Friday the 13th: The Series Part Eight – Something Borrowed
Welcome back to part eight of my weird exploration of that unsung classic Friday the 13th: The Series as we finish out the second season. The show was a beloved mainstay of late-‘80s anthology horror TV, though I had never actually seen it before embarking on this journey that we are now taking together…
We’re in the home stretch of season two, and as we head into the last few episodes, the show has followed up last month’s “A Friend to the End” with another episode of series firsts. Not only is “The Butcher” the first episode to show Jack home alone without either Micki or Ryan, it’s also the first episode that doesn’t feature a cursed item from the shop. Instead, Jack and his old regiment are being hunted by a reanimated Nazi who is back for revenge on the men who killed him.
Watched in tight succession, it’s striking how different this episode’s treatment of its Nazi villains is from the sympathetic portrayal of the Confederacy in “Eye of Death,” just a few episodes ago. The Nazis here are portrayed exactly as you might expect – cartoonish supervillains and megalomaniacs, never mind that the last few years in the U.S. have shown how, in many ways, they and the Confederacy are two sides of a coin called white nationalism.
One thing that this episode gets almost presciently right is that the reanimated Nazi becomes a right-wing radio show host with ambitions to turn politician. If the show were made today, instead of in 1989, he’d be a Fox News anchor, instead.
“Mesmer’s Bauble” gets us back to standard episode format, introducing one of the series’ most powerful artifacts to date. The eponymous bauble, which once belonged to the hypnotist for whom it is named, can make anyone do anything, including kill themselves. What’s more, once it has done so, it can make seemingly any wish come true. Fortunately for the world at large it lands in the hands of someone whose ambitions are relatively limited.
Our put-upon record store clerk initially just wants to use it to make himself handsome – which is accomplished principally by clearing up his acne and teasing his hair some – and then get closer to his rock star crush, played by real-life pop star Vanity, before she abandoned her music career and stage persona to devote herself full-time to evangelism.
Before all is said and done, the episode feels like it comes very close to having something to say about parasocial relationships and, by the end, maybe about transgender identity, but it pulls back before it ever really commits to either, and at the end it’s hard to say what, if anything, that near message might have been.
The firsts just keep on coming, though, and “Wedding in Black” sees the Devil interfering directly in the affairs of our gang of do-gooders, sending three deceased individuals from their pasts to come and lure them all into a magical snow globe in order to cause Jack and Ryan to give into despair and seduce Micki into bearing the devil’s baby.
In some ways, the gross gender role stuff that has been simmering under the surface of much of the show up until this point comes to a head in how this episode treats Ryan vs. how it treats Micki. Not only does Ryan see through his tempter’s tricks, but she is actually won over by what a strong, noble, good person he is and ultimately sacrifices herself to help. Meanwhile, Micki is part of a plot to get her knocked up so she can bear Satan’s kid.
Also interesting, once again, this episode involves a magical object that doesn’t have any direct bearing on the store. There’s no indication that the snow globe was purchased at the shop, and the first of the three diabolical agents already has it with him before he kicks the bucket the first time.
“Wedding in Black” is followed up by another episode with “Wedding” in the title, although this time around it isn’t Micki getting married off to the Devil but rather a waitress in a pool hall who can’t wait to tie the knot with her disinterested boyfriend. This episode is notable for being the introduction of Johnny Ventura, a recurring character who will eventually replace Ryan next season. There’s even an amusing exchange when the skirt-chasing Johnny asks Micki if she doesn’t date younger guys, and she replies that he’s not that much younger.
In actual fact, despite the characters repeatedly referring to Johnny as a “kid,” Steve Monarque, the actor who plays him, was a year older than Louise Robey and three years older than John D. LeMay. This episode is also interesting as the first episode in which Micki is flying solo, the presence of Johnny notwithstanding, as Ryan and Jack are off looking for cursed snowshoes – an episode that I’m a little sad we never got.
“The Maestro” sees none other than Colm Feore (Chronicles of Riddick, Thor, etc.) guest star as a former ballet dancer turned choreographer who uses a cursed symphonia that drives dancers to dance themselves to death. Feore will be back (as a different character) later in season three.
“The Shaman’s Apprentice,” meanwhile, follows a Native American doctor who uses a magical shaman’s rattle to cure terminally ill patients while also getting revenge on the (racist, in at least one case) doctors who have wronged him.
“The Prisoner” brings back Johnny Ventura and also sees the return of director Armand Mastroianni, who helmed a couple of strong episodes earlier this season. This time around he’s working more in a crime movie métier, as Johnny is framed for the murder of his father by a prisoner who has a Japanese fighter pilot’s jacket that makes him invisible. While Johnny was introduced several episodes ago, this one gives him something much more closely resembling an origin story, and heavily foreshadows the larger role he will play in the third season.
The final episode of the second season, “Coven of Darkness” brings up Uncle Lewis again, though not directly. Instead, this time the antagonist is his old coven and specifically its new leader, Lysa Redding, who was apparently previously Lewis’ second-in-command.
Lysa puts Ryan under her spell and the only way to free him is for Micki to use the white magic powers she abruptly has and then maybe uses up all in one episode. The transformation of Ryan into a temporary bad guy (even if he doesn’t understand what he’s doing) also foreshadows the start of season three, which will see him once more transformed into a servant of evil before being written out of the series altogether.
That’s it for tonight. We’ve finished out season two and we’ll be ringing out the remaining season – shorter than the other two due to the show’s abrupt cancellation – for the rest of the year. In the meantime, you can check out my full Friday the 13th: The Series coverage here.
Besides his work as Monster Ambassador here at Signal Horizon, Orrin Grey is the author of several books about monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and a film writer with bylines at Unwinnable and others. His stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year and he is the author of two collections of essays on vintage horror film.