Often, a long-running series will develop a sort of running theme that is never acknowledged but that nags at the viewer, informing the way he experiences everything that happens on the show, even as he understands that he’s musing on a question that the show may never directly address or even state explicitly. How long before McGarrett and Danny throw caution to the winds and just do it? What are the ramifications of the fact that the NBC network, and possibly the entire city of New York, are just characters in the novel Pete Hornberger is writing when he’s not at his custodial job at an Office Max in Bayonne? Will an actual hip person ever visit the NCIS offices in time to spot Abby and point out that she’s obviously an Al-Qaeda mole who based her cover identity on someone who sold Osama Bin Laden a candy apple at Lollapalooza in 1992? And then there’s the most haunting and potentially troubling of all of these: What is it like to be William Murderface? What can it mean? Does he even know had bad it is? As somebody says to the Penguin in Batman Returns, “Not a lot of reflective surfaces down in the sewer, huh?”
Murderface has been known to express resentment over having his musical contribution to Dethklok under-appreciated, especially by his band mates. But, like Sid Vicious, Murderface’s bass playing is less essential to the band that the ineffable something he adds to it, something that’s related to that dread word “authenticity.” He really is a miserable bastard, and if you had to inhabit that body, you’d be, too. As the expert who addresses the Tribunal this week lays it out, Murderface is “Dethklok Zero on the yardstick of attractiveness, to which all the other band members compare themselves.” In other words, if Murderface ever tries to improve his appearance, it would throw a monkey wrench into Dehtklok’s collective self-image.
The tipping point in Murderface’s ability to weigh self-loathing against self-deception, split the difference, and call it self-acceptance, comes when he receives word that he is to be honored at this year’s Brutalies, where he is to receive an award recognizing him as the world’s “most brutal-looking” rock star. Putting out fires with gasoline as usual, Nathan volunteers that he “can’t really tell if that’s an award or a public insult. It’s like they’re saying you’re really bad at being handsome.” Having had enough, Murderface seeks out a plastic surgeon, who offers to take him in as “a beast, damned by the gods, a grotesque abomination, doomed to spend his life as a wandering monstrosity,” and transform the bassist “into an Adonis carved in marble from a church in Heaven.” That sounds pretty good to Murderface, but it sets off what passes for pandemonium in the Tribunal, where Orlaag is moved to speculate, “Is the hand of the cosmetic surgeon also the hand of God? Perhaps.”
Murderface can’t afford to go first-class with his surgery, due to a recent legal settlement that cost him much of his personal fortune after a shopping-mall accident in which his “over-calcified face injured a baby.” So he heads for Tijuana, where he is soon outfitted in a golem-like mask and hearing a doctor utter the magic words, “Prepare the acid bath!” In his absence, the other members of Dethklok have plenty of time to reflect on the way the ravages of time and Toki’s addiction to lemons have had their effect on their own physical beauty, especially after Nathan’s bloated carcass breaks the hot tub and the plumber finds the drain clogged with coffee grounds and Pickles’ runaway dreads. This is all pretty funny, in a pretty blunt way, but did the writers get bored with that running storyline about the economy and the effort to make up for the loss of the potentially game-changing new Dethklok album? I was rather enjoying it. In the meantime, I’m tempted to let its disappearance be reflected in the episode grade, but I’m not going to, mainly because I have a family reunion coming up soon, and I’m definitely going to be using some of these lines.
- “Thank you for this cruel and humiliating award.” I’d give anything to hear somebody use that line when picking up a Grammy.