you need to flesh him out; you need to show me why videos, movies, and capturing the narrative through the medium of a lens is so important to said character, and that's where the flashback comes in. The narrative device of the flashback is a tricky one; often times they are vital and thus far "Dead of Summer" has actually tried to make the flashbacks relevant to their character work. Amy is a loner who lost her only friend; Alex is a con artist; Cricket is insecure and Drew cannot find acceptance for who he is. All of that works to explain their present day situations. The story for Joel should have added some much needed weight to his character but it simply failed to deliver. I still don't know why Joel likes to film as much as he does. Sure, you could argue that he was simply into movies and decided to give it a whirl, but for a kid to decide on their career path that early on--he was roughly 9 in our first flashback and already talking about Oscars--to the extent that he begin to film everything around them, there has to be more than just a passing curiosity. Joel's love affair with film and shooting his reality is given the rather dubious explanation in the present day that his camera is the only way he could know the truth after his brother Michael died via suicide but we already know that Joel was filming everything long before Michael died and Joel himself began to see the Tall Man. Instead of highlighting who Joel is at his core (maybe romantic artistic, maybe obsessed with perceptions and how people present themselves both when someone is looking and when someone is not and thus somewhat cynical of the world around him) we get a half-hearted truth that feels like an afterthought for both the writers and the character. There is nothing to grasp onto with Joel other than a love of film making, that goes woefully unexplored, and a bout of paranoia over visions that we, the audience, already know are very real because the first scene of the entire series is the death of Holyoake at the hands of the villagers. There is no narrative tension; we are not left wondering if maybe Joe has some sort of psychosis because all the episodes leading up to this one have already solidified the mythology that Holyoake as real and ever present. As for why Joel is seeing Holyoake, I have no idea but it's not a far leap in logic to notice that both Holyoake, Michael (who was seeing the Tall Man before his suicide), and Joel have one thing in common that no one else shares: their skin tone. Anyone wanna place some money on Joel being a distant relation to the Tall Man and thus linked to him because of blood? Don't really need a fancy video camera to find the truth in that; it seems all but inevitable.

 Miscellaneous Notes on How To Stay Alive In The Woods

--Why does the Tall Man want Amy to die? I don't really know but it could have something to do with her needing to read a manual to roast a marshmallow.

--It is interesting that neither Amy nor Deb seem to remember their romantic encounters from the night before, though I suspect Deb is faking and Amy's confusion is genuine.

--So there are bear traps in the woods but these campers have been running around, in the dark, since day one and Cricket is the first to fall victim to it? Also, parents are letting their kids go to a summer camp that has bear traps cleverly hidden in the woods?

--"Have fun pitching Deb's tent." Ew.

--Garrett finds a ring in the cabin with the initials JS and instantly deduces that the ring had to belong to his father and was there because his father was investigating the mystery of Camp Stillwater. Sure, Garrett. Whatever gets you through the day.

--God bless those ugly 80s prom dresses. Oof.

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