Room 104 is a series I didn’t watch when it originally aired, but I’m officially all-in for season 4. Episode 1 blew me away with the humanity of its characters, creativity in its songs, and its ability to create awkward laughs. Episode 2 is written by Mark Duplass and directed by Karan Soni and stars primarily Jillian Bell. It’s a story that’s a bit sad, has fewer laughs than the first episode, but also a much deeper meaning.
“Star Time” opens on an extreme close up of Bell’s mouth as she eats Doritos alone in a hotel room. She’s eating in a way that suggests she has no care for her health nor for the food she’s shoving in her face. Cue a giant hamster, or at least a man in a hamster suit, appearing on the second bed beside her who was most certainly not there a moment ago. Bell’s character is not phased by this mysterious hamster, nor does she care for the game he’s playing. So begins a strange and enlightening journey through Bell’s life as we attempt to piece together what is going on and what the episode is about.
Soni directs this episode wonderfully. Scenes play out moments in Bell’s life, all of which make sense for the hotel room because Bell is reliving them as she lays in bed. They all revolve around a clever idea known as “star time” which we learn early on is something Bell’s character invented at a young age during show and tell at school. Once we learn the meaning of “star time” do we start to understand what the episode is really about. It’s through the mystery of not knowing what “star time” is, and how the story unveils itself, that the episode truly shines.
I did find parts of the episode’s message rather obvious playing out in a way that’ll make you want them to get it over with. In one scene, Bell is begging for a man to punch her and at this point we know it’s so that she can get an endorphin kick. It’s certainly short, the episodes don’t run longer than 24 minutes, but you’ll know what is going on early enough to make you start looking at your watch.
The lack of a human character to play off Bell also hinders the episode since all her scenes are with a man in a hamster suit. Speaking of which, the lack of any big reveal as to who or what the hamster is beyond a rather simplistic idea revealed late in the episode hindered the final reveal.
This episode doesn’t quite bring the full-fledged magic of episode 1 of season 4 brought, but it’s still quite clever in many ways. It also harbors a deep and powerful message many of us will relate to or understand as we grow older and try to find our vices.