In this episode of Midnight, Texas, the #Me Too movement takes a distinctly supernatural turn, as ghosts, vampires, and vampire wives all stand up to the oppression of the patriarchy, with varying results. The moral of the story is, we are stronger when we fight together, but violence isn’t the answer. Or it almost never is. Maybe the moral is to use your powers wisely so the
patriarchy daddy/husband vampire won’t find an excuse to try to take them away from you again. Or, put more simply, don’t get caught red-fanged. Channel Olivia or Fiji, not Dawnette.
The discussion as to why it’s fine for all of the men who hurt and exploited Dawnette to run around unpunished, and for Lem and the Rev to run around unpunished, while Dawnette has to quickly be made contrite and powerless again, will have to wait. Suffice it to say, broadcast audiences don’t want to see an angry, scary, powerful woman go unpunished, no matter how righteous her anger or deserving her victims. And a combination of misogyny, racism and classism dictates that a woman like Dawnette couldn’t be trusted to learn to control her power or anger, even though Lem did. They might as well have made her stripper name “Rebel China Doll”.
Episode 2 opens with Healer Kai curing a man’s elbow pain at the Crystal Desert Hotel, using the same basic procedure that he used to cure Manfred of his demon cancer in episode 1. He ends with sucking the negative energy out through the man’s mouth and into himself, but we never see him release it, just like the last episode. Kai’s two, ahem, loyal assistants, Lyric and Sequoia, are there to help.
That’s right, Kai’s assistants have new age stripper names. I’m not sure if he calls them interns or not. It’s probably something more like wellness aides or healing associates.
Over at Home Cookin’, Olivia is still suspicious of Kai, especially since Manfred saw him talking to the painting of the woman in the woods. The others are more accepting, since they’re supernaturals themselves. Manfred is busy brooding about his break up with Creek, and leaves for some alone time with a bottle.
As he’s leaning against his RV and getting drunk, Manfred looks up at the hotel and sees a ghost attacking the man who Kai just healed. He rushes into the Crystal Desert lobby to tell Patience that her hotel is haunted and he needs to get into one of the rooms to stop the attack. By the time they get to the room, the ghost has shoved the client so that he hit his head on the side of the tub, then drowned him in the tub water. He’s dead.
Patience knows ghosts are real, but she’s confused, because they aren’t supposed to be able to hurt the living. After the paramedics have taken the body, Manfred explains that the older and angrier ghosts get, the more powerful they become. This ghost seems to be tethered to that particular room. Manfred offers to research the ghost, then get her to move on, so that she doesn’t affect the hotel’s business for long.
Fiji and Bobo try to figure out what killed the plants in Fiji’s greenhouse. Bobo notices the fan isn’t working and almost loses a finger when it suddenly starts up again as he’s checking it.
Joe shows Manfred and Patience a newspaper clipping from the ’50s with a story about Carolyn Baker. Carolyn was a young wife and co-owner of the hotel who slipped in the bathtub, hit her head, and drowned, just liked the dead Crystal Desert guest. The room where the guest died used to be the owner’s suite, so she’s trapped where she died. Carolyn’s husband, Bruce, closed the hotel and disappeared. Joe remembers that Bruce was devastated. Manfred notices how happy Bruce and Carolyn look in the photo in the paper. “And then he lost her in an instant.”
Manfred might be identifying with Bruce a teensy bit.
Olivia is enjoying a spirited night of Country line dancing at the Cartoon Saloon when a couple of local townies hit on her and won’t take no for an answer. She changes gears and decides to take the party outside, in order to use her fighting skills on them rather than her talent with verbal barbs. Lem interferes and drives them off instead with a flash of his fangs. Olivia is angry enough at Lem’s interference to transfer the fight to him, but reins herself in and forgives him, trying to be understanding about his need to protect her.
As Lem walks away, he’s approached by a young woman who’s noticed that he’s a vampire. She’s a Twilight fan and has always believed that vampires are real. The woman, Dawnette, wants Lem to turn her into a vampire. Lem brushes her off, telling her to go read Twilight for an 8th time, because she doesn’t want to be anything like him.
Manfred brings a large container of salt to the hotel and tells Patience to stay outside of the ghost room, no matter what she hears. He’s a professional, ma’am, and he’ll have his salt barrier to protect him. Inside the room, he makes a circle of salt on the floor that’s barely big enough for him to stand in, and calls Carolyn.
