Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In Which I Review Dead of Summer (1x9)

Cages get a bit of a bad reputation. Here in the post (post?) modern 21st century era, we tend to romanticize the concept of freedom. Out there, beyond the confines of people, society, law, and order, we are free to be you and me. Here's the problem; what if this freer version of you is actually a homicidal maniac who delights in blood, mayhem, and dismembering your peers? Would you really want someone like that free and exposed? Probably not. In fact we built cages--euphemistically called prisons--to house and contain such peoples. But sometimes, oh but sometimes, they get out. In this week's episode, "Home Sweet Home," we are given good, sound reason for the advancement of cages and keeping doors locked. It's when we open those doors, when we unlock the bolts, when we free that which is contained within, that we are met with untold horrors and unspeakable bloodshed. Grab an ax, grab a mask, and grab some holy water---we're in for an exorcism! 

Sweet little Amy Hughes, she of the soft smile and simpering demeanor, is a cold blooded thug and ruffian who would bathe in the blood of untold millions in a heartbeat. I have made my dislike for Amy and, running in tandem with that, the way Elizabeth Lail plays her, quite well known. Amy has consistently comes across, week after week, as having no discernible personality, no oomph in her performance, and no hook to her character. She was simply a haunted girl looking for a fresh start and hoped that it would come about at a idyllic lakeside camp full of friends and marshmallows. Unlike last week's lack luster reveal that Holyoake was a white hat and not a proverbial black hat (yes, in spite of him actually wearing a black hat...) the denouement that Amy is a murderous psychopath who welcomed the demon called Malphas as part of her being, was actually an eyebrow raiser and a stunner. You see, that's not quite how the cliche goes. Amy is the good girl who gets corrupted and then is saved by her own purity of soul, her friends, and--most often in these early pseudo-feminist pieces told through the male perspective--a boyfriend or love interest who battles the forces without to save his lady love. Amy, in the true nature of the trope, would awaken from her possessed demonic slumber a shinning virginal princess who can now cross safely through the world because she was tested, tried, and ultimately survived the wilderness. Usually there's a sunset involved--literal and metaphorical. But in this week's episode, Amy isn't our good girl gone bad and she's not the princess locked in a tower. Camp Stillwater is Amy's life, uncaged. There were a lot of clues--both visually any through dialogue--that we should be thinking about cages and their importance to the idea of safety and security. Amy/Malphas straining against the ropes; the bus driver opening the bus door, only to be feasted upon by bloody rain; the specter of Deb thanking the campers for "opening the door" before her eyes flashed black; young Amy locked away in the garage while her family died of carbon monoxide poisoning and young Amy insisting that freedom was the best thing for the gerbil, even if freedom meant the garbage disposal and a swift death for the rodent. The cage, in this episode, is equated to safety and security. As long as Amy/Malphas stays locked up in the tiny cabin, everyone is safe. It's as soon as those ropes are cast away, as soon as the door is unlocked, that Amy and her demon buddy can hack up camp counselors with an ax (side note--holy gory visuals, Batman!) What I think I like most, though, about this turn of events is that the hope for Amy and her recovery--back to the simpering girl we thought she was--is next to nothing. Amy isn't in danger; her soul hasn't been tarnished and is not being held hostage (in a cage!) by Malphas. Amy really is this deranged; she really is this dark. This is what freedom is for Amy; Malphas isn't the warden holding Amy in a cage; he's freed her to be her best (worst?) self. And Amy...well. She has no intention of going back into her conformist cage. Look out, left over campers. Something tells me you're in for a rough season finale.

Miscellaneous Notes on Home Sweet Home

--This was easily the best episode of the season and certainly the best since Drew's centric. Does this episode make up for the blah nature of those that came before? Not really, but it's a step in the right direction.

--RIP Deb? But I'm guessing we haven't seen the last of her yet. And I bet there's more to our camp leader than meets the eye.

--Really wonderful (and wonderfully cheesy) special effects with the bloody rain.

--Garrett's Latin needs some work.

--So do Drew and Blair play any part at all in the actual story or were they just there as part of some diversity quota?

--Final death predictions? I suspect one more camper will die (Alex) and I think Amy will bite the dust, both her dark soul and the demon Malphas going down to the watery depths of Camp Stillwater to wait for another opportunity to rise. Jessie and Garrett will marry, move on to the camp property and keep a watchful eye for anyone who might awake the demon.

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