Slasher S4E3: Backbone

by thethreepennyguignol

Backbone: who’s got it, who doesn’t, who is metaphorical, and who’s is getting very literally caved in with a mallet? Let’s talk about it!

Actually, this episode of Slasher could well be called Eddie Jacobs’ No Good, Very Bad, Random Acts of Bodily Assault Day – Eddie (played by Brandon Oakes) is the centrepiece to this week’s episode, and it’s more or less a calvalcade of people committing various minor and major crimes against him. But, as the title suggests, it’s really about who’s got the backbone to stand up for what’s right – and why Eddie didn’t, when it mattered.

I really love spending a day with a character here, and Oakes makes for a great scene partner for a few of my favourite characters in this season so far; the two confrontations he has with Basil Garvey are a really interesting power-flip, with Garvey dominant in the initial encounter, and Eddie taking control in the second. I love Erick McCormack in this role so far, and this chink in his armour – a reminder that, while he seems powerful, he’s reliant on the people around him to keep him that way.

And the other major encounters this episode are pretty much the gamut of Slasher’s tonal extremes: the first, with Melanda Israel, the series’ resident doctor and threatening wielder of imposing medical equipment. I’m loving getting to see Lisa Berry take on a more imposing role after her role as a detective in season three, and she plays this just perfectly: when the Quivering Finger of Accusation turns in her direction, she’s confident and cool and deliberately evasive in a way that tells me she doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. Her medical training makes her invaluable to so many people, so she doesn’t have to justify herself like some of the other characters do, and that power makes her a compelling force in this story.

And, at the other end of the scale, Georges gives us some prime Slasher campery in his confrontation with Eddie. Look, I’m a sucker for anyone with a taste for the dramatique, and Georges is right at the upper end of what Slasher can get away with: watching him vanish into thin air and make a dramatic reappearance in a mirror’s reflection moments later is exactly the kind of energy I’m trying to bring to all of my social interactions, and his complete commitment to the bit is an inspiration to drama queens everywhere. We’ve just had him in small doses so far, which I think is for the best, given how over-the-top the performance is, but I love it, especially when it comes in comparison to Berry’s very restrained turn.

And one of the reasons Georges works so well this season is because of the inherent gothic stylings in this story: from the Widow’s design to the dramatic cinematography (ugh, that one shot this week of the characters silhouetted against the dusky graveyard had me putting the Kate Bush on the playlist for this evening), Ripper is the most explicitly gothic of the Slasher seasons so far, and I love it. Gothic horror is a genre of extremes, in aesthetic and in characters, and I, for one, welcome our new ridiculous overlords.

Speaking of – the Boticelli sisters are mostly lurking at the edges of this episode, but I honestly believe that’s the best thing for my mental wellbeing. Watching Sabrina Grdevich casually make reference to her sister’s arse while they villainize at each other in an empty corridor lined with the empty frames of pictures they used to own like some kind of invasive Carmilla plant…it’s delicious. I am chomping at the bit for their centrepiece episode, and have cleared my schedule in anticipation.

Anyway! Back to Eddie. See, he’s having such a bad day he can’t even be the focus of his own episode review. This week, Eddie’s involvement in the murder of Margaret is the focus – despite his protestations that he had nothing to do with it, it’s revealed at the end of the episode that’s more what he didn’t do than what he did. His lack of backbone, lack of ability to do the right thing in the face of Margaret begging for her freedom, is a clever twist – the parallels between his own death as he begs for his life and her desperate attempts to free herself is impactful, and, similar to last week, he’s another man who can’t see his own culpability in what he’s done, his inaction, in his eyes, enough to excuse him.

I really enjoyed Backbone, especially for the gorgeous cinematography and ambitious visual stylings – everything from the set design to the costuming to the make-up feels like it’s feeding into the story and the characters here. And we’ve got a proper murder mystery on our hands – a swooningly dramatic, droolingly gothic murder mystery. My favourite kind!

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(header image via Halloween Year Round)