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Room 104 - Rogue - Review



SPOILERS AHEAD: Please do not read until you have watched the episode!

So...it has taken me a little over a week to process Room 104 3x04 Rogue, I had a knee-jerk reaction to this episode that was quite positive, but it sadly didn't last. I enjoyed the cinematography, dramatic performances, and the willingness to not play the anthology format safe. As we have already seen this season, the Duplass Brothers are very much messing around when it comes to the events for this season. So far, we've gotten a origin story that basically went nowhere (so far), comedic Michael Jackson animal abuse references that arguably took too many creative licenses, and an iPhone-shot body horror short, and we're not even halfway through the season. Now, we get....according to Reddit user "lybrel,"
5 minutes Law and Order SVU saving black girl 5 minutes wrong science lesson (???) 5 minutes arguing about saving wires from a hotel room (???) 5 minutes some weird stepdad argument causing an "accidental death" (???) then Lion King headpaint cause of child birth marks (???) just wtf"
As you can tell, this will not go down as the most popular Room 104 episode. I will spare you all the flagrant use of "wtf" (whoops, just typed it!). "Rogue" was written by Jenée LaMarque (director of the 2013 Zoe Kazan feature, The Pretty One) and her husband, Julian Wass, who scored most of season one and directed the "Arnold" episode from season 2. And this episode was...very...um...unpretty.

Immediately, we see our protagonist for the episode, Zohara (Iyana Halley,) breaking into the titular room in the near-future. It appears that many people before her have taken refuge in our beloved motel room, including a family we never see. Zohara hears someone coming, possibly to kill her, so she decided to pull a Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet, and hide in the flimsy closet holding a bloody hammer. Yes, the motel room does not afford many good places to hide, but even for a young girl, hiding in a makeshift closet seems a little lazy. In a decent example of predictable dramatic irony, the person who follows her is not a killer, but Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno, who is still mostly known for playing another Maria in a feature film, who was full of grace). This Maria gracefully reasons with Zohara to leave the closet and trust her to tell her that she has been in a bunker with her father and explain with some cans how a rogue planet knocked earth from its gravitational pull with the sun and now Earth is now a new rogue planet drifting out of the solar system without a star to support it any longer, causing massive earthquakes and general mayhem. Surprisingly, room 104 seems relatively stable amidst all of this if you take out the survivor aspect.

 Don't worry, fair viewer. These cataclysmic events do not mean the end of our beloved HBO late-night anthology series! Like the classic Twilight Zone episode that ended with the revelation that Earth was drifting away from the sun and everybody was going to freeze to death, "Rogue" is its own self-contained universe. It swings for the fences for poignancy, but comes up mostly short in the emotional department and over-achieves in the alienation department. It strains to be meaningful, but the story ultimately leaves the viewer as cold as the planet Earth drifting away in the solar system with its wild, violent twists. Before you ask, unlike the Twilight Zone episode, humans would probably find a way to survive these soon-to-be sub-zero temperatures. There are articles on the internet how the warmth of the planet wouldn't immediately evaporate if it did become a rogue planet all of the sudden. While I quite liked the story, I wish it could've been expanded upon more in a feature film, rather than a one episode anthology episode.

Initially, I enjoyed all of the loose ends that would never be tied up. But multiple viewings have left me yearning for more. Not resolution per se, but more world-building. The notion of a possibly psychic tech billionaire building an artificial habitat within driving distance of a motel room off of the highway seemed too far-fetched for me...and the world ending and multiple characters trying to look for shelter and goods inside of the same motel room doesn't really seem realistic when you think about it. I understood that Maria is pregnant, which is why she is being so nice to Zohara, but the theme that "family" can be something you can build outside of your immediate family wasn't explored as well as it could've been. I am thinking this might have been due to all of the world-building that had to happen within a short amount of time in this episode. "Rogue" needed to have been twice as long as it was here, maybe even longer than that to fully explore all of these threads. Granted, the "Your mother. 1…2…3. I…love…you. And now she’s gone.” scene momentarily achieved the instant poignancy and character development the creators were going for in a 25 minute episode, but that moment was an oasis in a story littered with inconsistencies and logic gaps.

 So, why would the writers place an abridged story of an abused little girl escaping her domineering father by beating him with a hammer after being chained to a bunker to destroy the prison-like familial bonds that her relationship with the maternal Maria could seemingly replace inside of a convoluted apocalyptic sci-fi story complete with powerful birthmarks and shared psychic abilities? Simple. They are possibly trying to say that Zohara is very much like Earth, forced to leave her familiar orbit to start anew in a cold, dark environment.

Zohara's story is a microcosm of what the actual cosmos has in store for our doomed planet. Thinking about escaping one's orbit is easy, but actually doing it can lead to fear and danger, even if you find the right people to start a new orbit with. As Zohara writes her father so eloquently, "Sorry. I have to go," she doesn't need to know what is going on with the planet to set herself on a new trajectory. Upon further inspection, "Rogue" is more grounded than you would think, and that is why it ultimately works as an anthology episode, even as its risks divide the audience.  Nothing "wtf" to see here, really.

 

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