666 Park Avenue Review: "A Crowd of Demons" (Episode 1.05)
Step 1: Introduce a monster of some sort that will cause havoc at The Drake this week.
Step 2: Have a few scenes of sexual excitement and/or possibilities of cheating.
Step 3: Throw some sort of event or party.
Step 4: Once everything is solved at the end of the episode, have a cheesy slow-motion montage showing all the characters dealing with what they’ve learned.
This has been the formula that 666 Park Avenue has started to stick to in its first few episodes, and it’s already starting to feel tired. 666 has sold itself as a horror show, but also one with soapy elements, but it fails in both aspects. Both scary and soapy shows can rely on the fact that they can make almost anything happen and have it make sense in the universe that they’ve created. Horror shows can have everything from blood-crying nuns in American Horror Story to people hanging onto airplane wings in The Twilight Zone, while soaps can give characters amnesia, kill off and bring back characters and have huge changes week from week. But instead of being like either of these genres, 666 Park Avenue is beginning to become more like a serialized show, like the cop dramas strewn around CBS, than anything scary or soapy in any way.
“A Crowd of Demons” should have promise, since it is the show’s first Halloween episode and centers around a husband murdering his wife with a hatchet while his daughter watches her die. It’s some pretty screwed-up stuff. But the episode focuses more on the Halloween party that Olivia is throwing at The Drake. Meanwhile Henry is living out his 15 minutes of fame after the shooting at the party last week and Laurel, a media consultant, wants to turn Henry’s 15 minutes into a lifetime. While all of this is happening, Gavin receives threatening texts, Brian is now worrying his wife is cheating on him with a doctor and Jane is still seeing little dead girls.
A few episodes ago, 666 Park Avenue hinted that Jane would be in a dire crisis when she puts on her red dress purchased by Olivia and will run away from someone trying to attack her. This seemed like a flash-forward look at something that would happen near the end of the season, possibly even a season finale where we see Jane running away, uncertain of her fate. But in this episode, we see the conclusion to this story, as it’s nothing more than a look ahead a few episodes into the future. It’s a cheap ploy that seems like giving important future information, but rather is just the benefit of having a few episodes finished so that the show can try to look smarter than it actually is.
Besides the fact that 666 Park Avenue is having a problem breaking out of its week-to-week mold, the show’s biggest problem may just be telling long-form stories. There’s no real problem that isn’t solved a few episodes down the line. The relationships between Gavin and Henry for Gavin’s soul or between Brian, Louise and the temptation of Alexis have some potential, but they just seem to be going around in circles.
This inability to tell longer mysteries reminds me of the shows that followed in the wake of Terry O’Quinn’s last show, Lost. What made Lost so compelling— and frustrating to people who didn’t have the patience—was its ability to have unanswered questions that lasted seasons and seasons. Shows that came after Lost had the problem of not being able to tell stories in a similar way, instead giving audiences the answers that they wanted faster than Lost ever did. However most of these shows were canceled due to this. 666 Park Avenue is starting to feel like one of those shows, not being able to keep compelling stories going for more than a few weeks at a time, while also having a hard time getting stuck in a serialized rut. There’s plenty of craziness and unique flavor that could be thrown into 666 Park Avenue, and it needs to utilize its potential before it’s too late.