Carolyn appears, and tells Manfred that he needs to get out of the room. Manfred tries to talk her into moving on, but she tells him that she didn’t kill anyone. At the same time, a window opens and Manfred’s salt circle blows away. The ghost of Carolyn’s husband appears. Carolyn says, “He killed me and he’ll kill you, too.”
Bruce’s ghost grabs Manfred and shoves him into the tub, making sure he hits his head on the edge on the way down. Then he holds Manfred under the water that he’s already run in the tub. Manfred manages to shove Bruce off and run to the bedroom door just as Patience opens it to check on him. Thanks to her, he gets out before Bruce can catch him again.
Manfred: “Thanks for not listening to me!”
Patience: “Oh, I never listen, just ask my husband.”
Patience puts up a brave front, but her hands are shaking. Manfred grabs them and tells her that they’re safe from the ghost. Then he looks awkward and lets go.
Did I feel a little zing of chemistry there?
Patience asks what happened with Carolyn, so Manfred explains that it looks like Bruce murdered Carolyn, then shot himself instead of moving away. Patience asks if he can convince Bruce to move on. Manfred doesn’t think Bruce is interested in cooperating, so they’ll have to make a new plan.
Olivia is still full of simmering anger when she and Lem get home from the bar. Between their invasive psychic connection and the way Lem is unconsciously using it to encroach on her independence, she’s not happy with their current relationship.
It’s a perfect example of the way a man can look like he’s being a nice, helpful guy to the outside world, when he isn’t. Lem is, in fact, doing everything Olivia’s asked him, repeatedly, not to do. This scenario ends with the woman losing her ability to think for and take care of herself. In the real world, she ends up dependent on her abuser. In the vampire world, she ends up a thrall, enslaved to a monster. It’s not healthy, either way.
As far as Lem knows, the only way to break the connection is for Olivia to become a vampire. Since Olivia is adamantly against that option, they’re at a stalemate. For now, Olivia asks Lem for some space.
Joe goes to the pawn shop to reclaim an ornately carved wooden box which he pawned in 1937. He tells Bobo that it’s a keepsake. Bobo says that a guy named Walker called looking for Joe and knew he was an angel, so Bobo gave him the number. Walker was the demon hunter Joe fought with in episode 1. Joe doesn’t seem happy about the information.
Fiji comes to the shop to give Bobo an update on her progress with her plants. She’s ruled out Colcanar and a pixie infestation as the causes of her plants’ death, but doesn’t have any new ideas. Bobo offers to take her mind off her problems. They make out, while moving toward the back room. At the same time, the screws that hold up a chandelier made of antlers suddenly pop out of the wall, causing the light fixture to swing straight at Bobo. Fiji realizes that something is very wrong, and it’s more than just the plants. Something supernatural is trying to hurt Bobo.
Patience and Manfred tell Kai about the ghosts. The guests are already getting nervous, so he agrees that they need to do something, quickly. Manfred has done everything he can, so he wants to bring in “the big guns”, Fiji. Patience scoffs at the idea of Fiji being the big guns, since, “She’s cuter than a bug’s ear.” Manfred agrees that she’s cute, but he also tells Patience not to make Fiji mad. Kai doesn’t want Fiji to make the hotel inhospitable to the dead, since he needs to have light and dark energy flowing in balance to do his work.
Score one for the nice but powerful girls. I think Patience was a little jealous that Manfred thinks so much of Fiji.
Over at the Cartoon Saloon, Fiji is using her power to keep knives out of Bobo’s hands, while looking gorgeous and sexy in a backless dress. Lem sits at the bar, gets drunk and broods about Olivia. Olivia may be having a hard time with him knowing her every move, thought and emotion, but he can’t handle the fact that, even though they’re married, she’s still going to leave him someday.
Dawnette, the Twilight fan from the night before, joins Lem at the bar and apologizes for asking him to turn her into a vampire. Her rude boyfriend interrupts because he wants $300 to spend on merch. Dawnette tells him no, he can’t have the money because she’s saving for nursing school. Rickie tells her she’s just like all the other strippers and leaves.
Dawnette pours herself a shot and tells Lem that she had a disappointing interview at the Crystal Desert Hotel. Everyone treats her like she’s stupid and not classy enough. Lem says a couple of nice things to make her feel better.
Fiji and Bobo decide to leave early, and plan a few ways that they could make sure they’re having safe sex, like putting Bobo in an inflatable sumo suit or using a protection potion. Bobo asks Lem if he’ll close up for them, and while Lem is distracted, Dawnette pours a poison laced with silver into his drink.
