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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reaper: "The Good Soil"

Illustration for article titled Reaper: "The Good Soil"
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Illustration for article titled Reaper: "The Good Soil"

I was pretty nerdy in high school (cue fake surprise, followed by rather pointed and not-at-all insulting commentary on the inaccurate use of the word "was"), and I had friends, but I don't ever remember us making any sort of concerted effort to get laid. Oh sure, we all wanted to hook up with somebody, but it was never, y'know, a team sport; we never made a bet or took a vow or staged elaborate pranks to seduce cheerleaders. I've never met anyone who has, and yet the "gotta get have sex before graduation!" trope keeps getting used. The Soul of the Week in "The Good Soil," Billy Boyland, even uses it to stop Sam from sending him back to Hell. According to Sock and Ben, "virgin" is the magic word, and it puts the team squarely on the damned guy's side—but then there's that whole thing with good intentions and pavement.

It's official, Sam and Andi are broken up. Which doesn't really mean anything; while I don't hate them as a couple, watching together post-break-up just shows you how little chemistry there was to lose. They aren't in love, they're just mildly pleasant together, and now that that's gone, they're just mild. Sam swears to Ben he won't give up, which is usually viewed as romantic in the movies, even though it's kind of pathetic and creepy in real life. Sam even tries to use champagne, (string) cheese, and strawberries to re-woe, but she sees through his machinations and thinks that makes him more evil. C'mon, really? We need some big reveal about Andi's past at this point; because it seems like she's just looking for excuses not to be with someone she clearly likes. Reaper's casual vibe can be quite charming, but all the drama between these two is just a little too nonchalant. Either put them back together, or make it actually matter that they're apart. Otherwise, feh.

Romance was the big theme this week. In addition to Sam and Andi's struggles, we also got to spend time with Ben and Nina, and the ever-icky Kristen and Sock. Sock tries to put more moves on Kristen, but she's afraid her father might discover what they've been up to; so Sock does what he considers to be the right thing, and tries to bond with his step-dad, Norris.  There's some fly-fishing humor, Norris says Sock isn't good enough for his daughter, and Sock reveals that they already had sex. Yay. Weirdly enough, this doesn't seem to have any repercussions whatsoever. Kristen leaves at the end of the ep, hopefully for good, but it's her choice. It's a bizarre subplot that hit all the expected notes, but couldn't be bothered to make any kind of music out of them; I'm torn between irritation that so much time was wasted on nothing, and just being happy it's over.

Ben and Nina were charming as ever, but their mini-story was pretty bland. She wants to go flying for their two-month anniversary, he's scared, it works out in the end. You could pretty much see where this would go from step one, and apart from a few clever bits (Ben's Vision Board, Nina's revelation that she used to be a hemophobe), it was just sort of—there.

Actually, that's a decent way to describe the episode as a whole. Taken out of context, we get some interesting developments—Morgan's back, and the Devil's still pushing him to learn from Sam (although maybe it's just the Devil trying to use Morgan to mess with Sam). He offers Sam money to take care of the next soul for him, and Sam (with Sock's encouragement) has a price. Trouble is, the next soul is actually not that bad a guy at all. Billy may be the nicest escapee we've yet seen, just a poor geeky kid who got hit by a bus while he was coveting his neighbor's wife. Sam spends most of the episode trying to find a way to keep from sending him back to Hell, which is where the "still a virgin" stuff comes in; Sam agrees to hold off till Billy can have the sex, which gives Billy the opportunity to go right back to hitting on the woman he was crushing when he died.

Surprisingly, this works out perfectly; the lady's divorced, and Billy seems to've been keeping in shape down below. I like the idea of Sam being torn by the nature of the souls he damns—it makes his work more interesting if he gets stuck with people who aren't out-and-out evil—but I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop on Billy and his true love, Cindy. 'Cause that stuff worked out way too easily; he picks her up at a bar, the next minute they're exchanging I-love-yous, and there's no twist. At all.

Which puts Sam in a spot. He tries to send back Billy's corpse in the vessel (no idea how that would work), and it goes badly; bad enough for Morgan to get a little pissed, and to put the Devil himself in a bad mood. In basically the only tense scene in the entire episode, Ray Wise shows up at the Work Shed while Sam is working after hours, and starts hurling boxes. Sam's little stunt with Billy's corpse gummed up the works in Hell, so now a special creature called The Ender, the Devil's fail-safe, is coming to destroy the kid's soul for good. By trying to help, he only managed to make things quite a bit worse.

Something called The Ender should be impressive, but in quite possibly the least imaginative choice that could've been made, it just looks like the Ghost of Christmas Future. And it doesn't have much effect, either, as Billy finally manages to make it with his special lady just as his soul goes in the crosshairs. Ben and Sam think Billy was saved by the power of Love, and maybe that's it, but I'm hoping it turns out to be more complicated. It was just too easy—maybe if it was all a trick by the Devil to mess with Sam's mind? Not sure what that would accomplish, but it'd be a hell of a lot more interesting that turning away ultimate evil with some candles and "More Than Words."

About the only thing to keep this week's soul-busting from being a complete waste of time happens at the very end, when Morgan captures the seemingly free and clear Billy in the vessel. So at least it wasn't a happy ending. Still, this one was mostly a wash. Just those few brief moments with Wise flinging boxes were enough to make me wish the show would buckle down and start to deliver on some of its promise. You have Ray Wise as the Devil. It would be nice to seem him actually do something, beyond the standard twice hourly appearances.

Grade: B-

Stray Observations:

  • Billy on sex and romance: "It's about Cindy's pleasure, too. It says so right on the condom box."
  • Nice to see some more of Sam's dad, although that has to be one of the more awkward segues into cemetery digging I've seen.
  • Speaking of, Alan's back.