By Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall
Fridays on CBS, 9pm ET/PT
Written by Erin Maher & Kathryn Reindl
Directed by Paul Holahan
This episode of Moonlight was all about looking for love in the wrong places. We open with Josef asking Mick St. John to climb out of his comfy freezer to track down his on-again, off-again lover, Lola (Holly Valance, Prison Break), who has not only broken his cold little vampire heart but made off with a spare million bucks. In one of the more fun interviews we’ve seen between Mick and his buddy Josef, Mick gets in a lot of good-natured ribbing about Josef’s once-a-decade booty call, and how the always paranoid Josef somehow let Lola worm his password out of him. Meanwhile, Beth Turner is across town grousing about her current assignment—covering a fashion show. When one of the models convulses and dies in front of her, she’s shocked, appalled—and anxious to make sure that her cameraman caught it on tape.
Mick and Beth’s cases converge, appropriately enough, in the morgue, when Mick brings in the body of a vampire killed by silver and Beth discovers that the dead model’s blood had unusually high levels of silver. Their joint investigation takes them to an extremely exclusive club run by Lola, where a mysterious drug is sold to VIP customers. Although the cops raid the club while Mick and Beth are inside, Beth manages to get home with a vial of the drug, called Black Crystal (the “B.C.” of the episode title).
Whereupon she utterly takes leave of her senses, and samples the drug. For crying out loud, lady, you just watched a woman die in front of you from taking this completely unknown drug. For all Beth knows, it could be strychnine. But no, she tastes it, and suddenly turns into what we can only call… a vamp. In the traditional definition of “femme fatale.” Donning her sexiest dress, she walks a couple of miles through the night to Mick’s apartment, and tries her darndest to seduce him. He is startled, turned on, wary—and he turns her down. She drifts upstairs to his second floor (is there a bed up there? Mick sleeps in a freezer.). After some hesitation, he follows her—in order to share a fully clothed shower with her in hopes of detoxing her. Oh, please.
A bantering morning-after moment reveals that Nothing Happened, and everyone goes back to chasing Lola and her drug—which turns out to be vampire blood. As Mick says, “The high isus.” Mick tracks Lola to a warehouse full of vampires suspended in a silver solution to immobilize them, where Lola drains their blood and processes it into the lucrative BC. He fights Lola, and mirabile dictu, manages not only to not get his ass kicked, but to defeat Lola. Nor does he require rescue by Beth; our delicate flower has finally grown thorns. Mick blows up the warehouse to cover the traces of the operation just as the cops arrive to raid it.
So what we have here is a story where Josef stretches way out of character to trust—nay, to fall under the spell of—a 500-year-old femme fatale, a “vamp” in every sense of the word, despite his own 400 years of experience as a vampire. And we get Beth, who has already seen the terrible price Mick pays to be a vampire, begging him to “turn” her while she’s under the influence of the drug. We are way, way out of drama territory here and deep into the wilds of soap opera. If the writers were playing Moonlight for laughs, this could not get more ludicrous. I thought I’d fall off the couch laughing when Josef, with a more or less straight face, told Mick that when he met Lola she was building a pirate army. The plot points are equally silly—forget the fact that Beth tastes an unknown drug, how about the fact that it is vampire blood. Wouldn’t the humans sampling it be Turned? If not, the show should explain this anomaly.
Beth’s character is all over the place, ethically speaking. When her boyfriend, the ADA, tells Beth the location of Lola’s warehouse and that they’re going to raid it, she barely gets out of his office before she’s on the phone to Mick—now she’s a mole? She’s not even a very good spy: she holds that cell phone conversation in the middle of the busy corridor, with cops walking by. Her smug confidence that her looks and décolletage will get her past any doorman on the LA club scene smacked of an unbecoming sense of entitlement. She shows amazing naiveté in not realizing that the ID chip she stole off a corpse would identify her as the dead woman, a (ahem) dead giveaway. She bribes her way into the morgue, which is a violation of “legitimate” journalistic ethics. She is, in short, becoming a complete tool for Mick St. John. This is not an endearing development.
Mick, however, was better than ever. Director Holahan shot him in the best MTV rock video fashion: flowing trench coat, blue backlighting, romantic club shots, and a fabulous shirtless opening. They’re really pushing Mick’s sexy vampire vibe, possibly to make up for his (heretofore) wimpy performance as a detective. At least in this episode he got to show off some vampire skills—he busts a lock with one twist of the fingers, jumps a couple of stories up to a club window, moves faster than the camera can follow when exploring a deserted structure. His vampire senses actually help him solve this case; good to know they’re good for something. His little tete a tete with Beth the Morning After was the most open and revealing discussion about Mick’s private life we’ve seen yet. It was good to get some insight into why Mick insists on bucking the vampire code (he’s hanging onto his humanity) and sad to hear that he’s forgotten the taste of food—although thirty minutes later we discover that he hasn’t lost his taste for whiskey. Count Dracula (“I never drink… wine.”) would be shocked.
The secondary characters have been steamrollered: they are as flat as pancakes. ADA Josh, the boyfriend, is as whiny and passive/aggressive as ever; Lt. Davis (Brian White, Ghost Whisperer) lets a witness at the scene of a raid—Beth—walk out with a drug in her purse because he’s too busy patting down Mick. Once again, the LAPD is portrayed as corrupt, stupid, or just plain lazy. This is cheap writing, meant to make the detective look smarter than the cops. They shouldn’t have to dumb the cops down to make Mick look smart. Why not write him smart to start with? And finally, the LAPD’s crime lab runs tox screens four times on the confiscated BC, but somehow can’t figure out that it is blood? Lame.
There were moments I liked, and virtually all of them involved Alex O’Laughlin. He’s carrying this show on his back. He got some good lines: his banter with Josef, his teasing Beth outside the club:
Beth: Just being human is so lame.
Mick: I know, but you wear it well.
The attempted seduction scene built even more heat between the leads, so there’s plenty to look forward to next week. But the MadLibs dialogue, the cut-and-paste plots, and the cheesy characterizations of everyone but Mick, Beth, and Josef are getting to be a drag on this show.Moonlight needs more cohesion, more focus. Or maybe just a vampire pirate army.