Reviewed: The Pest House
Contributor: The Polaroid Stalker
Synopsis: Frank and Peter investigate a series of grisly killings near a secluded insane asylum, in which each crime mimics the modus operandi of a violent inmate who was safely incarcerated at the time of the killing.
The Stalker's Review: I have stated again and again that Glen Morgan and James Wong are the best writers to have worked for "MillenniuM," even though Chris Carter is a close second. The Wongs seem to have a unique talent for developing great storylines and characters, while creating complex plots that cannot be explained as well when written by other writers. Which leaves me amazed as to how they managed to write something so awful as "The Pest House."
Don't get me wrong. I think "The Pest House" is a helluva lot better than some third-season episodes ("Human Essence," you know who you are!). However, this episode is probably the second worst of the second season ("A Single Blade of Grass" is the major offender). And coming from Morgan and Wong, I have to ask: were you on drugs or something when you cranked this episode out?!
The victims of the first and second murder scenes and the relatively high blood-guts-and-gore quotient makes me think that perhaps Morgan and Wong were deliberately aiming a little lower and trying to weave together an old-fashioned action/horror yarn here. And some of this is kind of scary at some point, such as the cliched pursuit through the dark hallways of the mental hospital after the power is cut.
Unfortunately, the dynamic duo make some of the same mistakes often associated with the horror genre. Most notably, being really stupid behavior on part of the major players.
The worst offender here is Dr. Stoller (Melinda McGraw, aka Melissa Scully of "X-Files"). She does little but obstruct Frank in his investigation. After the dismembered hand is found in the stew pot, she still vehemently tries to deny that one of her patients must be responsible, even though she acknowledges that someone in the hospital must be the killer. And even when Frank warns her that she herself may be in danger, she still just ignores him and even ridicules him. Maybe the episode would have been better if she went the way of Melissa Scully and got killed.
In this episode, Peter Watts seems to revert back to his old first season sidekick role again. Good grief, after episodes like "The Hand of Saint Sebastian" and "Luminary," they should have written a better part for this guy. Jeez, couldn't they make him more of a major part in the storyline instead of some guy shunted to the side during the episode?
The mental institution, nicknamed the Pest House, allows its maximum-security patients to wander around and interact with other inmates as they please. Somebody really needs to take a close look at how Dr. Stoller runs this place. They need to revoke her license or something.
In one scene, a patient named Purdue tells a nervous, suicidal woman that snakes are burrowing into her arm, and she sees her skin "rippling" with snakes, so she takes a knife (why they let her have access to one is beyond me) and slashes her arm to attack the imaginary snakes. Another nutcase named Bear sees the blood and tries to bite her arm off. He is put in confinement after the incident--and then allowed to go for a walk a few hours afterwards? Now they REALLY need to investigate Dr. Stoller's methods.
And just when I thought things couldn't get worse, I saw the third act. Frank, realizing that the killer is hiding in the back of Stoller's car, follows her to a deserted gas station. The nameless attendant (in the serial killer-horror shticks of past movies, the minor characters whose names are never mentioned usually meet a gruesome fate) sees the killer, and ushers Frank and the psychiatrist both inside. Then, they walk back outside, and see the car is empty. So they take a quick look around, and come up empty-handed. So they drive away.
Question: Where did they think the killer had gone? Did he materialize and disappeared into thin air? There is no surprise that the gas station attendant, whom the two of them left behind to call the police, gets attacked and butchered by the killer. I mean, good lord, Frank could have at least at the sense to go, "Hey, kid, it's not safe here. You'd better come with us." That would have been the smart thing to do. But no, we have to leave the poor guy to end up getting hacked to death.
Despite the terrible third act and the rest of the episode, Morgan and Wong decide to wake up, and manage to produce a reasonably good final act. It is revealed that the killer is not an inmate, but a male nurse named Edward. Edward, played by Justin Louis ("Hidden Hills," "The Notorious 7"), somehow has the ability to remove the violent impulses from the patients' minds, but found them conquering his own psyche, driving him to murder.
This also leads to a very interesting twist, in that the one who meant to put a stop to the evil is the one who ended up propagating it. And the one who finally ends it is Purdue, who is furious at having his own evil impulses removed and finally kills Edward. Finally, Morgan and Wong make this episode actually watchable.
The reason I think this episode actually deserves not to be placed at the bottom of the list is because it's a Legion episode. I know many people don't think so, because evil never really interacts directly with Frank. But I believe Edward could be a manifestation of Legion, trying to remove the violent impulses from patients and exact them on innocents. I could see that as a possibility.
My rating: Three severed hands in the stew out of five.
-- The Stalker