The Vampire Always Rings Twice

By Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall

Fridays on CBS, 9pm ET/PT
"Fleur de Lis"
Written by Gabrielle Stanton & Harry Werksman
Directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

When CBS started marketing Moonlight as a vampire version of film noir, they weren't kidding around. Two weeks ago, they slapped an homage to the classic film Body Heat into a flashback with Mick and Coraline. This week's episode includes an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the most iconic scenes of Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 classic The Conversation. From the circling video surveillance to the dancing Hare Krishnas to the half-heard (and totally misunderstood) eavesdropping, it was so perfect a replica that I expected Cindy Williams and Frederick Forrest to pop in with a cameo at some point. The writers even recreated the little tug-of-war over the surveillance envelope between Harrison Ford and Gene Hackman. And of course, knowing the plot of The Conversation pretty much gave away the plot of this episode. But since the mystery of the week is never as important on this show as the romance, it's not too upsetting. In fact, it was amusing. If Moonlight is going to re-imagine classic noir films every week like this, it's going to be even more fun to watch. Can I put in a request for a Mick/Beth version of Kiss Me Deadly, The Maltese Falcon or (whew) The Postman Always Rings Twice?

Mick is hired by a man named Haggans (Richard Ian Cox, Ghost Rider) to tail his second wife, Tina (Kathleen Munroe, Supernatural), whom he suspects of having an affair. Beth has asked Mick to keep Morgan occupied, so he asks her to help him photograph the subjects. She turns out to be an intelligent, fun, and enthusiastic partner, sharing his sense of adventure and matching him move for move as they seamlessly team up to tail the lady and her lover. Working cheek to cheek in a hotel room, photographing Tina and her love en flagrante, Mick and Morgan share a moment… and a kiss. Apparently she's forgiven him that whole cemetery scene where he roughed her up two weeks ago. They are both surprised to discover that Tina's lover is none other than Haggans's own son, her step-son Owen (Victor Webster, Lincoln Heights). Mick suspects that Haggans will use the evidence to murder his own wife and possibly his own son; he delays relinquishing the surveillance materials (hence the little tug-of-war). Haggans agrees to meet him at a restaurant; it takes Mick a while to discover that he's been stood up. In fact, the meeting was a ruse to lure him away from his office so that Haggans's men could steal the surveillance footage.

Convinced that Haggans is out to kill Tina, he calls Morgan, who is still working at BuzzWire deciphering the audiotape, to get the address. But just as he arrives at Owen's, and discovers his own surveillance photos on the coffee table, Morgan figures out that she and Mick have the murder plot backwards—it's Owen and Tina planning to off the old man (which fans of The Conversation had figured out anyway, but what the heck). Tina shoots Mick and they leave to carry out the murder plot. Ah, a warm and familiar moment—Mick is out cold again. We're back to Wimp!Mick, who gets beat all to hell every week. I await the episode where Mick goes two falls out of three with an infant and loses. Morgan finds Mick, they rush to find Haggans, and finally find him leaving the office with his son. Mick confronts them, Tina aims a speeding car at them, Morgan gets in the way and Mick saves her life with a classic vamp leap as Tina overshoots and hits a light pole.

Meanwhile, Beth is conducting her own investigation—into Morgan herself. I was never sure why she undertook this—week before last she was defending Morgan to Mick, claiming that she could not be Coraline the vampire. She seems to have had a change of heart in the meantime, but we aren't shown why. What's more, she gets to do the voice-over this week, in a refreshing change, and does it well. This makes perfect sense, as the voice-over is a way for us to get inside a character's head when he doesn't have a sidekick around to bounce soliloquies off of. Since Mick is now palling around with Morgan (Coraline? Coragan? Morgaline?) and can share his thoughts freely with her, Beth now has no one to speak her thoughts to, hence the voice-over. We get to share her growing horror as her investigation leads her to break into Morgaline's apartment, rifle through her photographs, find one of Mick dated 1952, and take it back to her office where she confirms its authenticity. She decides to look up Coraline's old house (the glass house we saw two weeks ago), and finds that it is not only still inhabited, but that the basement is where Beth herself was held captive by Coraline as a child. Reliving that trauma, she breaks a child-sized chair into a wooden stake and goes vampire hunting.

She finds her quarry at Mick's apartment, where Mick has just interrupted Morgan/Coraline's shower with a kiss that turns the shower into a steam cabinet. He sees the fleur-de-lis brand on her shoulder and recognizes Coraline—leave it to Mick the professional private investigator to be the last one to figure out what everyone else in this show, even Josef, has figured out already. Coraline admits to being herself, and as Mick is desperately begging to find out how she made herself human again, Beth bangs on the door. Alarmed to find Coraline in Mick's place, and both of them half-dressed and soaking wet, she draws the exactly right conclusion—and stakes Coraline. Horrified, Mick informs Beth that she's just stabbed his only hope of "curing" vampirism in the heart. Fade to black. Cue applause.

Even apart from the film noir references, I loved this episode for the way it fulfilled its mandate: it uses Coraline to separate Mick and Beth, but not in the way we expect. Instead of the standard jealousy/conflicted lover plot, it's literally a life or death situation for Mick, still seeking redemption from the hell of vampirism. Coraline proves to be more than a casual distraction from Beth: the chemistry between Mick and Coraline sizzles at a higher temperature than anything we've seen so far with Beth. Shannyn Sossamon's Coraline/Morgan is sassy, confident, believable (except maybe for the Manolo Blahnik shoes). I hope they don't kill her off too soon. Likewise, Jason Dohring actually looked like a predator for about ten seconds tonight, as he held an unnaturally still, focused pose while listening to Beth share her suspicions of Coraline. I'm thinking there's more to the Josef/Coraline backstory than meets the eye.

Moonlight came in second in its timeslot on Friday night, the final night of November sweeps. It pulled in 7.33 million viewers and placed second in the 18-to-49 demographic with a 2.2/6 share. Since the shows before it and after it pulled in better numbers, this is not really great news, but it's not yet cause for despair, either. There's still a lot left to fix in this show. Not once, for example, did we get Mick the Vampire in this episode, apart from a couple of spectacular leaps. No fangs, no silver eyes, no sipping at a glass of well-aged AB negative blood. He again got his butt handed to him in a physical confrontation. Beth's change of attitude re: Morgan/Coraline remains unexplained. Only Coraline appears to be a fully fleshed-out character. But then, the bad girl always gets the good lines. This episode not only advanced the mythos of the series, it introduced a real and honest obstacle between Mick and Beth, gave us a top notch villainess, and provided a fun mystery to solve. Since we're going to have to wait about three weeks for the next episode, it's good to have this much to tide us over.

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