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Room 104 - The Last Man - Review

20 Sept 2020

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WARNING: Please don't read if you haven't seen Room 104 4x09 The Last Man yet!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

So, it seems Mark Duplass isn't done writing narrative songs for the final season of his HBO late-night anthology series, Room 104. This time, he reminses about the gone-but-certainly-not-forgotten 90s syndicated TV fantasy genre route for 4x09 The Last Man, which feartures Trainspotting, Dog Soldiers, and Grey's Anatomy's Kevin McKidd as a Beastmaster or Kevin Sorbo's Hercules-like warrior named Kyron. We see a shot of the motel door that opens to a desert landscape. Immediately, I was reminded of the season 3 opener with Luke Wilson that played like an origin story for the motel. 

This time, it is a new musical episode (where was previously one called "Arnold" that was also directed by Julian Wass) that has three very distinctive acts in one 1/2 hour episode. First, we hear Kyron sing about yearning to be the "first man" in what we assume to be a prehistoric time travel visit to a vast desert wasteland that may or may not be the future space for the motel. We then meet Kyron's supposed nemesis, Durkon (Desean Terry), and his floating (literally!) mentor, Granada (Suzanne Nichols). 

Watching these two fight and argue in song about their quest makes you realize pretty quickly that things are probably not as they seem; like we are watching a fantasy fight sequence. That is, characters' fantasy, not just the viewers'. And, right we are. Pretty soon, (or over 132 thousand years later, as the title card informs us) Kyran is transported into Room 104 as a quintessential 90s family is playing a wholesome game of Monopoly on the bed. The cuts are quick and we even view Kyran changing into modern day casual wear khaki shorts and a stack of Monopoly money even gets caught in his mane via paperclip, but that does not stop his mopey tone as he contemplates radiator-assisted hara-kiri. 

But, Durkon is not far behind and the battle rages in this motel room. The cuts are quick since the creators don't have the time to be precious about parallel universe transporting and the song lyrics are pretty cliché, but are sung with enough sense of irony that we don't take any of it seriously since it's ludicrous enough that any of this is happening. I have never seen ABC's long lamented Galavant series and have yet to view Apple TV+'s recent Mythic Quest series, but I assume this is similar to the tone of those shows. As comedy, it works well enough. 

And, yes, as Team America: World Police once sang about, we need a training montage and this episode provides it all too well. Is it realistic? Of course not, silly. What, exactly are these two fighting over? Kyran sings he wants to be the first man to bring peace by fighting off his supposedly "evil" enemy (who happens to be of another ethnicity) and bring peace to this fantasy world. Then, we see he is transported to the 90s, it seems, as if he as won and has no purpose now. Despite fighting in pre-historic times, he knows the invention of the internet is coming and will kill off cable TV like video killed the radio star with MTV/VH1 before that time. He takes the Monopoly-playing family's wine after they run off and lays about the motel bed whining about how meaningless everything now is if he is not fighting a fantasy war. He wanted to make his mark as the "first" man, but the title of the episode is "The Last Man," which is from a Nietzsche quote about how once mankind gets what they want, they won't be able to create anymore (or something like that). 

Kyran has lived the longest thanks to this supposed time jump and he knows happiness and has all of the modern comforts, but now has nothing to fight for. He now sets up a more modern version of kiri-hana by placing his sword on the radiator (something we suspect many previous Room 104 tenants have done). But, then Durkon also teleports into the room and Kyron's purpose is regained. They start fighting again in the room like children. Why? Because that is exactly what they are. 

We see the training montage again and they finally realize the only way to create anything they want is through common ground. To achieve their goal, they must work together. They put their swords together and the shapes connect together and create the light of creation as they impale themselves. The real fun of this playing is in the journey, not the destination, whether it is going over the wall they sing about or just defeating one another. We Americans currently exist in late-stage capitalism, so we know well what the "last" people of the quote are referring to. We supposedly have everything we need with smart phones, fast internet, endless 24 hour delivery services, etc. What else is there to learn about except...remembering the esctasy of playing. American life is similar to Monopoly (a satire of capitalism), but not completely. There are no real rules in this life. Almost everything has already been done at least once that we know of. 

So, what are we to gain from this episode? That we are just meant to find real pleasure in fighting never-ending conflict, only to abruptly change the rules midway through when we get bored of following them to a "T?" After the swords come together (not in sexual way, mind you) and the light bursts, we see, to no real surprise, that the two enemies are actually young brothers playing sword games in Room 104 as, Grenada, who is really their mother, watches on at the motel table. No explanation is given for them being of different ethnicities, so I won't assume what might the case be. Is one of the boys adopted? Does one have one skin color as a dominant or recessive gene trait? We don't know for sure. 

Is this a criticism of racism in America today? With current events, it might seem so, even though this episode was produced before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent racial unrest and protests. This type of racial has always existed in humanity, regardless of nationality. Everyone wants to be the one who brings about peace in never-ending war, so what does one do when they achieve this peace? Well, rediscover play and start up new wars, of course. 

We are all really children who comes from the same humanity, regardless of skin color, and just need to keep learning how to play nicer. Not bad for a 1/2 hour musical.