In which the episode with the more intriguing title sucks. Give us the "Blues" anytime.
Season 2, Episode 21: “Wedding in Black” (Rodney Charters, director; Peter Lauterman, Angelo Stea, writers)
Satan attempts revenge on the Curious Goods team, while the series brings to the fore some of its latent misogyny.
KRIS’S THOUGHTS: The setup here is about as ridiculous as any of the other episodes where Lucifer speaks or appears. (At least his voice is a little better than the usual “give a frat boy a case of beer and a Nagra reel-to-reel and tell him, ‘Give us Lucifer’.”) Here, Lucifer is pissed about the Curious Goods team undoing his cursed objects work, so he sends three emissaries to draw each of them into a scenario where they will make it possible for Lucifer to bear a child through Micki (oddly, the only reason for the episode’s dodo title). The illusory world they find themselves in (and the only cool aspect of this dreadful episode) is made possible via a cursed snow globe that Ryan and Jack break in their attempt to rescue Micki, by ramming their car into the glass shell to knock the globe to the floor back in the ‘real’ world in the Curious Goods shop so that it breaks. They end up on the floor covered in giant fake snowflakes that look like plastic dandruff.
I suppose I appreciate the idea that the Prince of Darkness himself would be pretty miffed that the Curious Goods team keeps removing all his cursed objects from circulation, and want to do something about it. It’s like they’re systematically closing all his beloved franchises, one-by-one. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make this episode any less stupid. It even prompts one of the most ridiculous, regrettable (and telling) statements in Wax’s book. After a few pretty decent logic questions—“How is Micki not more traumatized? Why is it that the offer is [either] Micki’s body or the guys’ souls?”—Wax adds: “I’m hardly one to give in to feminist propaganda, but that seems a very uneven trade” (2015, 290). Feminist propaganda? Later, she comments, “If you want to get real femi-nazi …, the argument could be made that the men in this episode have great control over their baser instincts, while the women do not” (2015, 292). Why is it “femi-nazi” (a hyphenate she uses twice) to make a basic observation about fucked-up representation in a show that often features fucked-up representation? It’s barely even being a feminist killjoy (the more appropriate term for what she’s getting at) to note this.
Erin: GROSS. Right, because women having autonomy over their own bodies is such a bad thing. Or that pointing out gross portrayals of women in media makes you a killjoy. I wonder if she thinks that will broaden her work’s appeal by disavowing any connection to feminism.
K: Oof, that makes it even worse!
I’m going to have a tough time picking up Wax’s book again. The use of phrases like “feminist propaganda” and “femi-nazi” are retrograde and sad. It’s fine that she still saw Micki as a “role model as a child” because she didn’t pick up on these things when she was younger, or even because she saw something else in Micki that allowed her to look past them. A significant aspect of fandom of problematic shows involves resistant readings, and critical negotiations that still allow one to appreciate the material for its strengths and challenges (See Pinedo , Freeland , and Cherry [2002, 2008, 2009], for some among many examples). Wax writes, “I do not think— and have never thought— that this show talked down to women” (292). She has a right to her analysis, though from my perspective it’s pretty dunderheaded. Still, you don’t need to be anti-feminist, or to turn a blind eye to the show’s pretty significant failings around representation of women, to make any of the points she makes about this episode’s pretty shitty politics. From now on, I’ve decided to be a feminist killjoy as often as possible (i.e., a sliver more often than usual) in my readings of the episodes.
E: I love you, man.
K: I love you, too, man.
ERIN’S THOUGHTS (before reading yours): Well, that was certainly a thing that happened. Not a good thing, but a thing. From the low-rent font on the “location” titles to the title itself: “Wedding in Black”? What does that even mean?
K: Hahahaha! Totally!
E: In essence, the episode turns on an idiot plot: everyone has to leave their brains in neutral for any of this to work. Open the package with no return address? Sure, because nothing bad could be contained inside. Randos showing up after years inviting you out? Absolutely nothing shifty in that. Had it been in season one, some of this might have made some kind of sense; it could be chalked up to inexperience (at least for Ryan and Micki). And why the hell were Ryan and Jack encouraging Micki to take off with Calvin? “Is this a male conspiracy?” she asks, and to that I can emphatically answer: “Yes, Micki, it is. On the part of the writers.”
