Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mo Kindred, Mo Problems

Episode 3: Nightstalker

"Kindred. Where the Gangrel act like the Brujah, the Brujah act like the Ventrue, the Ventrue act like the Giovanni, the Nosferatu act like the Tremere, and C. Thomas Howell doesn't act at all." – jadasc, from

Haven at night.  There’s the usual mix of bikers and cars parked out front.  A mournful fiddle and a steel guitar wail.  Inside a girl on stage is singing an equally mournful rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.”  Because the sun is deadly to Kindred.  Unless they’ve fed recently.  Or the script says otherwise.

Lobes is looking on from across the room.  Luna tells him he needs to sit down.  Apparently, he’s got Bouncer duty tonight.  The girl finishes the song.

And then Lobes tells Luna he’s in love with the singer.

A waitress confronts a dude who’s kind of passed out on the bar.  Luna (who I think I may start calling Julian, just to cut down on the L names), Lillie, and Cash are looking on.  Cash identifies him as Kindred, but they don’t know his Clan, and I have to say this is really a very true to the game moment.  In old-school V:tM, Clan was the first, last, and most important thing to know about any Vampire, PC or NPC.  It’s like character class in D&D.  So, a tip of the hat to the writers.

Cash strikes up a conversation with New Dude using the old “What’s your name?” ploy.  Simple and direct, I like it.  Turns out this guy calls himself Starkweather, another name that should set off alarm bells to anyone with a basic knowledge of history.  I suspect it’s just set dressing, though.

Cash figures out Starkweather here is newly-embraced.  And then, he totally goes into Vampire Guidance Counselor mode.  Seriously, I half expect him to pull out a list of resources and a copy of “Ten Things Every Kindred Should Know.”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep Starky from going apeshit and throwing a table.  Girl Singer (who I think may be the Buffy-looking Gangrel chick from episode 1) runs off stage and panic starts to break out.  Lillie tells Jullian they need to get it under control before someone calls the cops (see, he is playing bouncer).  Oh, and hey, Alfred’s there.  I guess he comes out to Haven for Blues Night.

Meanwhile Starkweather is using his Vampire muscles to tear a brass rail off the bar and get all menacing on everyone.  Julian’s way of taking care of it is to have Cash take him down as the cops roll in.  Cash will go to jail with him to protect the masquerade.

Backstage, the girl singer finds a note in her dressing room.  It’s obviously from Julian.  HE FEELS HER PAIN.  As she gets called back out on stage, he appears from behind a piece of furniture.  NOT CREEPY!

(Also, I no longer think Girl Singer is Kindred.)

Still hanging in her dressing room, Lobes finds a strand of her hair.  He picks it up and smells it.  SO NOT CREEPY! (To be fair, this is the most Nosferatu-y thing he’s done so far, so I suppose I’m good with it.)

Roll Credits

This one is written by PK Simonds and our old friend John Leekley  Hey, according to Wikipedia, Leekley was one of the creators of “Wolf Lake.”  I really like that show.  But I digress…

It’s dark and a woman walks into an apartment we haven’t seen before.  Oh, it’s Girl Singer, home from the gig.  Oh, and there’s Lobes, totally stalking her.  She pricks herself on a piece of jewelry and Lobes can smell it from all the way across the room.  She starts undressing and singing and he achieves Satori or something.  Anyway, he remembers his Stalker Manners and walks away before she notices him.  Still, she knows something’s up, and she closes a conveniently open window.

(At this point, we’ve gone eight minutes and no sign of C. Thomas Hero.  I consider this the most positive development in the series to date.  Also, we’ve got two mysteries: Who made Starkweather? Is the Nightstalker of the title Lobes, or someone else?  My money on the latter is that it’s a red herring.)

So, the scene shifts and we’re outside what looks like a fancy nursing home or convalescent hospital called Suncrest.  Nothing ominous about that name, I’m sure.

Oh, wait. It’s a mental health facility.  While Cash gets taken out of a straitjacket, the doctor explains that his friend is a violent psychopath who thinks he’s a vampire.  Cash manages to convince the doc that he’s not crazy and gets walking around privileges, but he can’t leave yet.

