Television

Something Weird on TV-Friday the 13th: The Series Part Four – Cold Comfort

Welcome back to part four of the weird exploration of that unsung classic Friday the 13th: The Series as we wrap up the first 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 …

As we finish out our time with season one of Friday the 13th: The Series, we begin with the show’s first two-part episode, “The Quilt of Hathor.” This one really puts the screws to Ryan and Micki’s will-they-won’t-they relationship, as Ryan falls in love with the daughter of a preacher man in the strict religious commune where he and Micki are searching for a cursed quilt that allows its user to kill people in their dreams – and if that sounds like a lot, well, there’s a reason the episode is two parts.

The two episodes, both helmed by series regular Timothy Bond, trade in a lot of the expected stereotypes of strict religious communities, with the show’s “Penitites” borrowing heavily from both Mennonite and Amish communities. There’s even a “burned at the stake” sequence, before all is said and done, although not before a quarterstaff duel on a platform above hot coals – that’s a new one!

“The Quilt of Hathor” guest-stars Scott Paulin, who happens to have also been in Forbidden World, which I just watched at the time of this writing, as well as Kate Trotter, who will be back in a couple of future episodes, playing different characters. (Here, she’s supposed to be very “plain,” even though she looks basically like every other woman in the commune, and her “plainness” is telegraphed by the fact that she wears glasses. So plain!)

The actress who played the chief victim from the earlier episode “Cupid’s Quiver” is back as the girl Ryan falls head over heels for. She, too, will reappear later in the series, playing yet another character, so I guess we can forget about too much continuity between installments, a fact that is driven home as the very next episode after “Quilt of Hathor” opens with Ryan on a date with a new girl (played by the voice of Jean Grey from X-Men: The Animated Series), who promptly gets iced by that episode’s villain, a sinister news broadcaster who uses a cursed camera to create homicidal doubles of himself. (The sequences of the doubles forming out of developing trays in a darkroom are pretty great.)

This is followed up by “Badge of Honor.” It would be a stretch to call this a gimmick episode, a la “The Baron’s Bride,” which we talked about last time, but it is definitely aping the look and, especially, the sound of contemporary cop shows. (It makes sense; the next year, episode director Michelle Manning – who was producer on both Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club – would go on to helm two episodes of Miami Vice.)

“Badge of Honor” gives Micki a turn in the romantic spotlight, introducing an old flame (played by Christine’s own John Stockwell) who is hiding a secret – he’s an undercover FBI agent, a reveal that’s saved for the climax, even though the audience will be way ahead of the script by then.

His introduction to the story exists mostly as a way to shoehorn our Scooby gang (sans Jack, who’s been absent for a few episodes now and will stay scarce through the end of the season) into what is otherwise a cop drama, but it also does something else it doesn’t seem to intend. Hot on the heels of two separate storylines where Ryan is in love with other women, including “The Quilt of Hathor,” where he’s willing to leave everything behind to join a religious commune for one, his continued jealous possessiveness of Micki is beyond will-they-won’t-they and way into gross, at this point.

The next episode, “Pipe Dreams,” introduces us to Ryan’s estranged father, played by the Windex dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who is using a pipe that emits smoke which kills people gruesomely to steal an invention in order to make himself rich, a plan that he seems to have premeditated, in spite of efforts later in the episode to rehabilitate him somewhat.

Parental love remains a strong theme in the next episode, “What a Mother Wouldn’t Do,” which features the stepmom from the very first episode back as a much more devoted mother who uses a cursed cradle from the Titanic to keep her baby alive, at the expense of seven others. The episode also contains numerous nods to Rosemary’s Baby, from an early shot of the mother reading the book in the park to a moment in the vault when Micki and Ryan spill Scrabble tiles.

The closing episode of season one is, of all things, a clip show. In it, Uncle Lewis sends a canopic jar to Curious Goods, trapping Micki and Ryan in the vault inside a “death dream” where they relive their most terrifying memories – ie, earlier episodes of the series.

The episodes in question seem to be chosen more-or-less at random, rather than necessarily reflecting the most emotionally wrenching moments of the series up ‘til now. Featured episodes include the series premier, “Cupid’s Quiver,” “Doctor Jack,” “Tales of the Undead,” “Scarecrow,” “Tattoo,” and “The Baron’s Bride.” Conspicuously absent are things like Micki’s traumatic assault in “Shadow Boxer,” the gang’s failure in “Vanity’s Mirror,” Ryan’s star-crossed love in “Quilt of Hathor,” or his doomed romance in “Double Exposure,” just a few episodes ago.

However, while the clip show adds precious little for those who are watching the series in order, rather than in syndication, the writers did drop in one important tidbit toward the end. It seems that Jack had a young son who, at just twelve years old, died while trying to help a girl who had become possessed. I guess only time will tell if this character detail ever comes back up, or is abandoned as summarily as all others have been, thus far.

That’s it for the first season. Next time, on my continued weird journey through Friday the 13th: The Series, we’ll dig into season two! Find my full Friday the 13th: The Series coverage here.

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