Saturday, October 14, 2017

TV Show Review: Room 104

A hotel room can be so much more than just a place to spend the night. It can be a home, a workplace, a church, bomb-making factory or a fighting ring, and in Jay and Mark Duplass's new HBO series, these possibilities are explored in twelve thirty-minute episodes. The series goes from religious to horror to dramatic to romantic and I never knew what to expect when starting each episode. The first episode is a horror of sorts when a young woman Meg (Melonie Diaz) arrives at Room 104 to babysit an odd boy who seems to have a split personality. In the second a pizza boy Jarod (Clark Duke) gets trapped in a couple's strange game as Scott (James Van Der Beek) and Jennifer (Davie-Blue) have other plans than just eating, but the episode concludes with a surprising twist.

The third episode, The Knockadoo, sees a woman Deborah (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) attends a strange ritual for a cult religion performed by a priest Samuel (Orlando Jones) including videos of a man known as The Father (Tony Todd). The next episode has a man Daniel (Jay Duplass) cope with guilt as he's visited by the ghost of his best friend Patrick (Will Tranfo) who drowned while they were out swimming years ago. The fifth episode, one of my favorite, The Internet shows the complex nature of a young man Anish (Karan Soni) trying to explain to his mother over the phone how to send a document of his novel by email. This anxiety-inducing episode also has a surprise ending that is as shocking as it is emotional. 

The sixth episode went over my head as a young woman (Sarah Hay) dances with the housekeeper (Dendrie Taylor). The Missionaries, the seventh episode, was also one of the more enjoyable ones is about two Mormon missionaries Noah (Adam Foster) and Joseph (Nat Wolff) exploring the forbidden things but there are consequences. A bizarre eighth episode, Phoenix, has the survivor of a plane crash Joan (Amy Landecker) deal with the trauma and an interview with a reporter Liza (Mae Whitman). A tennis play Boris (Konstantin Lavysh) confesses the trauma of his past to the housekeeper Rosa (Veronica Falc√≥n) in the ninth episode. 

The tenth episode, Red Tent, was one of the most intense as a bombmaker Alex (Keir Gilchrist) is interrupted by an AC repairman Steve (Hugo Armstrong). The next to last episode, The Fight, shows two women Rayna (Keta Meggett) and Greta (Natalie Morgan) fight to see who would win an MMA match since they plan to throw it. The finale episode, My Love, is a sad story of an elderly couple Charlie (Philip Baker Hall) and Lorraine (Ellen Geer) reminiscing on their past. All of these stories were wildly different and seemingly unconnected much like the occupants of any hotel room but the stories are also often life-changing with major revelations or events.

Room 104 was hit-or-miss with some of the stories being really entertaining while others were boring or just confusing. The show attempts to capture the randomness of life and how it can often be frightening or heart-breaking or just plain weird. With it being HBO, the show is allowed to go places some shows wouldn't with violence or sex or language and the Duplass brothers use this freedom, and low budget, to explore grief, belief, and other difficult subjects. The room seems disconnected from the outside world but there are hints at current events and death is always lurking within the walls. I would be interested to see where the show goes in a second season. 

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