These privileges seem to include visiting potentially dangerous psychopaths.  Starkweather’s in his room, wearing a straitjacket of his own, but the door’s just standing open.  Cash wants to know who embraced him.  Some chick he met in the Therapy Ward (ALARM BELLS). So, I’m guessing Starky here was already bonkers before he got changed.  Now who on Earth would do something like that to a crazy person.

Starkraving’s hungry, he hasn’t eaten for days.  If only there was some way to fix that.  Enter Orderly Victim #1.  Cash closes the door and we hear a muted scream.

(Honestly, this episode has been the best of the bunch so far.  We’re a quarter of the way in and it’s been all Vampires all the time.)

Anyway, we have a brief cut away from Starkweather’s room, but now we’re back. Orderly Victim #1 is leaving, like nothing happened.  Well, not nothing, exactly.  He looks confused and he checks his watch.  Oh, and there’s a little blood on his neck.  That’s sloppy.  Cash should really be teaching him better.  It’s the first lessons that stick.

On the plus side, Cash is giving him Vampire 101 lessons now.  He tells Starkraving about the Masquerade.  “If the humans knew of us, they’d hunt us down until we’re all dead.”  “Well, I’ll hunt them down.”  Yeah, nothing ominous about that.

Back at the mansion and it looks like the crew is using Day for Night filters.  Julian and Alfred are having drinks in the garden and Julie wants to know about this Starkweather.  Alfred’s checked the Bat Computer and says Starky was originally in another nut-house where he was diagnosed as a dangerous schizophrenic.  There were Kindred working at that facility.  Ya think?  Anyway, they can keep Cash locked up in there for another 60 hours, I guess that’s important because he’s the only one keeping an eye on Starkers.

Jailbird interrupts.  Apparently this is all about her being hot for Cash and that’s why Julian has him locked up.  He says it’s for her protection.  She asks if he and Cash are mobsters.  Hey, she’s only off by one letter.  Anyway, it’s another standoff at Maison Luna.

Back at Suncrest, Starkweather is still in his straitjacket, but he’s lying down while a shrink asks him about his childhood.  It’s the standard list of the Build Your Own Psychopath methods.  Locked in a basement for two years, you know the drill.  Cash is listening in via his Vampire Superhearing.  Starkweather is all, “I’m not afraid of your locks and keys.  I’m already free.”  Doc asks him if he’s just going to walk out. “No, I was thinking of wading.”


He totally rips the straitjacket off and then it’s Murder Time in Observation Room 4.

The doc who talked to Cash earlier tells him Julian is here to spring him.  Looks like there’s some cops and Jailbird with him.  Looks like she’s winning the battle of wills with Uncle Julie.  Cash runs over to Observation Room 4 (it’s just next door).  The door is locked!  When they open it, they find the body of the shrink (throat torn out) and a very improbable exit path.  Improbable unless you’re a vampire, I guess.

Oh, and the words “BLOOD BROTHER” written on the wall.  In blood.

After the commercial break, we’re back at Suncrest.  It’s night now, and that means night-shift cops are on the case.  Here’s C. Thomas Hero, checking out the murder scene.  He’s asking about some sort of stress monitor old Starkraving was hooked up to.  The doctor says his stress levels never increased.  Because, crazy.  Vampire Detective Exposition is checking out the bloody writing.  He runs his fingers over it and you know he wants to lick them.

Oh, and guess who else is here?  Kaitlynn, our Spunky Girl Reporter.  Funny, I thought she was City Editor now.  Seems she should have people for this.  As she pulls out a cell phone the size of her shoe, CTH asks her just that.

(OK, seriously.  If the writing on this show is going to improve, it’s going to be a lot harder for me to provide quality snark.)

Apparently, her twenty pound cell phone is her desk.  Not sure how that works, though it might be big enough to sit behind.

