If any episode of Reaper was going to really knock it out of the park, you would think it would be "Leon." It was a special Halloween show–an ideal holiday for Reaper, obviously--and Patton Oswalt had a really cool guest starring role as a funny, fast-talking, emotionally needy escaped soul. And yet something was off for me tonight.
At first I really liked how the usual formula was subverted with Leon getting caught in the first scene. When the gang takes the vessel to the DMV, Gladys is on vacation–turns out The Devil gives everyone the day off for Halloween because he can't stand how his big day has become so commercialized, a good joke that was referenced a couple of times throughout "Leon" but underplayed nicely. (They really do take The Devil out of Halloween, don't they?) It was also a good move to have Oswalt try to talk his way out of the vessel; the souls so far have been pretty non-descript, and here we had one with some personality.
So far, so good. Where the episode started to falter was when another escaped soul was introduced, a serial killer known as The Butcher. Having two souls made "Leon" feel overstuffed and disjointed. The Butcher was under-developed as a bad guy, and seemed to exist as a mere plot device for Leon to convince Sock to let him out of the vessel in order to help the gang on their new mission. He predictably ended up screwing Sock and Sam for the favor, but then was quickly re-captured in unconvincingly easy fashion. The last half of "Leon" felt like a big rush to the finish line in order to accomodate too much plot in not enough time, a shame when half the plot didn't need to be there. I would have much preferred to have "Leon" focus solely on Leon, and have more scenes where he slowly talks Sock into letting him out. It would have synched better with the scene where The Devil tells Sam that his friends will always let him down. Instead, Reaper tried play with the formula and then play it straight. It simply didn't work. I liked Oswalt, but he was mostly wasted tonight.
Some of the darkness from last week carried over to "Leon"–at times the atypical clunkiness of the pacing made me think it might be a dream episode–but neither the contract nor Sam's creepy dad were referenced tonight. But "Leon" did find room for Sam-Andi's increasingly tedious Moonlighting routine; while I think Andi might still have some value as a tool in The Devil's manipulation of Sam this relationship is a narrative dead end without some sinister undercurrents.
So, for the first time I leave Reaper unsatisfied. Still, five out of six ain't bad. Give us more Sam's dad and less Andi!
--The way Leon got sucked into the snowglobe in the first scene reminded me of Ghostbusters. Also, the shotgun arm was totally out of Evil Dead 2
-- The guy who shot William McKinley was really named Leon Czolgosz. Can we make him a recurring character?
--Those Reaper Halloween ads always make me smile, even if The Devil's joy contradicted tonight's episode.
--Anybody want odds on whether Sock and Gladys hook up?