E: There were a couple of interesting things: Ryan getting the chance to be the smart one (no soft heart on here); I could see not being suspicious of one old friend, but when another shows up, that pings in his brain, only to be confirmed by the appearance of Maya. (Also, Ryan not acting like the dog in the manger when an old boyfriend of Micki’s shows up. Mostly.) The snow globe “transportation” effect was decent, and enjoyed the meta moment of Jack watching Micki on TV as we watch Jack watching Micki...and Calvin looking directly at the camera. (Also, Maya is officially the third character Carolyn Dunn has played on the show; you might remember her from such quality episodes as “Quilt of Hathor” as the girl Ryan went Amish for; is it an intentional wink they cast her as an ex of Ryan’s?) Finally, thumbs up to the continuity editor for remembering Lloyd, and trusting the audience would too.
K: Wow good eye.
E: The problems extend beyond forcing two-thirds of the cast to act like dumbasses, though, and mostly centered around Micki. First, the guy they cast as Calvin looks like every baddie/drug dealer/coke head in 1980s cop shows. (He’s got that Hart Bochner in Die Hard vibe; I half-expected him to say: “Hans, bubbie; I’m your white knight!”) Why on earth would Micki trust him? Worse, however, is that final scene, with the flames and upside-down cross. Obviously, before Micki’s “yes” it is clearly shot as a seduction scene, but the minute things go red and black and rapey, it is STILL shot as a seduction scene, which is just...horrifying. (That’s not even touching on the constant references to her “virtue.”)
K: Wow, you’re such a femi-nazi.
E: I just can’t help myself.
Honestly, I’ve no idea what the point of this was. One final thought: it’s funny that I had no problem accepting either Antonio or Calvin as in league with Satan with no real reference to their particular backstories, but Maya remained an enigma as to why she killed her patients in the first place.
K: Yeah. I wish we could call the cops. Nah, I voted to defund them.
Some additional reading on the topic of resistant fan readings of, and feminist frameworks for, horror--for those interested:
Cherry, Brigid. “Gothics and Grand Guignols: Violence and the Gendered Aesthetics of Cinematic
Horror.” Particip@tions. 5.1 (2008) Online. Available:
---. “Refusing To Refuse To Look: Female Viewers of the Horror Film.” Horror: The Film Reader. Ed.
Mark Jancovich. New York: Routledge, 2002. 169-178.
Freeland, Cynthia A. “Feminist Frameworks for Horror Films.” Film Theory and Criticism. Eds. Leo
Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 2004. 742-763.
Pinedo, Isabel. Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. New York: SUNY
Season 2, Episode 22: “Wedding Bell Blues” (Jorge Montesi, director; Nancy Ann Miller, writer)
A delightful deconstruction of the marriage plot, with horror and humor in equal measure. Literally, an antidote to the prior episode.
KRIS’S THOUGHTS: Lo and behold, one of the few women writers on the show, Nancy Ann Miller, gives us the hilarious antidote to so many of the show’s missteps around representation of women, even while simultaneously adding to them! How so, you ask? Read on. This episode feels like a balm to my rage over Wax’s regrettable, wounding thoughts on the previous episode. The opening sequence is a fantastic play of phallic symbols (pool sticks, cigarettes popped into mouths and then butted out prematurely in defeat), and homoerotic stares and smiles. The follow-up conversation to Danny’s losing the game with Danny’s girlfriend and her friend, and then with Danny, turns on the topic of his possibly going home with her for sex, but Danny prefers the game.
The cursed pool cue’s power comes from being thrust into a woman in the restroom (and elsewhere in the episode—only women are penetrated by the cue), and when Danny starts winning, he’s all smiles, close-up pool cues, a cigarette dangling from his mouth all the while. As gross as it is, it’s also great. The fact that it’s Danny’s girlfriend who knows the power of the pool cue and manipulates him with the illusion of power and virility it offers him is another factor in the episode’s investigation of masculine dynamics.
We also learn later that Danny is “not the marrying kind” and has “a confidence problem,” and that he’s “[hurt] his back” and is “not able to work.” While the first phrase is usually linked to homosexuality, it isn’t so much linked to that here, but more to Danny’s troubled masculinity, a symptom of which is his constant wandering to other women. The long line of signification, from Danny’s failings and obsessions, to his frustrated (and psychopathic) wannabe bride, suggests failed male potential and potency, and the effects of what we now call toxic masculinity. It is therefore interesting that the introduction of Johnny (who will become a staple of the Curious Goods team) comes within this context, at first just as a guy in the bar, the camera moving up under him to emphasize his square jaw and chiseled stature. When he phones Micki to say he might have found the cue, he tells her to “look for the best-looking guy in the place.” What a dick. Johnny also wins the award for best worst attempt to pick up Micki ever: “You don’t date younger men?” Like, what is she, 30?
Erin: Also, Johnny has the type of face that, to me, makes him look prematurely 40. Possibly not the point.
