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Room 104 - The Murderer - Review


WARNING: Please don't read if you haven't seen Room 104 4x01 The Murderer yet! 


So, if you noticed that it is Episode 4x01 of HBO's Room 104 (yes, a PALINDROME) this week, you get a special eye prize: My Undying Respect! Good for you!

As the (sadly) final season of The Duplass Brothers' stellar late night premium cable anthology series kicks off, we get what almost boils down to a one person show as Mark Duplass writes, stars, directs, even sings, "The Murderer," yet another successful mixture of serio-comedy and poignant pathos. Sure, he brought along a gaggle of Gen-Z-ers to basically be his character's cheerleaders in the episode, but it's really all about Mark here, along with the typical themes of loss, connection, fear, and grief that Room 104 is already known for.

We first meet a young man named Logan, who has gathered his male friends, and one lone female friend, Katherine (Hari Nef) in the titular room to see a private performance by supposedly legendary musician, Graham Husker. Apparently, in 1993, U2 won the Grammy for Best Album and Bono claimed in speech that Graham's album, The Murderer, was a better album. Of course, none of this actually happened since Eric Clapton won that award that year, but it kind of works dramatically since the internet didn't exist in 1993, so the idea of discovering a musician through accident gave off a kind of romanticism today's music doesn't quite ever achieve.

Logan discovered Graham going by the name "Gary Horton" and got him to appear for this private performance by offering a keg of Keystone Light and not inviting more than four people (interesting pre-social distancing shades already manifesting). Mark Duplass portrays Graham as an stereotypical Eddie Veddar-like early-90s relic. He plays some surprisingly good songs I was stunned weren't actually from the Golden Age of Grunge that Mark Duplass composed himself, according to the credit. Not being in the best of health, he eventually has to excuse himself to vomit in the bathroom and Logan takes the opportunity to position his cell phone in his coat to videotape Graham performing so he can, (what else?) post it to social media later on.

Of course, he gets caught and we are subjected to a rather long sequence where Graham takes the phone and smashes it before throwing it into the room's cheap microwave. He then invites Katherine into the bathroom for a private song, which confuses her. Here, he reveals that he is actually a murderer and killed his mother and wrote about it on his album. Katherine has never heard of Graham before and doesn't know how to react, so she doesn't so not to alarm him, but is sure to relay this message to her male counterparts, who are still enamored with him and don't seem to listen to reason until Graham plays his rather literal song outtake where he describes how he murdered his mother, cut her body into 47 parts, and buried them in Clyde's backyard. Graham has to literally spell out that he really is a murderer, even though he appreciates the young mens' appreciation of his work.

Naturally, the guys react by proceeding to beat him up out of fear, I assume, so he doesn't murder any of them in the room. They feel he deserves this punishment since he has never been prosecuted for this crime. In fact, he has gotten away for over 25 years by no one figuring out there was a crime in the first place and becoming what I would assume to be a shell of his former glory day self who just wants to drink Keystone Light. I have never drank Keystone Light myself, but it doesn't sound too appetizing.

The young men continue to freak out and run out of the room into the night as Graham reveals himself to be not a scary homicidal monster, but a wounded man-child who seriously regrets what he did. Only empathetic Katherine can console him on the motel bed and, instead of calling the police, she does. The final image does not feel sexual in any way IMHO. Instead, it shows that even the most heinous act, while not exactly worthy of total forgiveness, hides a damaged human worthy of affection. Does ending up in Room 104 constitute a fate worse than Death Row? I will let you be the judge of that.

As usual, the episode is only a 1/2 an hour long, so there are many story gaps, like what has Graham been doing for 25 years, or why he killed his mother in the first place, that are left up to the viewers' imaginations, and will never be addressed again. It would be foolish to guess what the revelations will be. Watching it was probably meant to be remind the audience, especially in our current social distancing situation, that everyone is worthy of connection, no matter how flawed, and that survival and talent don't automatically equate redemption.

 But, once you set foot in Room 104, can anyone be redeemed? The best Graham can get is pity.

 

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