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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Abbie goes into the woods and finds a monster

Illustration for article titled Abbie goes into the woods and finds a monster
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As far as set-ups go, “Into The Wild”’s main storyline is a smart one: while on an FBI survival training course with Agent Foster, Agent Reynolds, and a guide, Abbie runs afoul of a four hundred year-old monster. The creature can’t be killed by the usual method of “stabbing it until it stops moving,” and it quickly and seriously injuries their guide, leaving the group isolated in the wilderness with a nasty creature biting at their heels. Separating from Crane and the resources he has at his disposal should, in theory, up the tension. There’s no way for Abbie to research the creature, which offers a great chance for her to remind us just how capable she can be when left to her own devices.

That’s more or less what happens, give or take a sudden Crane appearance at the hour’s climax. But while the episode is another entertaining one, there’s no serious effort made to capitalize on Abbie’s situation beyond a few conversations about how tricky this is going to be. The monster, a “Verslinder,” is one of the neatest ones we’ve seen in a while, and had the potential to be a truly terrifying threat. But the thing is content to hang back, jumping in for the occasional fight but never really putting on the pressure. For a set-up like this to be really effective, there needs to be a sense of overwhelming odds against our heroes, and that never happens here, not even when the guide suddenly gets possessed and attacks Abbie and Foster.

It’s the same problem that’s been dogging the season, really. For whatever reason, the villains just aren’t as dangerous as they ought to be, and while this isn’t disastrous, it does rob even terrific premise’s like this one of most of their essential power. All the pieces are here for what should’ve been a nail-biter, but instead, we get a mildly engaging romp that ends in an overly convenient deus ex Ichabod. But maybe that’s just where the show’s at now. I’ve talked before about it not really feeling very much like horror anymore, even with the regular influx of demonic creatures and magic, and I’m beginning to wonder if this is a permanent transition, intentional or not.

If that’s the case, there’s still plenty here to enjoy. If Abbie’s trip into the woods isn’t a non-stop thrill ride, it does give her a chance to bond with Foster, and the conversation the two share about Foster’s indoctrination into the ways of the supernatural is very charming. Foster is a character who could’ve gone wrong in any number of ways, but she’s become a reliable, if somewhat underused, supporting figure. “Into The Wild” is a good example of why that’s the case. Determination, competence, and just enough of a sense of humor to laugh at the absurdity of her situation—that’s the basis of a good hero. This stuff about her parents disappearing under mysterious circumstances may eventually become interesting, but for right now, her fundamental solidity is enough.

The woods trip also gave Abbie a chance to better understand her feelings for Danny. She argues with Foster about telling him the true nature of their enemy they’re fighting, believing that the supernatural has brought nothing good into her life and not wanting to put another person at risk. Which makes a kind of sense, I guess, even if the episode’s efforts to tie this all into her feelings about that symbol she’s obsessing over doesn’t quite work. It’s difficult to dramatize someone’s fixation on an inanimate object, even if that object does seem to have some kind of supernatural powers. The revelation at the end that the symbol is actually a force for good, allowing Crane to sense when Abbie is in danger and coming to her rescue at a critical moment, doesn’t resolve the subplot so much as kick it a few more yards down the field. We still don’t know where the object came from or what it means, and, now that it’s no longer standing in as a representation of Abbie’s trauma, it’s too abstract to care about.

Another reason the trip the woods isn’t quite as intense as it might have been: the episode routinely cuts away to other side stories. This is a pet peeve of mine, and I realize that most shows aren’t interested in focusing on a single plot for an entire hour, but it’s hard to get worked up that Abbie might be in trouble on her own when we keep getting reminders that Joe and Jenny are off at an auction bidding on Pandora’s box, and Ichabod is getting the symbol tested, and (sigh) Pandora and the Hidden One are squabbling. These sequences aren’t directly connected to the Verslinder plot, but the effect of cutting away still robs that plot of any claustrophobic tightness it might have had.


That aside, this is still a fun hour, and the show’s character work remains engaging and frequently delightful. The discovery that Joe’s Wendigo problem might come back could add some drama to the weeks ahead, and the Hidden One and Pandora’s squabbling has become increasingly pointed; they’re just one “Don’t start with me, Martha” away from all out war. And while neither of them are all that scary at this point, at least the in-fighting would give them something more interesting to do than stare at pools and bemoan their fate. So, not bad, even if it’s a little disappointing.

Stray observations

  • Modern Things Of Which Ichabod Doth Not Approve Of This Week: He’s not too happy about the city of Rochester being named after a Colonel Rochester he knew in the army. He did not care for that man.
  • Apologies for the lateness of this review! I was doing a show last night and completely forgot this was on. (For the next two weeks, these reviews will be posted Saturday morning, as soon as I can write them up.)
  • Another problem with the Hidden One: he’s still extremely low on energy, which explains why he hasn’t taken the fight to the Witnesses before now, but also means he’s not really imposing at all. The show’s best villain, Moloch, was scary because he was super powerful, and because we never knew what he was going to do next. The Hidden One announces his intentions, pouts, and then pouts some more.
  • Credit where it’s due, the monster design this week was very cool.