K: As with classic parodic form, this episode’s cheese is also its “goods”: Among these are the hilarious death scene, with Jennifer, Danny’s girlfriend killing his friend and pool competition. As she stands there with him skewered on the cue and then looking down on him brandishing the cue, a musical “cue” plays “here comes the bride.” Also among these are the episode’s veritable laundry list of “best lines”:
The totally unhinged performance of Jennifer by Elizabeth MacLellan is a delight. It carries the episode, in fact. She talks to herself (or her baby, or both?) in a sweet voice in private, but is all mugging and sinister looks elsewhere. She’s a monster, but her ceaseless manipulation of Danny (who’s a total douchebag) and murder of the women who get in her way works against a simple reading of her as a stereotype. The whole milieu here—gaming dudes in bars, barmaids, leering blondes, naive hopes around marriage, adultery, sisters betraying sisters, Micki’s attempts to fight off Johnny’s cocksure attitude, and the scene with Jennifer all gussied up in a white room with cake and everything ready, and later Jennifer, the “blood-spattered bride” interrupting the game to murder a failing Danny—all of it lifts this episode to the level of satire. Or an anti-myth, a myth undone. It’s great. Top 20. Maybe even top 10.
E: Right there with you on that. What is particularly great here is the slow burn; when we are first introduced to the character, she seems slightly deluded about the capabilities and viability of Danny as fiance, but it initially comes across as a “sunk cost” type of situation, with a dash of “stand by your man.” It’s only over time that it becomes clear she’s unhinged, building nicely throughout the early scenes until she’s gone completely cuckoo’s nest.
ERIN’S THOUGHTS (before reading yours): Well, this was a pure delight after last week’s mess. This show is at its best when it leans into the ridiculous nature of the premise and situation. This one, however, had the added bonus of deconstructing what, as Johnny says near the end, “makes a great movie, but in real life, it sucks” (see, for example, the series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which does the same thing to rom-com tropes). In this instance comes the title itself, which I’m convinced is cribbed intentionally from the Fifth Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues” (“oh won’t you marry me, Bill?”).
So, we’ve got Danny (another, slightly less HoYay turn from Justin Louis than in “Doorway to Hell”), a jerk and loser trying to become a pool champion, with the start of the episode suggesting that he is the one who knows the pool cue is cursed and kills to win, only to upend that a few scenes later when it’s revealed that Jennifer is the one behind this. I love how Elizabeth Mclellan leans into the crazy here, as does the episode itself: I love the shot of her standing with the cue, having just killed her fellow waitress, while the Wedding March riffs in the background. See, show, this is what can happen when you have women writing women. (She’s also written for a ton of procedural series, from The New Mike Hammer (yup, used to watch that with my dad) to Law & Order, so she’s clearly conversant in the conventions of the genre, and delights in playing with them here.
K: Yes! And B-TV needs a book on The New Mike Hammer and Murder, She Wrote … the same book.
E: I am fully on board with that! I mean, there are no good guys here; Danny’s an asshole, Jennifer is psycho; and as far as plans go, exposing what a dick your sister’s fiance is by sleeping with him is not a great plan. Honestly, literally everybody is telling her Danny’s no good [K: including her sister, who’s sleeping with him; she should know.], but he has to nearly kill her before it penetrates? LOVE IT. It’s so over the top that it works. Nor does the episode suggest we sympathize with Jennifer (a la the mom/titanic cradle episode); it could literally not be clearer Danny’s not worth the trouble, and the episode never suggests he is.
Further, while Johnny comes across as stalker-ish in his dogged pursuit of Micki, she is firm in her refusals. I’m guessing he’s the same Johnny that shows up in season three?
K: He is. <<Groan.>>
E: Not loving his intro here; we’ve finally got Ryan not trying to make the moves on Micki, only to add Johnny? I did like that two things: 1) that Micki finally straight up told him about the devil cursed antiques, and 2) that he took it well, with no “you’re insane” type thing.
Other than that: more like this, please, and less like “Wedding in Black.”
Spot the Canadian character actor: Gary Farmer, who went on to play the precinct captain in the first season of Forever Knight.
Sin: I guess “envy” comes the closest: girl with daddy issues wanting a family at any cost.
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Critical Rewatch #1
Friday the 13th: The Series aired in syndication from 1987 to 1990. It boasts a large fanbase but almost no scholarly commentary. This episode-by-episode critical blog on the series is part of a research project by Erin Giannini and Kristopher Woofter that will include the series in a scholarly monograph on horror anthology TV series in the Reagan era.