Moonlight: “12:04 AM”

Old Wounds

By Sarah Stegall 

Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall


Fridays on CBS, 9pm ET/PT

“12:04 AM”

Written by Jill Blotevogel

Directed by Dennis Smith

The eighth episode of Moonlight departs slightly from the overheated romance between Mick St. John and Beth Turner, to allow them to focus on someone else’s troubles. In an interesting mirror effect, Mick deals with a newly turned vampire and Beth comforts a woman whose memories of a past trauma haunt her. A story with real possibilities as a murder investigation, however, is relentlessly undercut by a series of mounting implausibilities.

Beth witnesses the execution of convicted mass murderer and cult founder Donovan Shepherd (Gideon Emery, Passions), as she comforts the sole living witness to his massacres, Audrey Pell (Sarah Foret, Beautiful People). Beth generously offers to put Audrey up at her place for the rest of the night to avoid the vengeful members of Shepherd’s “family”. But a cell phone call from “Shepherd” panics Audrey. As Beth and Audrey discuss past traumas and memories, Beth reveals that she has always felt safe, despite the fact that her abductor was never caught and she never knew the identity of her “guardian angel”. Implausibility Number One pops up in this scene, as Audrey says that Shepherd’s followers usually only harassed her “when Shepherd was up for parole”. Since when do Death Row inmates go up for parole? Since, um, never. That’s why they call it Death Row.

Beth enlists Mick’s help to protect Audrey. Sure enough, Mick catches a thug breaking into Beth’s apartment. Tough interrogator that he is, he twists the bad guy’s nose to get him to talk. That Mick, such a badass. He discovers that someone is making a movie about Shepherd’s life, which will target Audrey even more. Someone has put up a website revealing the addresses of everyone who convicted Shepherd, including Beth’s. Mick drives up into the Hollywood Hills to confront the producer/webmaster–and gets a meeting with no prior appointment, no agent, nothing. Talk about implausible! I had to laugh at Mick’s voice-over musings about how, back in the 80s, he considered a career in acting (“I just wanted to be Steve McQueen.” Who didn’t?). I wondered a) how he expected to make his image appear on silver nitrate based film (which we’ve already established can’t capture a vampire’s likeness), or b) explain the fact that he doesn’t age an hour in 25 years. Two implausibilities for the price of one!

Movie mogul Jerry Drake (Mark Totty, Drive) used his former friendship with Shepherd to buy his life story, and also to set up the website. (I kept listening for any reference to, you know, ascript in all of this, but apparently Hollywood movies are written by producers, not writers. Someone should alert the WGA.) Jerry stonewalls, and Mick steals an audiotape of Shepherd’s dictated life story. Beth and Audrey visit the District Attorney (who prosecuted Shepherd) and discover his blood-splattered office, the DA missing. The tape tells Mick and Beth that Shepherd survived his execution–as a vampire. Alarmed, he parks the womenfolk in his highly secure apartment, after a really cute and flirtatious exchange with Beth in which he tells her not to open, oh, most of the doors in his apartment. Beth makes a joke about Alice in Wonderland, which is dumb because the correct  reference here would be Bluebeard. I wondered why Mick St. John, with all these legendarily strong vampire powers, would even feel the need for such a fortress. What is Mick afraid of? Torch-bearing mobs? Or perhaps, given his woeful lack of fighting prowess, an old lady with an umbrella.

At the prison, Mick discovers the body of the missing DA in Shepherd’s drawer at the morgue, and confirms that the priest who gave Shepherd his final confession turned him. I liked seeing more of Mick’s “powers” at work in this episode, as he uses “vamp visual comprehension” to compress hours of video review into minutes. Of course, it helps that the prison’s security cameras were borrowed from CSI, the super duper kind that magically zoom in on distant subjects with no loss of resolution. Where can I get one of those? Of course, the real questions in this scene were, why would any prison keep the body of an executed felon around “for ten days”? And why would any prisoner be kept in a display cage a la Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs? And what about Shepherd’s “execution”–would the drugs that kill a human affect a vampire? Is this another vampire vulnerability? If  not, how do they affect the newly fledged Shepherd–did he fake his own death in front a doctor and ten witnesses? The questions mount.

We get to cross off one more piece of vampire lore from the basic show concept, as we see Mick not only enter a church but attack a vampire priest. I could write a whole essay on the idea of consecrated wine/blood being drunk by a creature who originally appeared in Western literature as a Christian demon, but I’ll let it pass. The shots of the congregation sitting quietly while the confessional rocked like a bouncy castle were funnier than the writer intended, I believe. The priest reveals that Shepherd hated Drake, and Mick scrambles to return to Drake’s palace to protect him. Too late, he encounters first, Drake’s dead body and secondly, Shepherd. True to form, Mick gets his ass royally kicked by a fledgling vampire not 48 hours old (who, incidentally, was reading a script–aha!). I liked that the sword we saw in Act Two is revealed as a useless fake in Act Four. Mick, Mick, Mick. When are you going to start carrying a gun? ‘Cause this fighting thing is just not working out for you. Shepherd not only defeats Mick, he outwits him, stealing his iPhone.

Back at Mick’s place, Beth has just opened Bluebeard’s door–I mean, Mick’s office files–and discovered not only that he rescued her years ago, but that he’s been stalking guarding her all these years. As she ponders the implications, she calls Mick–and hears Mick’s phone ringing outside the door. The door cam reveals Shepherd leering outside, and Audrey, justifiably, panics. The ensuing fight scene was the best part of the show, as the women flee from room to room to escape the relentless Shepherd. Beth spits in his eye and nearly gets killed for her defiance, but at the last minute Mick arrives and engages Shepherd in an all-too-brief but thrilling vampire-a-vampire fight. Naturally, Shepherd overcomes Mick and goes after the women, cornering them in an elevator. All looks lost until Mick arrives with an actual workingsword, and brings matters to, er, a head. We end with a tender epilogue at dawn (crossing off, yet again, everything we thought we knew about vampires and sunlight), where Beth tells Mick she doesn’t feel stalked, she feels protected. I don’t know how protected I’d feel by a guy who loses 80% of his fights, but love is blind.

Okay, it’s really a love story, not a vampire detective story, so I understand that the writers are concentrating more on the relationship and less on the plot holes. Even so, do we really need, in every single episode, for some character to gush about how Beth and Mick are so well suited for one another? Do we really need to be hit over the head every week? Give us a break. Nevertheless, the final scene between Mick and Beth was the best of the episode, as O’Laughlin revealed Mick’s despair and hope warring in him, and Beth reacted with unexpected warmth and forgiveness to the discovery of his deception. This was some of the best chemistry between these two characters in a couple of episodes.

We’re going to need some of that warmth for the remaining episodes in this show before the writers’ strike shuts it down. The timing sucks (you should pardon the reference), because Moonlight hit a series ratings high on Friday night and, for the first time maintained its lead-in audience from Ghost Whisperer. Audiences may finally be warming up to this fluffy little bonbon of a show; let’s hope they get to enjoy it a little longer.