Dead Still Episode 4 Camera Obscura- Review and Recap- Black Roses and Seances
The most off the rails seance you’ve ever seen is the backdrop for ghostly nonsense as Dead Still Episode 4 racks up another dead body.
Halfway through Acorn’s period hit Dead Still, Detective Regan continues to battle disrespect and disbelief. The poor man is ahead of his time but no one will listen. They accuse him of everything from chasing ghosts to inventing crimes to advance. A funny moment between Regan and his fellow officers hides a painful truth. That’s the thing Dead Still has done better than anything, The effective mix of sorrow and humor highlight both. It is a delicate balance that Craig David Wallace achieves in Dead Still Episode 4.
We finally meet Nancy’s eccentric family. Nancy’s Grandmother died, and the team is hired to take a Memorial photo of her. They are every bit the oppressive oddballs we thought they would be. They belittle Molloy and talk openly, in front of him, about his gravedigging background and lack of confidence. As abhorrent as they were, they did provide necessary details about Blennerhasset’s former assistant. He was polished and well-liked by Nancy’s family, which is not a ringing endorsement. After the discussion got to be too much, Molloy tells them all to stop moving, especially their mouths. Nancy and Brock appreciate his humor and strength even if their family didn’t.
That moment followed by the rest of the scene, gave Brock a chance to show his softer side. Michael Smiley(Brock Blennerhasset) is a revelation. His nuanced performance could easily skew campy as some period pieces do. He never wholly strays into ridiculous territory, instead choosing to show Blennerhasset is equally kind and guarded. Someone betrayed him in his past. Episode 4 brings a small amount of clarity to that story. More is needed to explain his reluctance to get emotionally involved. He genuinely cares for Connall and Nancy. He proves it at Nancy’s family estate when Nancy’s Mom tells Nancy she is cut off. The family is a nasty piece of work more concerned with keeping Henry and Nancy down than helping them grow. Nancy’s mother uses a razor tongue to force Nancy to stay instead of encouraging her to be independent. Lucky for Nancy, Brock is more supportive.
Detective Regan is a capable investigator because he uses the resources he has. If Blennerhasset won’t help him, he asks the next best thing, his assistant. Connal(Kerr Logan) is just beginning to know the trade, but he is a gifted artist with a strong stomach. He could come in handy, and the two men together would be a fun partnership to explore.
The most stereotypical American cowboy comes to town to collect weird photos. He specifically wants to purchase the death album but also is a connoisseur of pornography and spirit photography. Henry acts as the liaison between Molloy and Bush Rod Wacker(Martin Donovan). Wacker wants to hire Molloy to take photos during a seance. Donovan, who is set to star in Tenet later this summer, brings a genre presence to Dead Still Episode 4. It would be great to see more of the gun shooting American, but with how the episode ended, that may not be possible.
The meat and potatoes of Dead Still Episode 4 was the seance that occurred halfway through. Molloy asks Brock if he can take the job, and Brock surprises him by not only saying yes and lending him a camera but also offering to help. Nancy, who is never one to miss a social gathering, is going as well. She loves the absurd pomp and circumstance of the whole event. Henry, who has arranged the seance at Louis’ house, belittles Molloy because he needs to put others down to build himself up. Such is the nature of his self-worth. He has his family to thank for that.
As the evening escalates, the group begins seeing things. Courtesy of the shot The Ghost Queen and her sister provided the group can’t trust their eyes. That was the secret of the ghostly encounters all along. A little hallucinatory drug slipped into their drink and an impressionable mind. What the sisters did not count on was a gun-toting American that is trigger happy. Nor did they expect an appearance by the killer. The killer asks about the stolen album and tries to stab the American who, in turn, works to shoot him, but his gun is empty. We don’t know his fate, but we do know Louis’. He has become the next victim and subject. Just as the credits roll, the killer develops Louis’s picture, and Connall and Nancy grow closer. I wonder what the charming Percy will say about that?
In large part, Dead Still thrives because of the performances by all the actors. Even secondary players like Betty Regan and Henry Vickers are elevated from sidekicks to fully developed people with agency and voices essential to the overall story. Peter Campion(Henry) wants desperately to be independent of his wealthy family but doesn’t have the financial means to support his lifestyle. Campion manages to infuse the most despicable figure with enough moments of vulnerability and snark; it is easy to see he could become much more critical in future seasons. In the seance, he swung wildly between bravado and fear with ease. That range of emotion would be useful in future plot beats.
Aoife Duffin(Betty) breathes intelligence into Detective Regan’s wife and confidant. She is one smart cookie that is just as clever as her husband, even if few realize it. It would be easy to see her investigating crime right alongside her husband. Lastly, Percy(Mark Rendall) and Carruthers(Jimmy Smallhorne) continue to have brief but memorable interactions. The latter, in particular, is a perfect foil for Molloy’s earnest energy. Their odd-couple dynamic is fun to watch.
Dead Still Episode 4 is everything I hoped it would be. Nancy asks Blennerhasset if he is delighted they came, and he answers honestly, “No, not really!” It is a frankly hilarious moment that showcases everything great about Dead Still. Characters who feel real, belly laughing jokes, and well-paced episodes. With only two episodes left, there is a killer on the loose who’s got a taste for blood. Is it Blennerhasset’s missing assignment John Voldery or some other well-heeled socialite we have already met? Only time will tell. Catch up on all our Dead Still coverage here while you wait.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.