“We love our clichés here. They even come with a soundtrack.”
This Stalker review contains spoilers.
Basically, after the tour de force stalk fest that was ghost stalkers last week, there’s pretty much no way that this week’s episode could live up to last week’s insanity. So it’s even more disappointing when Stalker serves up perhaps the laziest of premises yet, where a wealthy philanthropist, Andrea Brown, feels that she’s being stalked by her ex and his new younger girlfriend. Mid-life crises are hardly the roaming spirits of the dead. In fact, it’s one of the biggest clichés out there, which this episode seems to ensconce itself in.
The idea of taking a bunch of stereotypes and clichés and subverting them with some meta stalker is actually the sort of thing that Kevin Williamson would excel at, that pretty much being what he started in New Nightmare and perfected in the Scream series. But instead we get no commentary, cleverness, or uniqueness here, rather just an episode that drowns in its lack of originality.
Our stalkee du jour, Andrea, finds her house slathered in slurs painted across her walls, along the likes of “vile swine” and “slut witch,” at which point she considers all of this embarrassing enough and so should probably involve the authorities in this.
Stalker continues to wear its gender roles on its sleeve while Andrea is being questioned. Jack tries to push Andrea as to whether there’s still any aspect of her husband that might still love her, and if this stalking could actually be steeped in legitimate adoration. We even get the dialogue, “When you’re a strong woman you’re called callous; a heartless bitch” as women are again stereotyped and marginalized into being damned if they do or damned if they don’t.
Speaking of which, it’s weird to see Janice stepping up and practically usurping Beth as Jack’s partner this week. Beth is still there, sure, but her backseat role is curious. With Beth painted as the more reserved and closed off character, Janice has gotten to absorb all of Jack’s sexual tension. By giving her that as well as a pretty strong voice here, it feels like this might be some sort of response to the audience reacting more positively to Janice just because she’s actually been given something to do through this series, even if that something is a frivolous sex object.
Again, we go down the typical route of the jilted ex being the main suspect by the TAU until he tells them of someone else who might be more stalker-ly. In this case, Kenneth argues that he’s not the criminal here because he wants Andrea out of his life, not prolonging their relationship through a stalkship. Matters then heat up for Andrea significantly when her victimizing moves from graffiti threats to bible passage spouting packages containing dead dogs.
Matters also heat up with Jack and Amanda as she figures out that he’s been keeping tabs on their son. She keeps the theme of clichés running strong by shouting things at him like how he might be Trent’s biological dad, but that he knows nothing about being a father, as we learn that Jack’s big no-no that he’s been keeping secret is that he slept with a key witness in the Roberts trial (gasp!) but then she also knew and stayed silent on the matter (double gasp!). This is hardly as engaging as say learning that Jack’s secret was that he was a master stalker or murdered dozens of innocents, but at least we’re moving forward in this territory. It’s a big deal because we’re told it’s a big deal.
Later on, Jack convinces Amanda to let him stay in the city and keeping her mouth shut by saying that people can change and therefore so will he, and mentioning random things about his dad having died recently so any invasions of privacy that have gone on with their son should be overlooked. These Jack and Amanda confrontations always seem to turn the melodrama dial up to eleven, and they’re still not feeling any more natural.
While there’s nothing that exciting going on here, the unhinged nature of Kenneth is enjoyable enough and a pretty fun chaotic mess. There is also a weird amount of slapping done in this episode. It happens on three or four separate occasions, almost as if the TAU had a quota to uphold or something.
In the end we do get a decent enough development that Andrea is actually without a stalker at all but in fact faking all of this as a means to frame Kenneth and his new beau, going as far as killing her own dog to make it convincing. It’s a fun enough reveal (and reminiscent of a certain major motion picture that stormed the box offices over the past few months…) and actually one of the more layered conclusions that we’ve gotten on a Stalker episode, but it does still devolve into painting Andrea into an obsessed, psychotic, lovelorn shrew. As soon as Andrea is given the intelligence and wherewithal to pull off a stunt so massive, she’s simultaneously neutered into a pouting reject. She asks Jack why men cheat and he tells her it’s because everybody’s broken. Andrea continues to live in denial as she insists that people can be fixed and changed, as she gets more unstable and volatile.
Stalker is still the most mixed of bags at this point as it tows the line between being deliriously ridiculous or just plain boring, with this being one of the duller entries so far. With a full season order to fulfill though, we’re going to have a lot more time to play around with what this show should and shouldn’t be doing.
Oh, and Jack’s a Pearl Jam man just in case you were wondering what he’s listening to when he’s creeping on his boy.
“Stalk” count: 7