April 24, 2015 Darknet (Episodes 4-6 Review)
The first episodes of the pilot season of Darknet introduced viewers to the horrors of the Web. In episodes 4-6, mayhem awaited or is carried on by the survivors of the first three episodes, along with some new unsuspecting characters. The writers continued to use the anthology format, with a series of shorts making one episode, and all storylines reinforce the idea that the Internet is not safe. Darknet targets that insistent element of human nature, curiosity, consistently keeping viewers pondering what will come next.
Jeremy Ball (The Archivist, 2013) directed episode four, and writer Sarah Larsen made her debut. Episode 4 opens with a sort of prologue. The story flashes to Gemma (Cara Gee: Hot Tw*t, 2010; The Cycle of Broken Grace, 2012) waking up next to a pill bottle. She calls her hubby to see if he can pick up some refills for her, then goes outside where she has a disturbing vision involving a statue. Unsettled, she makes some tea, notices something in the drain, and realizes she is not alone. As Gemma backs away from another grotesque vision, the camera reveals a hooded person at the window. Gemma calls her psychiatrist, Kathy, for help, but when she notices that her door has been opened, it becomes clear to the viewer that the threat is not just in her head. As Gemma prepares to shower, she is attacked. Did she make it or not?
In the second vignette, Kim (Katie Boland: Gerontophilia, 2013; The Babysitter, 2015) visits her doctor for a post-op on her breast augmentation. She brings up her concerns about flying, for fear the altitude might cause complications. The surgeon (Hrant Alianak: Pontypool, 2008; Dear Scavengers, 2012) tells her things will be fine, and she leaves feeling reassured. Later, Kim wakes up in the middle of the night feeling sore. When she investigates in the mirror, she sees something quite alarming. The scene cuts to Kim, who is still not feeling quite right, in NY. She calls the surgeon, but the number’s not in service. She checks her breast, and, once again, viewers are cut to another scene.
The third short continues Gemma’s storyline as she wakes in a hospital, her head bandaged. With her are Dr. Cooper (James McGowan: Degrassi: The Next Generation, 2014; Beauty and the Beast, 2014) and his nurse, Alison, who also appeared in the first episode. After Dr. Cooper leaves, Gemma overhears her husband, Stuart (Arnold Pinnock: Assault on Precinct 13, 2005; Warehouse 13, 2009) having a conversation she was most definitely not meant to hear. The story continues, focusing on the sordid desires and violent behaviors of its characters, and concludes with a torture scene involving a syringe and myriad of unanswered questions.
Harvey (David Richmond-Peck: Hemlock Grove, 2013-2014; Pacific Rim, 2013) is a help center operator in the opening of the last vignette. He tells a distraught caller, Beth (Alisen Down: Stephen King’s Dead Zone, 2002; Stargate SG-1, 2004), things can change, that we never know what is in store. She proceeds to tell the story of her soul mate Jeremy, whatever happened, she blames Harvey. Stunned, Harvey tries to explain what happened, but Beth persists, causing Harvey to break and say he changed. As the credits roll, the killer is cleaning the removed implants.
Written by Anthony Scott Burns (Tron: Destiny 2011, Manifold 2013) and Randall Cole (Anderson Unbound 1999, 19 Months 2002), episode 5 opens on Katie (Carlyn Burchell: Robocop 2014, Hemlock Grove 2014) on the computer with earphones on in her work cubicle. The guy in the next cubicle thinks she likes him. She looks back and he has disappeared. She stands, seeing that everybody is gone. She investigates, walking through halls. In the elevator, she repeats a mantra of trust. She goes shopping and then home, repeating the mantra. She is clearly uneasy. At her door, there is an envelope with July 17th on the back. She checks her datebook, it is the 14th. At night, she hears creaking. She calls her mom to vent.
The next day, she hears laughing behind closed doors in the apartment down the hall from hers. Feeling left out and uneasy, she goes to work, keeping to herself. She sees coworkers flirting. She gets uncomfortable watching, decides to go to the bathroom and clean her hands, OCD-style. In the elevator, she gets asked if she is going to hang out at McCool’s. She mumbles a no and runs to her apartment. Woken that night, she goes to her computer to see she has an “open me” email, which she opens to a convenience store surveillance camera video. There is a hooded guy making the cashier uneasy. He confronts Hooded Man, armed with a bat. The video skips and cuts to Hooded Man leaving. Katie is uneasy, but still watches. She reassures her mom she is ok. At work, she gets a package dated the 16th, along with another “open me” email. She shows Jack (Sebastian Pigott: Saw 3D: The Final Chapter 2010, Pacific Rim 2013), McCool, the “open me” email, which shows another surveillance camera video. In it, a girl in a parking garage flashes the camera, then, Hooded Guy is seen on cam. Flasher Girl goes to her car and is strangled. Jack thinks it is fake. They check the news…nothing. Katie still believes it to be true. Jack walks her home safely. He sees the card with the 17th as she checks the bedroom. He gets a text, but she wants him to stay. He leaves, but gives his number, saying he is closer than the police.
