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Ravenswood S01E04: "The Devil Has a Face"


There's a rich recent history on television of whiny ghosts that nag the humans who have the displeasurable ability to see dead people, whether those ghosts are figments of someone's imagination or actual ghosts. There was Sydney Hansen's mother on Providence and Nate Fisher's dad on Six Feet Under. There've been plenty on Supernatural and American Horror Story. And most recently there's been emo ghost Annie/Sally on Being Human Classic/New Formula.

So Miranda's dual role as spiritual guide and "I'm so lonely, pay attention to me" distraction is well-tread for a soul-surviving supporting character. It's funny how, when I first watched the Ravenswood pilot, I was so happy to see the core cast go into the water, thinking that the premise was that they were all supposed to die. "Good," I said. "Sad to see Caleb go, but a small price to pay to be rid of everyone else so we can maybe focus on less self-important whine-monsters." Then only Miranda died. And she's still whiny. And still might be the only likable one of the bunch.

After watching four episodes of Ravenswood, that seems to be the show's biggest failing: The characters we're supposed to root for are so self-important and eye-rollingly terrible that it's hard to really care about the fate that has befallen them. Caleb gets a pass because we knew him from before, back when he was dealing with a different self-important (but oh so lovable) gaggle of young ladies where he seemed like the cool-headed and intuitive one. Remy is nothing more than a fountain of convenient knowledge with a sleepwalking quirk, Luke is just a growly teen with a surprising lack of depth for someone who's so affected by the death around him, and Olivia is probably the flattest character on the show, particularly when her only real complaint is that her mom wants her to be classy.


Miranda, meanwhile, has actual problems, made most apparent last week when fear crept up in her as she faced the insensible abyss but couldn't hold Caleb's hand to reassure herself. In "The Devil Has a Face," her biggest issue seemed to be equally human, if a little less existential: She was crushing on an unavailable boy.

It was clear from the Pretty Little Liars-Ravenswood launch mash-up a couple weeks ago that this was going to be the new tension now that Caleb and Hanna were going to be separated by the distance between writers' rooms. For those who don't watch PLL, Caleb and Hanna were the only couple on the show not tainted by someone being part of the large-scale bullying plot set against the Liars, highly questionable teacher-student ethics, or failed attempts to kill a Liar in a pool. So I'm saying they're pretty strong. But moving Caleb to a whole new show has basically made their relationship untenable, so it was only a matter of time before the two paired off in different directions. Hanna's love life is still in the air while PLL's on fall hiatus, but Caleb's orphan connection on the road to Ravenswood basically solidified the Caleb/Miranda 'shipping opportunity.

And you have to admit that the dynamics of a ghost/human romance, where possession doesn't seem to be a possibility, is intriguing. Will it just be a forever unrequited love they can drag on for seasons and seasons, or will we see some action like in Ghostbusters? Not that I don't appreciate the effort of showing Miranda ghostwriting Caleb's email for him and the emotion that it stirred for her, but, really, their relationship has already plateaued and it hasn't even started. Unless creepy Uncle Ray plans to resurrect her using her hair.


Creepy Uncle Ray is a good example of the disparity between the whiny, unlikeable teens and the mysterious and undyingly vague adults on Ravenswood. Creepy Uncle Ray seems to glide around town like a more handsome Gentleman ghoul from Buffy, and he's a natural lightning rod for blame when cold and calculated things happen to good people. After watching a conversation between her mother and Creepy Uncle Ray, where Ray was nothing but sweet and sympathetic to Michelle (despite his natural horror-movie timbre and cadence), Olivia immediately jumped to the conclusion that Ray definitely killed her father because of some high school nonsense. Granted, Miranda didn't help by showing Olivia Creepy Uncle Ray's office of horrors, but still.

The thing is, Ray shows ten times the depth that the teenagers exhibit, whether that's because he's hiding something vicious about himself or not. But the same is true for all the adult characters: Michelle Matheson, Mrs. Grunwald, even Remy's parents. Even Caleb's long-lost maybe uncle, Old Man Rivers, has something to him. There's history there, and even when it all comes out that said history is boring and/or stupid, it'll remain that there are hidden layers to all these adults, while the kids have nothing to inspire any intrigue except for their Final Destination-like near-death experiences.

That's probably the most troubling thing about Ravenswood. Sure, there are a lot of cheesy aspects to the show and its environment, but they're all nestled in modern horror cliche, and that's fine. What's disappointing is that, while most of the show's supporting cast seems to be allowed to participate in the dark universe in which Ravenswood exists, seemingly reveling in the death and gloom that haunts the town, the teenage characters were born in a bubble and are unaffected by the environment they grew up in. So we have these flat, cardboard people reacting to their more interesting world, and it's enough to drive you batty. If only we had compelling characters asking these questions! If only these kids operated in this town like they're from it, and not just dropped in like some completely average teenage infantry! If only the ghost wasn't the most interesting part of the show, living or dead!



NOTES

– For a hacker, Caleb sure is a slow typist. I guess he's not entering any Swordfish competitions anytime soon.

– Luke has that growly whisper down. He's almost ready to enter a "talking like this" contest with Alec Baldwin and Will Arnett.

– Remy wants to get answers from old people by posting questions on her blog. So she's totally in touch with her readership, which seem to primarily consist of old psychic people.

– OMG Did you see that raven fly right into Luke's bike spokes? There's got to be a .GIF of that somewhere, right? Someone make me a .GIF!


– For people who watch PLL: Seeing Olivia demand answers from her mother reminded me of Hanna without the charisma. Agree or disagree?

– Old Man Rivers lives in Cabotsville. Is that a nod to Murder, She Wrote, a show about old people and the deadliest small town in America, Cabots Cove?


– Luke's English teacher tried to get Luke involved in the school production of Our Town. Is he hitting on him? I don't know anymore. PLL has ruined my barometer for natural, individual relations between teachers and students.

– It's curious how no one ever falls for the "walk through the ghost" effect on this show. Anytime it's about to happen, Miranda disappears. She also can't open some doors (like the one to Creepy Uncle Ray's office), but she can open Caleb's for Olivia. She can also type emails and open drawers, but she can't stop falling chandeliers. There's an odd limit on Miranda's powers.

– Is there anyone who thinks that the ghost leading Miranda into the light is anything but a soul-eater bent on destroying Miranda? No one thinks it's actually her mom, right?


– "It's like honey-roasted penis all over again." Nothing like a penis joke to get Luke to finally smile that weird, disconcerting smile. Luke later blamed Remy for being depressing (fair enough) while Tess made him laugh and feel alive. I feel like Remy can also just say the word penis, if that's all it takes.

– Caleb took a page from the Hanna Marin School of Fruitless Confrontation to call out Creepy Uncle Ray regarding his collection of dead teenagers' hair. Of course, the hair samples were moved. Duh, Caleb. It's like you've never been in that predicament before. Just go upstairs and kick a box.


What are your current feelings on Ravenswood? Are you sticking with the show?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 2/4/2014

Season 1 : Episode 10

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