Anyway, we’re back at Stately Luna Manor.  Looks like all the big guns are here, with the possible exception of Beef McBrujah.  Exposition is along for the ride.  Everyone’s worried.  If Hero Cop catches Starkraving, then it could blow the Masquerade wide open (I don’t entirely follow this logic, but I’ll let that go for the moment).  Obviously, they have to catch him first.  But Cash says that won’t be easy, he’s crazy and fears nothing.

Who embraced him?  Cash says it was a Gangrel, but he doesn’t know who.  Really?  How does he know?  Seriously, I get that Vampires all have a mishmash of powers, but I’m pretty sure Detect Gangrel never made it into the splatbooks.

(See?  I complain about the writing getting better, and then stuff like this happens.)

Julian needs Exposition to keep Hero off the scent.  Ex doesn’t know if he can.  Lillie implies if he can’t she’ll find a way.  I guess she’ll Art at him or something.  Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s probably very dangerous, but she’s spent most of the series so far wearing sexy clothes and saying “Careful, I’m dangerous.”  Show, don’t tell.

Cash picks this, of all times, to try to talk to Julian about Jailbird.  Really, kid?  That’s your moment?  Anyway, Big Julie isn’t having it.  He wants all the Gangrel on the streets for Bloodhunt III – The Bloodening.

I really dig how through this entire scene, Lobes is just sitting in an easy chair reading a book.  While I really think they could have done more with his physical appearance, I do look the way he lurks.  He just gets up, and walks out with his book as Cash and Ex depart.

Turns out that must have been a social misstep, because now we’re down in his cellar and Julian wants to know why he left like that.  Turns out Lobes is all embarrassed over a desire for humans.  He’s weak!  And how could a woman love a man who looks like him?  He rummages nervously through an ominous looking wooden box.

(Hey, Lobes is named Daedelus.  I swear I never picked that up before.  I presume not THE Daedelus.  Then again, still waiting for Rasputin.)

Julian warns him about using Alchemy.  Some things were never meant to be changed.  Lobes says nothing he just sniffs a beaker.

The scene shifts to a suburban home.  Looks like we’re in the garage and some guy is working on his hobby of restoring antique weapons.  I see a couple of katanas, but no trenchcoats.  A wind blows up, and hey, there’s Starkweather, sitting on a trunk.  Hey, weapons restoration guy is Starkweather’s dad!  Considering he has at least three katanas, which is the equivalent of a briefcase nuke, you’d think he’d be less afraid of his son.

And…the first rule of bad stunt choreography, folks!  Dude has an arsenal of sharp weapons laying around, and what does he pick up to defend himself?  A blunt rifle stock.  Starkweather intercepts it effortlessly, which seems to impress Dad, who has that beefy ex-Marine thing going on.  Starweather’s eyes go all vampire and we cut to the exterior so the viewing audience is spared violence and the effects department can go on working on ways to make people’s eyes glow instead of, I don’t know, PROSTHETIC FANG, MAYBE!

Back at Luna’s joint, Keightlin is meeting him for dinner.  His flunky asks what wine she’d like and she asks for the most expensive thing in his cellar.  I guess she figures if he’s going to buy her, she ought to run up the price.  Julian shows up and makes a crack about her spending his money, she comes back with one about him spending her time.  Ah, young…whatever this is.

Lobster used as an analogy for wanting what’s bad for oneself.  Ah, Spelling Productions…never change.

She totally wants him.  But she’s CONFLICTED.  Because she’s driven and work is her life and she has to be objective.  Note: they haven’t even touched the lobster or the expensive wine.

Back at Singer Girl’s place, she’s just gotten out of the shower or something.  One her counter, she finds a pendant.  NOT CREEPY.  She calls out, “I know you’re here,” and shudders a bit (because, y’know, INTRUDER).  And Lobes, bless his not pointy little head replies.  He won’t hurt her. He left her the note.  He’s a friend.  A friend she’s never met.  A friend who enters her home unbidden.  You know, a stalker.

She’s all “Show yourself,” and he’s like “No, that’s not possible,” as he uses his Nosferatu Powers to hide behind a curtain.

