Room 104 has reached it’s fourth and final season, but don’t let that stop you from watching since it’s very easy to enjoy every episode on its own. Season four opens with a hilarious episode entitled “The Murderer” which was written, directed, and stars Mark Duplass. It’s the perfect episode to open the season thanks to its ability to explore the space, surprise the viewer, and ultimately draw you into the character’s experiences on screen.
Room 104 is an anthology series set in the same room each season. Every episode is guaranteed to make you laugh, but each brings a different mix of singing, dancing, horror, tears, and more. It’s a setup that’s more akin to plays on stage than a TV show and it certainly implores all the tricks a television show can offer. Since it’s limited to one location each episode can feel like a challenge on the creators and ultimately the viewer to see how far they can go to make the episode unique.
This episode has a mix of anticipatory awkward humor, ramped up suspense, and a mix of creative songs and hilariously dark songs. It opens with a late teenage or early 20 something boy signing for a keg in room 104. His friends show up and he breaks the news to them that he ran into a random rock singer that U2’s Bono proclaimed the real best singer of the year when accepting a Grammy in the 90s. They are elated but also can’t believe the good fortune of their friend running into a rock singer who has been off the grid for decades.
Mark Duplass plays the singer and he blows this role out of the water. He’s equal parts awkward, scary in a hard to pin down way, and frail. He exhibits a man that has not interacted with people in some time–maybe ever–and it shows. He plays with our expectations of the type of person we expect, the frailty of the person underneath it all, and the deep mental illness he clearly harbors. It’s through his music that we understand who he is, but also how twisted this man always has been.
The songs are quite good and they’re all sung by Duplass reminiscent of 90s grunge rock or folk-rock not unlike Neil Young. It comes as a surprise that the music is good at all though as Duplass shows up to room 104 in thick dad socks, a rather run-down guitar, and not a lick of charm. Through his long dirty hair and old collared shirt is a man who is either lying about who he is, or has gone down a long road of hardships. Through the songs, we learn all about said hardships and they’re at once ridiculous and well sung. The songs are also written by Mark Duplass and while they’re over the top, linked together they tell a good story in themselves.
My only gripe with this episode would be how it ends. I was desperately trying to find meaning in the girl’s actions, the musician’s manic depressive behavior, or just what it was all about. It doesn’t give much of an answer.
I found myself laughing out loud multiple times while watching this episode. At times out of sheer horror of what was unfolding, from the awkwardness of a character or moment, or simply because what was sung or said was so outlandish. It’s an experience to tune into a song and try to find the deeper meaning, but when that meaning begins to rear it’s ugly and twisted head, it’s a car crash you can’t pull yourself out of. That makes this episode quite special since it forces you to pay attention and either laugh or shout in complete surprise and shock.