There’s definitely something to be said for the slow reveal, and for a show that doesn’t feel the need to outline its supernatural elements up front like it’s running an RPG and getting new people caught up. That said, the best thing going for Intruders right now is its setup, which is clearly where writer Glen Morgan has set the most dramatic store, and where every new clue suggests the world of Intruders would make for one hell of a LARP weekend. This is an impression only helped by the flashback to a previous iteration of Marcus sitting opposite Shepherd and negotiating for an against-the-rules comeback—“Then shepherd me off the books, and when it’s time, bring me back, and when I’m back, they’ll never see me coming”—for reasons yet unknown (of course).
However, that’s the only area into which Intruders seems to be putting much energy, which makes the decision to dole out such scanty information feel less like at atmospheric mystery and more like spreading things thin. Nearly halfway into its eight-episode run, Intruders is in no hurry to get to the secrets of Qui Reverti, or even absentee Bill Anderson. Instead, this disjointed episode takes one step forward and one step back as things slowly fall apart. Madison disposes of Karen (Rukiya Bernard), her ride to Seattle, after Karen has an attack of ethics and makes the wrong phone call; Jack comes home to Amy in hopes of smoothing things over on an evening where everything immediately snarls; and Shepherd has a couple of semi-helpful flashbacks and a long night on the road.
After two episodes in which everyone but James Frain tried to restrain themselves, there’s a nice shift in the distribution of tropes this week, though some work better than others. The scene of Madison chatting about “Ave Maria” from the orchestra pit is the sort of pulpy goodness that’s half the reason to write about immortals in the first place, and by now, the hard-nose man of action refusing to look back at the explosion is practically obligatory. I feel like, after enjoying so many similar sentiments in Penny Dreadful, I’m almost obligated to allow Jack’s hilarious, “That’s not the world I live in since…you know,” even if I don’t extend that same latitude to the last-minute exposition-delivery appearance of poor Garry Fischer. Markedly less successful is the bog-standard flashback to Jack and Amy in the kind of gossamer-curtain domestic bliss you see in commercials for interior house paint.
In fact, for a couple so central to both the mystery and any eventual answers, Jack and Amy feel more and more like a missed mark. In theory, there’s a familiar agony in watching someone you love and think you know changing right in front of you in ways you can’t keep up with: new or abandoned habits, conversations that contradict themselves so much that you might as well be talking to different people, a page skipped in a script. And there are even moments in Jack and Amy’s quickly-crumbling marriage where the mystery gets some of its best potential twists. Amid the hairpin turns of their big confrontation, there’s the genuinely haunting beat that someone’s trying to warn, or recruit, Jack from inside Amy’s skin—the question is, who?
Unfortunate, then, that Amy seems so lackluster (due to Sorvino’s affect? Their awkwardness? The scene itself?) that it doesn’t seem to much matter which iteration of her is currently awake. Even more unfortunate that Jack’s dangerous side, which we merely glimpsed last episode, is revealed here in a burst of domestic violence in which John Simm marches dutifully to a window for the requisite punch. It’s supposed to reveal existing cracks in their relationship, of course, and suggest that he’s a conflicted antihero with a hard-drinking past—no doubt thanks to the grief of losing a child. But what it actually reveals is that Jack is dangerous in specific to his wife, and his affronted confusion about why she wants to separate becomes laughable in its wake. This scene could have provided the intended insight into the ways rotting marriages can turn into more poisonous battlefields than Qui Reverti could ever imagine. As it is, I’m wondering how much we’re meant to invest in something that still feels perfunctory.
Madison—Marcus, functionally, by now—has the more dynamic subplot, simply by virtue of that first-act monologue and the rest-stop murder that crosses off this episode’s necessary body count, and Millie Brown continues to be her best when she’s pretending to be a grown man pretending to be a girl. But aside from a timestamp for Marcus and a fondness for music, we know nothing more about him this episode than before; aside from creating an obstacle to reaching Seattle, we only learn that Marcus is ruthless enough to fall back on a claim of sexual abuse to gain sympathy, which makes you wonder why he’d wait to play that card instead of using it the first time Karen questioned him and locking down an ally. We still have zero glimpses into Madison’s psyche or reactions, which is too bad, since the ambiguity of who’s in charge is the most interesting thing about Amy at any given moment, but I guess Glen Morgan was trying to avoid scene after scene of Madison sobbing hysterically in the wake of Marcus’s crimes. (The cat, sure. People? Eh.)
And yet, despite this being an episode where everyone ends at a demonstrably different point than the beginning—on the verge of separation, on the road alone—there just isn’t a sense of urgency about anyone except where they most directly cross the Qui Reverti worldbuilding. Frain continues to give absolutely anything he can to Shepherd, but Jack and Amy are a two-dimensional troubled couple and Madison the creepy kid we’ve seen in a dozen horror flicks. At this point, we need some answers about the mystery just to give weight and momentum to anyone’s arc. A slow build is all well and good, but for this show to make us care about anything but the final whodunits, hopefully there’s some more to hang on to, soon.
- Qui Reverti tip of the week: “Thoughts of death are for the ignorant, and here you must listen. We die, but we can come back.”
- The plot thickens: “If the Nine do manage to kill me.”
- The plot thickens?: In the second episode, Madison’s father suggested she might be going toward Seattle for the sake of her “real” parents. In this episode, we learn that Jack and Amy lost a child. Here’s hoping those two events are unrelated.
- That gold-stamped 9 is literally a calling card. I see what you did there.
- Composer Bear McCreary delivers his usual great work here; the ambient piano score occasionally interrupted by the squealing dissonance that sounds like a piano being smashed to pieces does more deft a job of illustrating everything falling apart than the show itself has, so far.
- Overall, the aesthetics of the last two episodes have not thrilled me, but the pay phone was gorgeously lit, that sickly green draining everyone who came near it.