Reviewed: A Room With No View
Contributor: The Polaroid Stalker
Synopsis: When a teenager, Landon Bryce, disappears after a friend of his dies under bizarre circumstances, Giebelhouse brings Frank and Watts into the investigation. Frank's gift soon points him toward Lucy Butler, who has been kidnapping young people with leadership potential and brainwashing them into becoming "mediocre."
The Stalker's Review: After seeing last season's very scary (and extremely talented) episode "Lamentation," I was literally praying that the episode's main antagonist, Lucy Butler, would make an encore appearance in Season Two. And my prayers were answered, but not quite in the format I was hoping for.
The episode opens in gripping suspense, as a teenage boy scrambles out of a hole in the ground as Paul Mauriat's "Love Is Blue" (a song that we will hear throughout this episode) plays in the background. He comes across an abandoned Chevy Impala, and it seems that he's escaped from whatever he's afraid of, when suddenly the car starts and knocks him to the ground. From the car emerges... *gasp* Lucy Butler! Lucy delivers a lecture about love before she shoves him, screaming, into the car's trunk.
When another boy named Landon Bryce (portrayed by Chris Masterson of "Malcolm in the Middle" fame) is abducted and his best friend dies of a suspicious heart attack, Frank and Watts are drawn in, with the aid of Detective Giebelhouse. Here's one quibble: Since Bletcher's murder affected Giebelhouse so profoundly, wouldn't it have been a good idea to make him seem a bit more developed, rather than like a sort of Andy Sipowicz character?
Meanwhile, the story seems to be coming into clarity. Lucy has abducted a number of teenagers whom she, along with the help of a high school guidance counselor who's in her back pocket, has identified as possessing a special "spark" of creativity and leadership that could make them especially influential among their peers. But in her little prison, Lucy is subjecting the kids to a form of brainwashing, mixing brutal authority and captivity with what she professes to be her love for them, in an attempt to make them into indifferent, lifeless, "mediocre" drones for the rest of their lives, with a little aid from Paul Mauriat's song -- because it plays 24-7 in her little prison.
This episode scored some points in its favor. The biggest point? Lucy wasn't the only Legion guise making an encore appearance! No, the winged Gehenna Devil is in here, as well as the Long-Haired Man that Catherine Black saw in her house in "Lamentation!" I suspect that the long-haired guy might be a contrast to Lucy's seductiveness.
There are some problems here, as well. The major one involves Lucy herself. In "Lamentation," Lucy was established as a major player in the battle of good versus evil. She set out to try and frighten Frank, another vital player of the opposite side, to step away, by murdering Bob Bletcher, Frank's best friend, and hanging him in the rafters of the basement. However, in this episode, the brainwashing project seems to be something that one of Legion's patsies would probably run, not Lucy. In "Lamentation" and later in Season Three's "Antipas," she was a direct form of intimidation, not one who would manipulate those she is trying to brainwashing, which could take years. I think Lucy Butler is a wasted character in "A Room With No View."
The other major problem is that the episode is constantly switching in two different tracks. One, we're trying to establish that the educational system is unfair, and forces promising youngsters into a sort of mediocre drone-age (is that a word?). Another, it tries to provide that "Lamentation"-like shocking evil. The unfortunate result is that things tend to slow to a halt whenever Frank shows up. Their investigation is standard, mostly revolving around the guidance counselor's incriminating slip of the tongue, at least once they get past an initial search for Lucy that concludes with a thoroughly horrifying scene of a dead Millennium Group member, having been captured by Lucy, tortured, and eventually killed, his face now swarming with maggots. Frightening, maybe even nauseating, but to what measure?
Sarah-Jane Redmond, meanwhile, turns in her routine chilling performance as everyone's favorite Legion manifestation. Putting aside the whole question of whether or not she belonged in this episode in the first place, her presence is just as chilling as ever, switching with ease between merciless captor and the kind-hearted provider come to bring "love" to all those under her custody.
Perhaps her best scene, for sheer unexpectedness if nothing else, comes when she catches Landon and his cellmate (the screwed-up guy from earlier) trying to escape and tells them that they will be rewarded with a better room. "Disloyalty is an important trait of the mediocre," she observes. The revelation from the newspaper headline that Frank finds, namely that she was apparently kidnapped and brainwashed herself back in the 1910s, is somewhat interesting for the way it touches upon the question of exactly who or what she is, but given my mixed feelings about the kidnapping plot in the first place, I'm not sure if it's wise to try to explain Lucy in this way. Ken Horton could have come up with something better.
Still, overall, I find that "A Room With No View" is a decent episode. It's not what I'd consider a classic "MillenniuM" episode, but it still sends the ol' chill down the spine when Lucy turns up on screen.
My rating: Three-and-a-half dead Group members out of five.
-- The Stalker