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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reaper: "I Want My Baby Back"

Illustration for article titled Reaper: "I Want My Baby Back"
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Illustration for article titled Reaper: "I Want My Baby Back"

Heya, soul suckers—Steve Hyden's asked me to take over regular duties on the Reaper blog, an assignment that gave me a reason to finally catch up with this series. I've been reading the recaps all along, but when the show first aired, I didn't have cable; and then, by the time I did have cable, the first seaon had wound itself up, and when the second season started, I felt like I needed to see everything I'd missed before I could jump into the new stuff. Anyway, I'm mostly caught up now, and I'm digging it. I get Steve's complaints, and I agree with a lot of them—for all the awesomeness of Ray Wise, and as much as I dig the central conceit, Reaper can feel frustratingly under-realized, always hinting at some bigger, darker subtext but rarely bothering to deliver on that. It's a show with only a few fingers more ambition than it's heroes.

Still, when all's said and done, I like the characters, and I like hanging out with them, and that goes a long way towards easing my other concerns. In general, I'm willing to accept this one on face value, provided we don't get too many more "Ben and Sara try to fake out immigration!" style subplots.

The previews for this week's episode, "I Want My Baby Back," didn't have my expectations too high; because, let's face it, unless there's a Guttenberg and a Danson involved, babies aren't funny. (Weird how Selleck is the optional member of the trio, right? I totally would've assumed it was Guttenburg, but then I crunched the numbers, and there you go.) Things started off on the right foot, with an absolutely top-notch "My not-dead/not-alive dad is in the back seat, let's screw with Ben!" gag. Sure, it means reducing last week's reveal to a one-off explanation (yup, contract won't let him die), but it seemed like just the right way to treat the whole situation; there are all these religious, supernatural, and biological questions, but really, it just makes a great way to screw with your friends.

Speaking of friends—Tony's back! And just in time, too. The Soul Of The Week, Tracy Reed, is an easy removal (c'mon, she was a pretend vampire, a sun lamp on high would've been enough), but when she escaped, she did it for an IBOH: Intentional Birth Out Of Hell. As Gladys tells the guys, it's not that uncommon (we have better schools up here), but that leaves our trio with a squawling infant they are in no way prepared for to take care of. Tony shows up and everything seems perfect—he's instantly smitten with the kid (who he names "Stevie" in honor of you know who) and takes her off Sam's unwilling hands.

And then the Devil shows up and says he wants the wee soul back in Purgatory. The boys go to Tony's place and manipulate him into leaving the apartment via food complaints (Sock's plan actually works); it's a scene that doesn't quite work, as it makes our heroes out as kind of dicks,  and the stuff with them trying to work up to staking the kid was cute but draggy. I did like Ben's solution to the problem, a baptism—I mean, it's not like anybody was going to give lil Stevie the wooden shiv, and this was a nice work-around. It also gave us a cool scene at the church (hey, it's Gaeta!), where the Devil managed to pull a baby carriage (with baby inside, natch) out of the building and up to a hell portal right across the street.

Outside of the main plot, the Sock/Kristen thing continues to be moderately amusing but not really all that necessary. (The "hot girl oblivious to her charms" scenario needs to be retired. I've known a fair share of attractive women, and while not all of them were geniuses, none of them suffered from the apparent brain damage that's hitting Kristen here.) We did get some swell bits with Sam's dad—his attempts to cosy up to Sam now that sort-of death has freed him of normal obligations don't really endear him to his "son," and it comes to a head when Sam finally has a long-in-the-coming rant about how the not-really-dead Mr. Oliver royally screwed up his life. It's nice to see Sam actually getting (for him) really angry for once.

Also nice, more Morgan this week, as he puts the screws on Samandi by letting slip to Andi about Sam's apparent malevolent lineage. The conflict here is kind of a non-starter, in the same way that Sam's chats with the Devil about nature vs. nurture don't really ring true; we've yet to see Sam show a single moment's worth of evil, so Andi's sudden concern that he might wind up being a monster in the end seems done more out of a need for drama than anything true.

Still, Morgan is fun, and I loved the Devil's absolute conviction that Sam will turn out rotten. Odds are good that the whole "Sam is the son of the Devil" con is designed to corrupt Sam—that would explain the "I can't talk about it" clause in his dad's contract. But as always with Reaper such concerns are left floating a few feet above everyone's heads, and maybe that's for the best for right now. The occasional suggestion of an overall plot is good enough for me when things stay solid as tonight's ep.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

  • One thing I can never be sure of on this show: how far ahead has the Devil planned? And how well are those plans working out? He didn't seem all that conflicted on giving up the baby; probably just trying to force Sam into staking it, thus damning himself, and when that didn't work, he moved on.
  • It's weird seeing Ken Marino as the voice of reason.
  • I believe this is the first time in history that Honey, I Blew Up The Kid has ever been used for good.