“Oh let me guess, you watch The Good Wife?”
Okay, let’s dig into this one, guys. The story is simple enough, an actress, Nina Preston (AnnaLynne McCord), is terrorized in her home by a stalker, in a plot that you could have sworn was already done on Stalker during its limited life.
It’s the sort of typical, rote episode that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a show like Stalker in the first place. Who’s more likely to have a stalker than some attractive, vapid celebrity? And so that’s where we’re at: we might as well just have AnnaLynne playing herself in the episode, just so some level of simulacrum and reflexivity is gained here rather than it being what it is.
Nina is the star of a very popular, albeit run of the mill, gothic teen drama named Savage Shore, where her character is in love with a disfigured person (and gasp, the stalker suspect is wearing a burn victim mask!). It’s considerably reductive that Janice is also a rambling fan of the show, devolving into a fangirl instead of doing her job, whenever the details of the series are mentioned (which happens a lot). That being said, it is a lot of fun to see the minutiae and plot twists of Savage Shore debated (how about that season-long coma cliffhanger in season four, right?), but on a character level, Janice should be able to better keep her professionalism in check.
And while on the topic, I understand that this is supposed to be an episode about the dangers of fandom and going too far, but it takes a really close-minded perspective on fandom overall. Any fan is more or less considered “insane” and “crazy” with intricate knowledge of Savage Shore being seen as psychotic rather than passionate.
Fans of the show are only shown as roleplaying lunatics that can’t tell fantasy from reality. This is hardly a new perspective to be taken, but a real conversation could have been had here about legitimate fandom and the kind that goes too far, rather than lumping all of it under the umbrella of dangerous. I guess we know what to think of the people that are Stalker fanatics, apparently.
But on the brighter side, we do keep digging deeper into Beth’s life, with Perry acting as our creepy conduit. Stuff like Beth being sent harassing letters that threaten to expose her secrets, as cliché as they might be, are at least the sort of things I want to be getting from this show. It’s movement forward, as silly as it is, and let’s just see where this buried past of Beth takes us.
Perry is also well on the way to messing with Beth even further as he gets her phone number and address from Beth’s simple friend that’s being played the fool by her “boy toy.” All of this culminates with Perry actually going into Beth’s home in this episode, listening to music and ostensibly making himself at home as he “plays Beth” by rifling through her things and even sleeping in her bed.
This stuff is working at the moment, but it’s been the same beats for a few weeks now and hopefully it’ll either come to a head soon or at least change its course. And where has all of the “Jack the Super Stalker” material been lately? This Perry progression is wonderful, but I think we could all use more of Jack brooding and sidling through bushes.
All of this could at least be handled a little more intelligently. We see Beth seemingly wholly preoccupied with the blackmail-ish in nature mail she gets, but of course forgets to hide or do anything with it once Jack enters (who utters the wonderful line after noticing it, “I’m not being nosey. There’s big letters, I could read it from here.”), and then in a flustered mess decides to hide them. Jack then gives Beth’s desk a look that pretty much screams, “Yeah, I’m going to come back here later and invade your privacy to see what’s going on.”
I have to hand it to Stalker for still being able to have creepy stalker-following-prey scenes, as our victimizers move out of focus in the background just as our prey search for safety up close and center. Almost every episode has had one of these scenes, and they still work, and they still manage to do something different in the composition and camerawork each time. There’s a super-cut somewhere waiting to happen.
Almost as popular has been the show’s propensity in having their stalkers wear minimalist creepy masks, again being done this weekly. Or the show’s use of trotting out an overly thematic cover as the episode closes (this week it’s “I Want You to Want Me”).
We’re also still getting scenes like Beth and her friend talking about sex and the friend saying, “See, I follow directions” with Beth responding, “Good, girl.” These are our most mature, independent female characters on the show, and even they can’t help but be rendered to listless, submissive objects.
As the TAU starts suspecting the paparazzi and Heather Miller, Nina’s number-one crazed fan and former stalker, we’re also given plenty of evidence that Nina has been succulent stalk-bait for awhile now, and that the Internet is full of fans who know tons about her.
While this might seem obvious to you or me, it seems to be a pretty big revelation to the TAU crew, almost being surprised that a celebrity would have their privacy invaded so hard. Stalker has done ridiculous in the right way before (see ghost stalkers), but this almost complete ignorance to one of the most obvious areas that the show would get into is pretty frustrating. We don’t need our time wasted with information like that Nina had “three million Twitter followers and even more on Instagram!” We get that she would, because she’s the star of a popular TV show.
It’s at least to this show’s credit that Emily, Nina’s sister and manager, doesn’t end up being the stalker in the end, because as soon as she’s seen, it feels like she’s being used as the “surprise” bait to be revealed as the culprit in the end. Fortunately the show has a little more up its sleeve, but it’s still not past relegating Emily as more collateral damage, as she’s nearly bludgeoned with a tire iron and then hit with a car.
The TAU’s leading theory is that whoever is stalking Nina, they’re trying to foster some sort of love connection with her, which is what they start moving off of. Eventually it’s concluded that all of the crimes being committed are actually references to Savage Shore, with the stalker re-enacting scenes from the show acting from the perspective of Paul, the disfigured character. He’s been doing all of this to help Nina. To protect her. All of this cements the idea that’s being pushed forward here that all fans are psychopaths with references to Savage Shore even acting as evidence in their case!
It’s not until a little past the middle of the episode that we start getting a glimpse of the stalker’s home life, and it’s this material that especially resonates. There’s a great, unhinged performance being given here that definitely injects some fear into the stalker that’s been absent in past weeks. We see the man, Robert Dalton (or Robbie, as his mother likes to call him), being overly mothered by his mom, not taking his medication, and being all-around coddled and creepy as he stares out with his wide dead eyes and his slacked jaw hangs loose. He even has a “man cave” of Savage Shore merchandise (that also contains an overly convenient full bag of untaken medication).
It’s easy to make this sort of material have weight to it and it’s why it’s a well that’s so deeply drawn from. Yet, it made me wonder why Stalker hasn’t done more episodes that are primarily from the stalker’s perspective? Or even switching back and forth every episode? Even The X-Files eventually did a monster-of-the-week from the monster’s POV, and was all the better for it. I get that the point of this show is to catch these criminals, but you could even do a better job dissecting and explaining these sort of people by focusing mainly on them. It’s a structure that would do wonders if they chose to adopt it.
As everything shakes out in the end, we’re given the final twist that Robert’s mother has been feeding his delusion for nearly as long as he’s had it and that she’s even more dangerous than him.
As Robert is apprehended, his mother goes on a vengeance spree on the Savage Shore lots, determined to take out Nina as the ultimate bully to her boy. Don’t worry though, Nina effectively manages to hold her off by scalding her in the face with tea. Yep, she throws tea in her face, rather than say, the other viable option of smashing her in the head with the ceramic mug she’s holding.
Hey, with Robbie’s mother having a burned face, that’d make her even more like Paul from Savage Sh—zzzzzzzzz.