Lem passes out on the bar, and wakes up some amount of time later stretched out on the pool table. While he was out of it, Dawnette used his blood to turn herself into a vampire.
Sounds like a few people have been underestimating her.
Lem brings Dawnette home with him, where Olivia is not happy to see her. Olivia’s solution to the problem of an unwanted vampire offspring is an immediate stake through the heart, no questions asked, no sob stories accepted. Lem relates more easily to Dawn, since she comes from a troubled background and saw vampirism as the way to solve her problems, the same as he did. He wants to give her a chance. Olivia reluctantly agrees, but Dawnette has to sleep out of sight.
Patience and Manfred ask Fiji if she has a spell that can get Bruce’s ghost to leave the hotel guests alone. She finds one that will untether spirits from this world so that they move on to whatever’s next. The spell requires a goat’s heart, sage and the bones of the dead. Unfortunately, no one knows where Bruce buried Carolyn or killed himself, so they can’t retrieve the bones, but Manfred has an idea that might help.
While she’s looking for the spell, Fiji asks Manfred how he’s handling the break up with Creek. He’s handling it by denying that it’s a break up, and thinking of it as a break instead. Manfred insists that he and Creek have gotten through worse. Fiji gently points out that Creek was clear about what she wanted, and he should respect that.
Manfred goes back to the hotel room and has Carolyn possess him so that he can see what she saw when Bruce killed her, hoping he’ll see enough to figure out where her body is. Carolyn starts to tell her story, but Bruce appears to contradict her. His ghost possesses Manfred at the same time as Carolyn, and they alternate who’s in charge, taking turns telling the story. Bruce was a jealous husband, even though Carolyn was always faithful. Finally, he moved them to Midnight, hoping that it was so remote that there would be no one to tempt Carolyn. Carolyn was sick of being wrongfully accused, so she decided she might as well have some fun with a decent guy. Bruce murdered her to stop her from leaving him. He says that he didn’t want to, but he had no choice. Carolyn says that he had no need to murder her.
Manfred: “Look, Bruce, I get it. She was your world. And when everything else was going to literal H–l, you could still look at her, and feel hope. You couldn’t let her leave. There was no funeral. I’m guessing the thought of putting her in the ground was unbearable?”
Bruce says that he was going to send Carolyn’s body back East to her family, but he couldn’t let her go. Instead he made sure they’d be together forever. Carolyn and Bruce both leave Manfred’s body. Carolyn calls Bruce a monster, and Manfred agrees that Bruce was pure evil.
Bruce wants to keep explaining, but Manfred stumbles back out to the hall. He’s already seen everything he needed to see, from inside Bruce’s head. Bruce was so obsessed with Carolyn that he wanted them to be entombed together in the hotel forever. He carried the body into a basement storeroom and held her while he shot himself. Manfred says the room looked like a coal room, but the hotel doesn’t have a coal room any more. In fact, it’s a certified ecoresort.
Olivia picks up some blood from the hospital for Dawnette, but she’s already snuck out. Shockingly, Olivia is angry and wants to kill something.
Since her marriage, Olivia’s emotional range has narrowed considerably.
Patience digs out the original blueprints for the hotel so they can find the coal room. Manfred follows Bruce’s footsteps through the blueprint. While she’s searching, Manfred notices the painting of a woman in a forest on Kai’s office wall. Patience says that the painting has been in her family “forever”, but she doesn’t know who the woman is. Patience says, “I kinda like not knowing. She can be whoever I want her to be.”
While he’s working at the bar, Joe rejects a call from Walker the demon hunter. Bobo notices that Joe seems a bit lost. Joe says running from Bowie kept him busy for centuries. Now he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Bobo says that he felt the same way after he resolved his issues with his family, so he opened the bar. Joe just needs to figure out his new purpose in life. Joe takes out the box he retrieved from the pawn shop. It holds his angelic demon hunting knife, covered in runes.
Olivia and Lem are driving around town searching for Dawnette, so far with no luck. They argue again, which leads to more arguing about their psychic connection. Lem insists that Olivia explain to him why she has a “pathological inability to accept help.” He keeps pushing until she tells him that the last person she relied on was her stepmother. That shuts him up.
