Synopsis of 1×04: Gordon Rivers loses it over a girl. Dirk and Todd make their way through a maze of puzzles only they can solve. Three white dudes stare down all the women, and it’s really awkward. 

This episode opens from the kidnapped FBI agents’s point of view. He’s in a mask of sorts, he sees Gordon holding a mouse, and then shooting Ed-Ned-Zed (these three dudes are so interchangeable.) ENZ is chained to the wall and shot in the head. It’s not a strong start to a show that’s trying to be a murder mystery. And it’s not a start that makes me want to continue to watch Gordon. But alas, here we are with “Watkins.” 

Most of this week focuses around Todd and Dirk escaping a “death maze” set up by Patrick Spring. After last week’s discovery of a map of underground electrical wiring and the admission of the town of Springsborough, our heroes head toward an abandoned electrical shed hidden in plain sight. Dirk attempts to jump the fence (“Todd, touch my bum; it’ll get me higher!”).

Using the lever found in the basement of the Spring estate, Todd and Dirk manage to get themselves trapped in a strange maze of terrors. And by terrors, I mean death rooms ripped from pop culture. First, there’s the lightbulb room. As soon as Todd and Dirk step into the room, the walls start to close in a la a Death Star trash compactor.

Their attempts to escape include A) touching the hot walls, B) smashing the light bulbs) and C) using the lightbulb from the basement, dubbed the Everbulb. The Everbulb, by my account, should have been smashed when Todd used Dirk’s jacket to smash the other bulbs. But since “everything is how it’s meant to be” the bulb doesn’t smash into a million sharp, pokey pieces. Instead it opens a door.

[bbc america]
[bbc america]

The next room has a sculpture of Pepe the Rhino (mentioned in the zoo conversation at the estate in the last episode). There’s a horn in the middle of the room and a sculpture of Pepe’s head, hornless, on the door. When just the horn is touched, the door proceeds to form a rhino head that electrocutes Dirk and Todd. If you can’t imagine that, just think of the rhino from the James and the Giant Peach movie. You know the one. We all had nightmares about it as kids. 

Todd, who has electrocuted himself many times plugging in his guitar, figures out that they have to connect the horn to the head, creating a human current of conductivity. Clever Todd.

The last room, which is right next to the Ridgely, Todd’s apartment building, is filled with TVs all powered by a machine. Perhaps is it The Machine? The TV’s come up with different images and Dirk is able to link them together. Suddenly a map appears and then an explosion. And by explosion, I mean an electrical fire that leaves Dirk and Todd cowering on the floor.

Where has Farrah been the whole time? With Amanda at Todd’s apartment. They’ve been dealing with a creepy, stalker FBI agent. You know, Nathan who now is possessed by Ed-Ned-Zed. Nathan, after a strange, but kind-of funny scene with Estevez and Eyebrows, finds out that they’ve released Todd. Nathan/ENZ clearly doesn’t know how to be a human, and the result is both hilarious and terrifying.

So when FBI ENZ show up at Amanda’s apartment, it’s very stalker-esque. When he walks into the apartment because the door is broken, it’s unnerving. And when Farrah looks like she’s got everything under control, he turns against her. Somehow he delves into her deepest insecurities about never making it to the FBI herself. She’s able to scare him off, but it doesn’t bode well for the tone of the show. 

After Farah and the FBI showdown, Amanda has an delusional attack. Well, almost. The smoke she’s smelling is not imagined, but totally real. Following the scent, Farah find the wall where Dirk and Todd are trapped. That is, until the sudden arrival of the Rowdy Three. The man obsessed with Amanda stares at her while his compadres tear down the wall, freeing Dirk and Todd. Dirk’s chi is sucked out of him, but it sounds like the price to pay. 

During their post-adventure-post-mortem, Amanda realizes that the hallucinations she had (after the Rowdy Three sucked her chi) was in fact a vision of the map and how to achieve it. So they return to the basement and the TV’s and the machine. Amanda places the lever into the Machine and the map reappears. This time there is no fire; instead there’s a message. “Save her, Todd and Dirk.” 

The last storyline to follow is Gordon. After Gordon gets rid of the FBI agent’s soul, by having Lydia-Dog eat the mouse the soul is trapped in, he heads to the bar. At the bar is Sammy, the ex-lover of one Lux Du’Jour. Since being re-designated to Gordon, he’s made friends with her.

Of course, she doesn’t know that Lux was always the Supreme Being, who now is Gordon. But Gordon, who reminds me of the worst type of fuckboy, proceeds to bother this acquaintance who doesn’t want to talk to him. He even brings her a gift: Lux’s yak fur jacket. She immediately recognizes it and starts to question Gordon. He promises to explain everything if she follows him.

He takes her back to the room at the beginning of this episode. There, he’s laid out some of Lux’s things: guitars, clothes, music. Sammy begins crying, convinced that Gordon is the one who kidnapped Lux. And finally, Gordon gives us some sort of  explanation for the body-switching.

Turns out 50 years ago, these Beings figured out they could change souls with others. They started with animals, but moved onto people. Rich people. People like Lux. They used a machine that resembles a record player, one that is clearly linked to the one Dirk and Todd found. Where did these Beings come from and what did they really want? We still don’t know.

What we do know is that Gordon has complied his band of cronies to watch him fully give up his old life and violently murder Sammy, by smashing her head with a guitar. It’s like the start to a bad episode of Law and Order: SVU – Supernatural Edition. And it’s a workshop in how NOT to treat female characters. Sammy fails all of the Lady-Character tests for what a female character should be: The Bechdel, the Sexy Lamp, and the Mako Mori. Meanwhile, Farah and Amanda pass with soaring colors.

That being said, and maybe it’s just my feelings post-election, but watching three different white dudes stare down different women (a white woman, a black woman, and a woman with a disability) was almost unnerving. It’s was rape-y.

And this show doesn’t do a good job of world-building. It leaves more plot-holes than answers and it’s schizophrenic in its style. It’s trying to sell me Doctor Who (Dirk and Todd) and Walking Dead season 1 and season 5 (Bart/Ken and Gordon respectively) in the same show. 

The violence of the past two episodes doesn’t match the tone of Dirk’s mystery plot. I don’t know if Max Landis is trying to be clever in this manner, as a way of deconstructing traditional TV paradigms. But if that’s the case it doesn’t work.

It’s sloppy, it’s littered with bad tropes, and it’s frankly bad storytelling. Next week, we’ll go back to the Buddy-Road-Trip, with Dirk and Todd following the map to Skaget Valley, and the possible return of holistic assassin Bart Curlish and her sidekick Ken. 

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