“What do you want from me?” “Just to be near you.”  Now, see, that seems perfectly reasonable.  Or, y’know, not at all.

Meanwhile, she’s looking around and not seeing the guy standing there silhouetted agains the backlit window.  So maybe he is using POWERS.  She decides to do something reasonable and call the cops, but he steps up behind her and passes his Roofie Hands™ in front of her face and she’s all “Sorry 911 operator.  I made a mistake.”  Anyway, all of the sudden, she’s like “You’re a gentle soul, let me see you.”  And he goes with “No, I’m HIDEOUS!” and backs away.  She turns around, but he’s already booked for the sewers.

Change of scene.  It’s daylight now, at Starkweather’s dad’s place.  It’s swarming with cops and Hero has just arrived.  There’s an old-fashioned trunk in the middle of the garage with lots of swords stuck through it, like the old stage magic trick.  The other cops open it for Hero, presumably to view Daddy Starkers.  Hero asks if blood is missing and the ME says there should be more with this many puncture wounds.  A CLUE!  Ex looks on, as if he’s wondering how long he can stay outside before tapping his spare thermos of Type A.

Oh, and hey, there’s BLOOD BROTHERS again, on the fence.  Hero thinks he’s killing his past, and now that he’s got a cool logo, he’ll keep on killing.

Back from commercial and we’re apparently in the City Editor’s office at the Times.  Khaetlin is there with Luna, remarking that Starky has killed nine people in seven days.  “Who could cut people open and drink their blood?” she wonders.  Julian coughs and does a spit-take.  OK, he doesn’t, but I’d pay good money to see it.

Also, the paper has dubbed him the Night Stalker.  Julian thinks this is sensationalistic, but Editrix is all about the TRUTH.

Meanwhile, down in the cellar, Lobes is playing with his chemistry set (or Chimerstry set? I kill me.).  He mixes some red stuff with gold stuff and drinks it, then checks the mirror.  Nope, same old Lobes.  He gets angry and breaks his toys.  Lillie must have been curious about the rotten egg smell, because there she is coming down the stairs.  Lobes is all sad because he’s ugly and Lillie’s all, “Hey dude, no heart is pure.  Stop putting this girl your stalking on a pedestal.  Just go for it.”

Oh hey, it’s a Hero scene.  He’s alone in the diner, except for sassy blonde waitress.  She stops to deliver a lecture on the evils of caffeine addiction.  Maybe she saw that episode of “Saved by the Bell” and took it to heart.  He’s steadfastly studying the tabletop.  When he looks up, there’s Julian.

They have a lovely chat wherein Hero blames the vampires for making Starkweather and Julian blames humans for abusing him.  Julian offers to help. Hero gets his back up like he always does. In the end, it doesn’t accomplish much except tell us that the Vampires and cops are on the same side, which we kind of already assumed, what with the Bloodhunt and all.

Back at Girl Singer’s place, Lobes is being stalky again.  She was asleep but woke and knew he was there.  My wife wants to know why no one in this show sleeps in sweats.  I pointed out it’s an Aaron Spelling production.  Anyway, she calls out to Lobes and he answers back.  He goes on about how her music touches his soul and she goes on about how he’s right, she’s been alone for so long and has given up finding anyone who understands her. And then, she walks toward him and strips off her nightie (because, I don’t know, really) and wants to see him and there he is, revealed in the light wearing like the WORST WIG EVER.  And then the makeouts commence.

And then, she’s asleep and he’s caressing her and he looks in the mirror and the wig’s gone and he looks…well, he looks like he did without the wig, which I maintain ISN’TBAD.  But he panics and flees and she’s still asleep.  But she gets up whil he’s still dressing and sees him and screams as he jumps out the window.  TRAGIC.

And back from commercial:  We’re outside Singer Girl’s place, there are cops and reporters everywhere, and K8lin is interviewing her about the monster she encountered.  Way to go, Lobes.

By the way, her description of him?  NOTHING LIKE LOBES.  Seriously, the dude does not have black and empty eyes.  Ex and Hero overhear this, and Ex says, “She’s not describing the Night Stalker, she’s describing the Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Or, your buddy Lobes, amirite?

