Alien Nation #8: Night of the Screams

Halloween coincides with a Newcomer serial killer's rampage.
REVIEW: Alien Nation's Halloween episode is a horror show with a side-order of black comedy, but definitely leaning towards the former. The serial killer in the story adopts the modus operandi of a boogeyman, Tagdot, from  Newcomer culture, chopping off the hands of his victims, which would be grisly enough. But it's far worse than that. He's doing it because the Overseers used to use the legend of Tagdot to keep the slaves in line in just such a way, so the real horror isn't so much that the killer is doing this, but that Newcomers suffered these atrocities on the ship, and some, like Cathy, still have nightmares about it. More intolerable still, perhaps, is that these Overseers are walking among us, and still believe themselves superior to the "sheep" they used to shepherd. When the Overseer the guys save has to act the jerk, all he gets is a punch from Matt, which is scarcely seems satisfying given the horrendous crimes these people have committed.

It's hard to muster anything but sympathy for the killer, in reality a vigilante on a justifiable holy mission, one who was crippled by the slave's life, and commits suicide rather than face not being able to complete his work. What he's doing is wrong, but as we've yet to meet an Overseer with even an once of regret, it doesn't feel TOO wrong. The killer is right when he says "no one has the right to remain silent"; injustice must be exposed, but that's not the path he took. For George, it's another test of his moral compass, and this time, he almost lets the killer walk, motivated by incredible hatred and resentment. The truly harrowing moment is when Emily comes home with an Overseer tattoo - her disguise for a Halloween party, not that any humans there would get it - earning her father's ire. Imagine a Jewish child of Holocaust survivors who doesn't really understand the history, coming home disguised as a Nazi. George is a tightly wound character, and Uncle Moodri is right, he has Tagdot's violence in him. His struggle and victory, every week, is managing to reign it in.

Though there is a rather unbelievable moment when the coroner eats ribs right over a corpse, the black comedy for the most part comes from Emily's subplot as she prepares to take part in her first Halloween. She relishes it, making her mother carve a pumpkin, training for the apple-bobbing competition, etc. It's not all fun and games, as the Newcomer mask comes on the market and gives her bullies at school an opportunity for hurtful shenanigans. But we don't dwell too much on this. Just enough to bring the show's themes to the surface, while not taking the spark out of Emily's eyes. The final image is of George and Susan allowing themselves to laugh at the monster in their history. Anything else would have been, perhaps, intolerably dark.

- A dark and sometimes thoughtful tale, using Newcomer history as a canvas for horror and black comedy.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

This is one of the episodes I remember the best. That image of George trying to scrub the tattoo off of Emily (and the obvious Holocaust parallels) has stuck with me for years.

I liked it when they showed that despite advanced tech the Newcomer pysche was just as damaged as ours. Made them easier to relate to.


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