That night, she sleeps with a knife, but still she cannot sleep. She gets a call from her mom, but it is a dead line. Then, Katie goes to door with the knife and makes sure it is double-locked. She gets another email notification, which just says July 17th. She calls Jack to come over, saying she thinks someone is there. She wakes up the next day. It is too quiet. She gets yet another email with another surveillance video starring Jack. It is July 17th.
The final episode was directed by Rodrigo Gudino (The Eyes of Edward James 2006, The Demonology of Desire 2007) and written by James Kee (The Roxy Hunter series 2007-2008, Taxi Brooklyn 2014). At the start, which serves as a prologue of sorts, a guy is looking for his delivery place in a bear uniform. He calls the number given to him, but it is bad, so he changes the destination on his GPS, but still cannot find it. Of course, it starts raining. He gets out, calls his GPS a bitch, and gets answered by his GPS calling him a bitch, then gets an ax to his head by a guy (Adam Kenneth Wilson: Manson 2009, Suck 2009) saying he has been trolled, snaps a pic, and emails it to Darknet.
The second short begins with Jay (Aaron Hale: Warehouse 13 2012, Cracked 2013) surfing Darknet boards, chatting, which gets strange. He gets freaked and changes his IP, but gets an email the next day saying, “Found you.” Jay concocts a plan to make the unknown emailer think he is gay, calling himself Kirin. Then he gets called from his dad asking if he screwed with his mom’s psych evaluation on Facebook, which he emphatically says no. He tries to trap the guy he thinks is screwing with he and his family, but gets a porn video instead.
The third vignette starts with a girl named Shari (Chloe Rose: Degrassi: The next Generation 2011-2013), by her name tag, cleaning a laundromat. She sees a guy (Ari Millen: 12 Monkeys 2015) get beat and killed in a surveillance cam as she passes by, then, the killer looks right at her and makes the throat-slice gesture. She runs to hide. He paces the storefront until a car comes. He returns and she pleads for him to stop as she holds a written sign telling he can have the video and cash if he just lets her go. He stands across the street watching as she unlocks the door. He enters. She locks him in the office, but he gets out, and has an accomplice. What happens with Shari changes her family forever.
The episode continues Jay’s story with the real Kirin (Alexander De Jordy: Sticks and Stones 2008, Saving Hope 2014) getting banned from Darknet for obscene spam sent by Jay’s unknown emailer. He gets a porn video in his email. It is his sister with her boyfriend. Jay was the cameraman. How was the video emailed to Jay if he was the cameraman? After having words over chat, Jay meets up with Kirin in a warehouse, who films Jay’s confession while Kirin admits he hacked Jay’s mom’s psych evaluation in retaliation. The accusations of “trolling” escalate until…
The last short has a dad, Henry (Peter Outerbridge: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D 2012, Nikita 2010-2013), missing a family vacation for work. He is watching a video of his wife, Charlie (Nahanni Johnstone: Orange is the New Black 2013), and kid at the beach. He is interrupted when he gets visited by Taylor (Jeff Clarke: Mad Men 2012, 12 Monkeys 2015) to deliver some mail from his son. He offers beer and Henry reluctantly says yes. They watch the video that was in the mail. It turns out Henry is separated. The video cuts to Charlie in bed in a pool of blood, dead. Concerned, they call and get an answering machine as the camera pans.
In an epilogue, all the survivors get logged onto Darknet and are addressed by their real names when they thought they were anonymous. As Darknet continues talking, the survivors try to survive by getting rid of the voice in their own ways. The voice persists and changes, so they think it is an entity in their rooms.
As with the first part of the season, the non-linear storytelling, particularly episodes 4 and 5, got muddled, making it hard to keep up with the individual stories to make the whole come together at times. With its series format, as with the first part, there are some character development, continuity, and pacing problems. That said, each director with their respective writer, crew, and cast, did well conveying the horror of being some unknown entity’s, whether an actual webmaster or Darknet being a possessed website, unsuspecting entertainment property in the urban setting throughout the series. Like being curious of the carnage passing an accident on the road, login to Darknet…it might just entertain the darker inner psyche. CrypticRock gives Darknet 4 of 5 stars.