As all fanatical devotees to 1970s cinema know, Robert Towne’s original script for Chinatown did not include any scenes set in Chinatown. A conclusion specifically set in that location was added to placate the producer Robert Evans, a man whose brain has many interesting and distinctive features, but is not equipped to comprehend, let alone appreciate, metaphor. Since everything in Dethklok’s universe is a metaphor for sex—adolescent, male, raging-hormone fantasy sex, a thing of lycanthropic passions, battering-ram technique, and satisfaction that is titanic as it is one-sided—the show is never stranger and more darkly compelling than when its heroes are forced to get out of the locker rooms inside their heads and deal with actual sex, involving the wants and demands of real people. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get them to acknowledge the real world, let alone interact with it, so it’s good that the show has brought in Janeane Garofalo’s music-producer character, Abigail, who proved herself a worthy opponent when she made the boys fly coach.
They’re not flying coach tonight, but they’re not on familiar ground, either. “They returned from the darkest depths,” intones Werner Herzog in his introductory voiceover, “to sink even lower.” In the literal sense, this translates as follows: In a thrilling, not entirely expected, but wholly appreciated return to this season’s main story arc, the band—with Abigail and Ofdensen in tow—file aboard a ginormous nuclear submarine so that they can be sealed off from any distractions and devote “three months to crafting the ultimate metal record.” And if they miss the deadline, Ofdensen reckons they might just as well not return to the surface, assuming they’re even granted that option. It’s only at the last minute that Nathan and the others realize that, for reasons of “security,” there won’t be any groupies making the trip with them.
This becomes a more pressing problem when the guys are forbidden to masturbate, having indulged themselves to the point that a breakout of advanced carpal tunnel syndrome makes it difficult for them to play their instruments. “But beware,” says the doctor, “for you will experience withdrawal, sexual nightmares, gender issues.” The prognosis from the wise men of the Tribunal is even bleaker. “Gentlemen,” Stampingston tells them, “it appears that Dethklok is no longer allowed to ‘jack off’ while recording their new album underwater,” a sentence that Faulkner would have been proud to have included in any of his novels, if only he had ever been able to create a context appropriate for it. A “human relations and masturbation expert” discusses the likelihood that self-denial will drive the band members insane and render them unfit for any function not geared to the destruction of civilization, though his direst prediction involves Nathan and Pickles. These two “have succeeded in concocting a careful balance of friendship and creativity, but never before have they trod in the deep waters of female competition,” a path that “leads down a thicket of poisonous thorns and heartbreak, and ultimately, the demise of Dethklok.” He seems to be implying that the band could conceivably break up over a girl. I don’t know that there’s a precedent for that in rock music.
While waiting to see if there might be something to the fellow’s ravings, it’s fun to watch the different ways in which the guys respond to being trapped in what Ofdensen calls “this murky pool of sexual despair.” Skwisgaar seems to disappear into the margins, as if abstinence erases whatever personality he has; Murderface, as one might expect, balloons in grotesquerie right from the get-go. It’s Murderface who first proposes masturbation as the cure for what ails him and his bandmates, and you might guess at the unbridled, creepy enthusiasm with which he pitches the idea from the fact that he proposes it at all, instead of silently assuming that everybody will come around to it on their own, at their own sweet pace. (This marks the first time that Murderface has ever made me think of Art Pepper—specifically, of the passage in Pepper’s autobiography in which he wrote that he enjoyed self-abuse so much that, when he became famous, he made sure to have lots of sex with groupies, so that he’d later have something to think about when he was alone.) Once the no-touchie dictum is enforced, Murderface begins grunting ominously to himself and casting unpleasantly lingering glances at Toki, who is wearing his hair in a fetching ponytail and whose wardrobe, due to a laundry-room malfunction, had been rendered too-tight and pink.
The awful prediction about Nathan and Pickles finally comes true, with Pickles makes a play for the band’s producer—but only after asking Nathan if he wants to date her himself. Nathan assures him that he doesn’t—“Who wants to date anybody!?” he says, quite sensibly—but can’t resist sticking the knife in with an evaluation that Abigail is out of Pickles’ league, a judgment that Abigail herself does not seem to disagree with. Abigail assures Pickles that it’s just a matter of not getting involved with anyone she works with, but it is not Pickles to whom she turns after her “magical vibrating friend that helps me get through these tough times” runs out of batteries. But it’s Pickles’ episode, if only for the expression on his face as he taunts Nathan while going half-mad himself from sexual frustration. His eyes are wild, his dreadlocks look as if they might start hissing and slithering. This episode is the best thing that’s happened to not getting laid in quite a while.