Oh, and hey, there’s Starkweather in the crowd.  EVERYBODY DAYWALK!  It’s a pity none of the cops around recognize him from the photos or descriptions.  And he’s all, “She’s lying, that wasn’t the Night Stalker, it’s a trick.”

Back at Haven, and the joint is…well, it’s always pretty sedate.  We’re back to the sultry jazz soundtrack.  Julian and Lillie are up in her office/boudoir.  He’s wearing a suit, she’s wearing pajamas.  Is there a wonder no one takes her seriously? They’re talking about vampires desiring humans.  It’s a thing this episode.  Lillie points out that like Jailbird, Kjetlan will either need to be Embraced and lose everything she knows or grow old and die and Julian loses her.  But Lillie?  Lillie has always been there for him (except when she was doing bidness with Beef, who’s been mysteriously absent from this episode).

Back at Singer Girl’s, place, there’s a cop car parked outside and Lobes is staking things out from across the street.  Singer Girl comes out and is getting in the cop car.  But she notices it’s a different officer.  No worries – just a shift change. Uh huh.  He even promises he won’t bite.  Yeah.  I see where this is going.  They drive away.

And suddenly back at the mansion, Lobes is in the basement putting away his My Little Alchemist kit.  Julian comes strolling through, presumably having grabbed a bottle of wine from the adjacent chamber.  He also has a newspaper with him, displaying a picture of Starkweather, who Lobes recognizes as the cop with her.

Hero’s place: the phone rings.  It’s Julian, filling him in on the situation.  He’s on his way to Haven.  And he’s packing his Vampire Killing Gun.  Subtle.

Huh, Haven’s closed.  Odd, but I guess you can’t have a climactic fight scene involving vampires if the general populace is out and about.  Singer Girl is there to get her music and Starkweather as cop is hanging around pretending to be a nice guy.  Stupid Starkweather!  Nice guys stalk girls and leave them notes and trick them into sex.

And Hero comes down the stairs into Haven, toting his killgun.  But instead of immediately opening up on him, he tries to be clever.  But Starkweather, with the power of CRAZY VAMPIRE easily disarms him, then leaves him hanging with his own tie.  It’s rather hilarious, actually.   Julian shows up, sporting a nifty kukri, but Starkers has the phosphorous gun, so standoff.

I’m not sure where Singer Girl is in all of this.  But Julian manages to whack the nutcase’s head off with a single blow.  He tells C.T. Hero to take credit for it, and Hero’s all, “I came here looking for the girl, and found this dude pre-whacked.”  Smiles all around.

And, back to Caitlin’s place.  Julian walks in and she’s, making dinner. The only room of her house we’ve seen is the kitchen.  Anyway, she has great news, they got Starkweather.  And Luna’s all, “Yeah, I took his head off myself.”  OK, not.  But it kind of strikes me as odd that this is news at dinner time when it happened sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  Seems to me this would have been the major news of the entire day starting at 7 o’clock.  But hey, I’m no journalist, and Julian pretends to be surprised.  But our Spunky City Editor is too clever and figures out he’s faking; he already knew.  Maybe because it happened in the club run by his “Business Associate”?  But apparently the story just broke.  Not sure how that works really, but she’s suspicious that he already knew and he’s all, “Hey, I have connections.  Also, I cut the dude’s head off.”

I made up that last part.

Anyway, she’s all “I’m curious about you, and frightened.” And he’s all, “Don’t’ be scared,” and then they make out and probably more food goes to waste and the credits roll.

So, anyway, this was the best episode to date.  Less emphasis on obsessed cop, more emphasis on the interesting things.  While I joke about the pernicious stalking, it’s totally in character for a Nosferatu.  And seducing the City Editor of the local paper is also pretty much Masquerade 101.  I would’ve liked a shout-out to the Malkavians as far as Starkweather was concerned, but I can see why the showrunners didn’t feel like complicating things with another clan.

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