It’s fairly ridiculous for any man to criticize a woman for being unable to accept help. We aren’t required to let you do things for us and we aren’t your possessions. She doesn’t need or want your help. Get over it already. Every time I defend Lem, he pulls something like this, and goes straight back into the misogynist bin.
But there’s a lot of that going around this episode, with Bruce deciding to kill Carolyn so that he can possess and control her forever, and Manfred refusing to give up on Creek, despite what she very clearly and specifically told him she wanted.
Olivia questions Lem further about Dawnette’s life, which helps her figure out that the new baby vamp will be at the strip club getting revenge.
The coal room in the hotel basement has been sealed shut, so Manfred takes a sledge-hammer to the concrete to open it up. While he works, Patience says she didn’t know about his break up with Creek. Manfred denies that it’s a break up, again. Patience admires him for not giving up on the relationship at the first sign of trouble. She says, “You got to take the bitter with the sweet, even when there’s a whole lot of bitter.” Is she talking about Manfred’s relationship, or her own?
Once Manfred breaks through the wall, they can see the bodies still inside the room.
Lem and Olivia find the strip club in chaos, with dead bodies and panicking strippers all over. One of the strippers tells Olivia that Dawnette turned two friends, Sweetness and Cashmere. Dawnette had another stop she wanted to make on her revenge tour. Lem thinks he knows where it is.
Manfred makes a solid line of salt in a corner of the hotel room so that Fiji can do her spell. She lays out Bruce and Carolyn’s bones in the fireplace in preparation. Kai and Patience sent everyone but a couple of staff on a meditation retreat, so the hotel is almost empty. And Manfred nailed Bruce’s favorite window shut, so that he can’t disrupt the salt circle.
Just as Fiji starts the spell, the lights go out. Kai goes to check the electric panel. Bruce has already appeared and he’s angry. Manfred tries to hurry Fiji along, but the spell can’t be rushed. Carolyn appears to help protect Patience and Manfred. When Fiji lights the bones on fire, the ghosts disintegrate. Just before she disappears, Carolyn tells Manfred that “There are secrets behind the woods.”
We didn’t see what Fiji used the goat’s heart for.
Downstairs, the stripper vamps have arrived and are attacking the hotel employees. Lem and Olivia arrive soon after to take them on. Olivia tells one that she doesn’t want to kill a stripper, because patriarchy is the real enemy. Right on cue, Lem comes in and takes over her fight.
Olivia tells Lem that she was fine, but he says that he felt her emotions differently. A man screams, and Olivia is happy to be the one to kill the vampire who’s attacking him, to prove to Lem that she doesn’t need his help.
Dawnette finds Kai, and begins her rant against all men and the way they’ve treated her. She does have a point. Kai tries to talk his way out of the situation, saying that he sees her pain now.
Lem runs up and gets between them, explaining to Dawnette that Kai doesn’t deserve to die, and she doesn’t deserve the guilt she’ll eventually feel over every murder she commits. Just like she’s going to feel guilty that she caused the death of the friends that she turned.
Dawnette gives up when she hears that Sweetness and Cashmere are already dead. Even the vampire world is unfair to women like them. We saw how much killing Lem and his “family” did, for fun, revenge and food. The same reasons the three former strippers were killing. How many chances did Lem give his sire to change? And then he only killed them in self-defense. Yet they made no attempt to lock up the other two vampires and force them to reconsider.
Dawnette explains that she was “so tired of being insulted, used, groped.” She just wanted things to change. Lem understands that when you’ve only seen power used in order to be cruel, you think that that’s the only way to be powerful. He was the same way. But it’s not true. He can teach her another way.
Olivia doesn’t think Dawnette deserves another chance, and tries to put a stake through her heart. Lem and Manfred stop her. Kai says that he can take the vampirism out of her. When the others doubt him, he says that, “Energy is energy.”
Patience isn’t sure it’s a good idea, but Kai asks Dawnette if she wants to return to being a human. She says she does, so he uses the same technique we’ve seen him use twice before.
He still doesn’t release the energy. Vampire energy is blue.
Manfred and the other are stunned that, “He can make supernaturals human again.”
Manfred tells Joe about what Kai can can do. Joe says that angels can’t be changed into humans. Manfred doesn’t want to give up his own power.
Let’s hope that Kai doesn’t decide to just take someone’s power. If he’s not releasing the energy, it must be building up inside of him. Olivia is still suspicious of Kai, and Manfred thinks she’s right.
