Here we go with our third year stepping into the bizarre, no-holds-barred world that is ROOM 104. This season is loaded with twelve unique episodes and I must say if you look at the trailer again, you’ll see that this season looks a tad weirder than the last one. Oh, yeah if that is possible. In fact, ScreenRant got a good interview out of Mark and another partner, Sydney Fleischmann, about all that (find the full interview here).
ScreenRant: Have you become more ambitious as each season goes by?
Mark Duplass: And now that we’re heading into season 3, I think that the thing we really wanted this thing to do is I guess push the boundaries of what the room can be and how it’s perceived. In particular the kinds of stories we can tell in there. So we have these sort of music-based mood pieces, we have vampires and gorillas and weird Spanish language, mythical melodramas. And we even have a documentary episode and chasing the experimental and chasing sort of risky episodes is really what it’s all about for this season.
To me, that riskiness reads as things going a bit weird and that is not a complaint by any means. So how about it? We’ll review all twelve episodes, two at a time and see just how weird they get. You can join along by watching the series for yourself Friday night at 11:00pm ET & on the streaming sites. First up, naturally is the season premiere.
Some series just lend themselves to link to an origin story at some point, but due to its structure to date you never thought ROOM 104 would be one of them. I mean, the anthology series is structured to be a myriad number of stories with different scenarios & characters totally unrelated to each other. That is reinforced by the fact that the tone and style of each episode is unique unto itself. Once an origin story is established it holds as the anchor for which all of the episodes are now tied to. We have twenty-four prior episodes now to look back on in that light and obviously all the ones going forward. So, for fans of the show, this season three premiere episode should strike some interest for you’ll be looking through origin-show tinted glasses from now on.
So, what is it all about? We find ourselves looking at a plot of land marked out in a pattern by strings & stakes. It is bathed in car lights and a small campfire as it is after dark. A lady awaits the arrival of whoever is pulling up in a car. She is Roma (Christine Woods) and she is the one responsible for laying the blueprint on the ground, preparing a picnic snack and the cozy fire. Arriving at the scene is her brother Remus (Luke Wilson), who is setting his eyes on the scene for the first time. He has been the wandering sibling returning home to aid his sister who has nursed & buried their father while he was out gallivanting; she resents it too and lets him & us know that by her tone.
We think she’d hoped that he had choked on a fried chicken bone from the basket and her intentions are definitely made clear when she refused to drink the alcohol that was poured. But, neither does he because he swore off of it. Nope, we get it, she wants to kill him off and take him for his investment money – money that goes towards a little ‘hotel’ that was going to make them rich. It is odd that this episode, among others, uses the word ‘hotel’ when clearly the wacky room in question here is is part of a ‘motel.’ All along the architecture of the scene looks like a ‘motel’ with the outside entrance, not a ‘hotel’. That always bothered me.
Roma does finally win out and kill her brother, but then she has got to worry that a witness is present. Bumbling out of the dark seems to be a homeless man that due to his ramblings becomes known as Swofford played just right by Eric Edelstein. He does come across as homeless starving for some communication and a helping of chicken. He does all that before even noticing Remus’ lifeless body. Swofford proves an odd and unsafe sort as Roma soon discovers.
There is no way around it; it has to be told. Swofford is otherworldly. I’m not meaning an alien but a demon or the Devil himself, we are just not sure. I’ll even share that it kills Roma and in dramatic fashion takes on her voice. Just exactly how he does it is a spoiler I’ll keep. But the plot of land for which this has all transpired is the spot for which Room 104 will be built. All of this, however, raises big questions. Ready for them?
So, Swofford then takes the money and continues somehow in building the motel? With the siblings dead who else is there to continue the project but Swofford? So, the construction company came in the next day and continued the project? Who owns it? It can only be Swofford. So, he takes on Roma’s voice and becomes the first desk clerk? So, anytime a character in the series calls the front desk they are really talking to the Swofford demon? Then the whole place should be haunted, right? But it is not, only the one specific room. Somehow. still unexplained. Swofford was tied to that one plot of land the size of one room because, what, the sibling’s blood soaked in there? And he is still tied to it even with the four walls around it regardless of who owns the place. He is there unseen again, so far, to torment, heckle and confound whichever poor sap decides to book a room 104. Ponder that…I’m moving onto the second episode.
“Animal For Sale”
As soon as we saw the key art and the trailer we knew a silverback gorilla was going to make the scene. As soon as we saw that this episode was titled what it is we assumed that this was the episode where the primate was to appear. It is dangerous to assume that kind of thing in a show such as ROOM 104, but we were right, the gorilla is present.
We don’t see him for a good nine minutes into the piece because he is held up in the bathroom with Xanax laced bananas. Who we meet first is a dude named Allan (Robert Longstreet) cleaning up droppings off the floor of our room with his bare hands! Later on, he has latex gloves on so why not use them here? Anyway, he is yelling to the gorilla in the bathroom trying to calm him down. Allan is preparing to sell the brute because he is financially unable to keep up with the primate’s demands. That is where the special banana treat comes into play. Also, into the picture comes Sharon (Dale Dickey) as our buyer. Allan goes to some lengths with a lame vetting process, as it were because he doesn’t want to pass off the goods without the assurance that Sharon knows what she is doing and has the asking price in hand.
Finally, Sharon is ready to see what she purchased. All the dialog dances around just what the sellable item is when we all know it is a gorilla, right? This crazy series isn’t going to throw a curveball and have some green-skinned alien walk out, right? No, it is the expected gorilla and his name is Elmer. And this beauty is not of the CGI-generated variety either but played by Tom Woodruff Jr. who has suited up to play this type of character before. The suit may not be 100% believable but the behavior and movement sure are.
Elmer takes his place on the innermost bed and appears shy because of Sharon’s presence. His mood changes however because the two humans in the room keep bickering on what is right for Elmer. She’s appalled at Allan’s treatment to date and he is still unsure of his capabilities. The shit hits the fan, no, not Elmer’s, when she pulls out an Animal Services license and is going to arrest him. Well, the mood has shifted including Elmer’s and he takes matters into his own hands. Sharon had dumped her purse earlier to get the wad of money out and with it a taser and Elmer now has it! Which of the primates is left standing if any once he is amused with the sparks the toy gives off?
Oh, boy, this can’t be good. Blame in on the Swofford curse, I guess.
ROOM 104, Fridays at 11:00pm and reviews right here after every two episodes.