Olivia is also still furious with Lem because he allowed someone to die in order to save her when she didn’t need saving. Lem explains that he can’t ignore it when he feels that she’s in trouble. Olivia says that she doesn’t know what to do, leaving them at a stalemate.
Bobo finishes a minor repair on some shelves in Fiji’s shop, then they start making out again. The shelves collapse and one of Fiji’s ceremonial knives flies at Bobo, in a direction that is in no way natural. Fiji is now certain that something magical is trying to kill Bobo whenever they have sex. She decides they can’t touch each other until she figures out what’s wrong.
Say goodbye to shirtless Dylan Bruce, a true tragedy.
Manfred sneaks into Kai’s office to find the secrets behind the woods, which he’s interpreted as the painting of the woman in the forest. He opens the panel and reveals the severed demon head. When he touches it (ew, Manfred, why?), he gets a flash of an arm in medieval clothing, holding a sword, slicing off the head. He’s thrown backward, onto the floor, unconscious.
On the one hand, I wouldn’t have minded keeping Dawnette around. This show needs more female characters, and new vampires can be fun. On the other hand, why did Dawnette show her fangs and hiss like a cat every 5 minutes? That’s not a thing in either True Blood or Twilight, her fandom source of vampire lore. It was annoying as heck after the first time. But a vampire who kept trying to live up to vampire stereotypes and driving Lem and Olivia crazy could have been entertaining.
I’m really liking the chemistry between Patience and Manfred, which they played up in the scene after Bruce almost kills Manfred. Patience’s energy reminds me of a young Xylda. She could be much better for him than Creek, who is nice and very normal. Particularly if Kai is spending his time with Lyric and Sequoia. (Imagine those two names said in the most disdainful tone possible.) We haven’t seen any affection between Kai and Patience, or any sign that their marriage is more than a business arrangement.
I’m confused that Dawnette has to guess whether vampires are real. The books take place in the True Blood universe, where vampires have revealed themselves to the world, but still keep to the shadows for the most part. I thought that was the case with the vampire community in the world of this series as well, even though they aren’t 100% conforming to either book or True Blood series rules. Are even vampires still underground in this world? The existence of supernaturals has seemed like an open secret, at most, up until now, with individuals staying in hiding to avoid persecution. Was anyone in season 1 surprised that vampires exist when Lem’s sire and his gang came to town?
Whether Olivia decides she’s getting too old to keep up with Lem or she gets killed while out on a job, she’s going to be gone within a period of time that would feel short even to a human, never mind a vampire as old as Lem. After being alone, for the most part, for a century and a half, he’s finally found someone he wants to spend the rest of his long life with. It’s devastating to face that she doesn’t want the same thing. I suspect that the real motivation for his overprotectiveness is that he’s trying to make sure nothing takes her away too soon, a motivation that Olivia would hate even more than normal overprotectiveness.
I’m really interested to see where they go with Olivia and Lem’s story. Their story played out differently in the books. The TV version is being written with some striking similarities to Sookie and Erik Northman’s romance in the Sookie Stackhouse books. The way that Charlaine Harris ended that romance and treated the character of Erik when she did it were the most unsatisfying things that she’s ever done in her books or TV shows, which I otherwise love. Since he’s my favorite character, I’ve found it hard to forgive. Is she trying to have a do over of that basic plotline, but with Lem and Olivia?
On the other hand, Olivia is extra angry and murderous this season, and she mentioned her stepmother. Book readers will know what that means. I suspect that some of her anger toward the stripper vampires, and her refusal to become a vampire herself, is due to self-loathing. Olivia has good reasons of her own for refusing to become a vampire.
Apparently the change from human to vampire is instant and trauma free in this universe, unlike the source material or virtually every vampire universe ever. It helps with breezy, light storytelling, but it makes it harder to take the change seriously as a profound change in status from living human to dead supernatural.
Patience seems like your basic supernatural con artist, but Kai is a seriously sketchy character. Is he releasing his negative energy into the severed head? Kai must be part demon. But what else is going on? Is he keeping the spirit of the demon close? Is he possessed?
I don’t think Patience told us the true/whole story of the painting, either. For one thing, it has a secret panel. For another, the woman is wearing veils, making her appear masked. The entire painting is about hiding things. She’s hiding in the woods; her clothing hides her body, face and identity; and the way the painting and frame are constructed is meant to hide something within or behind the artwork.
Yet it’s Kai who has something hidden behind the painting. So, what is Patience hiding?
Images courtesy of NBC.