Three. Three deaths. Also, raise your hand if you're surprised that Henry was involved in the Jack the ripper case. Oh, no one? Good job establishing your tropes early, Forever.
Really, it's only two with a nod to a third: Jack the Ripper, the Black Dahlia murder, and the Boston Strangler. I'm frankly shocked that we only flashback to Henry's time working on Jack the Ripper and not ever single famous murder that's ever happened. Spoilers...
Honestly, despite the hilarity of the fact that they couldn't dredge up enough creativity/five minutes on Google to get more serial killers to make this more focused, this was an episode that played hard with every trope that I expected. It's been pretty comfortable in its tropes in the previous five episodes, but last night was almost a meta-commentary on them.
The basic premise is that there's a serial killer out there meticulously recreating murders from history. Early on, Henry recognizes the first victim as a stand-in for Jack the Ripper since he (of course) worked on that case. He's also received a burner phone from Adam (Hey! Remember Adam?) who calls him about the murder. From there, the episode slams through a bunch of red herrings at break neck speed.
Pictured: The facial hair is crucial to understanding that Henry's in the past, investigating Jack the Ripper
Based on how perfectly the first victim's wounds line up to the Jack the Ripper's victim, Henry leaps to the conclusion that maybe it's the original killer back again. It could be Adam, living forever just like Henry!
The idea of the other immortal being a serial killer where Henry's been a serial doctor appeals to symmetry, and would be a very simplistic set up for a nemesis. Pretty obvious, actually. Eye-rollingly so.
EXCEPT that Henry sees a wound that's not right. It matches a mistake made by one of the papers from that time, but not what he saw with his own eyes. That's someone doing research now, not Jack the Ripper himself. Cross that trope off the list.
And Adam goes a step further, by telling Henry they've missed a clue about the next victim. My favorite thing about Adam is that he's voiced by Adrian Pasdar, which means that he's been on this show and Agents of SHIELD this year. He's taking over ABC Tuesday nights! Do they just snag him off of the SHIELD set and have him record some dialogue?
We need someone whose first impression is "serial killer" but can transition to "comic book writer"
Since the paper with mistake is rare these days, Jo and Henry go to the library to see who has been researching Jack the Ripper. He uses a fake name to check out the papers, but handwriting reveals he's there right then looking a 1947 edition of The Los Angeles Times. Which was a giant hint that the next murder was going to be the Black Dahlia, even if they didn't follow it up with Adam pulling one from the scene of the first crime AND Henry finding drawings of them in a sketchbook.
The sketchbook belongs to the guy who ran from them instantly. He's got a bag with dahlia drawings and a fucking medical knife. That's pretty guilty looking, right?
NOPE. Not him, he's a comic book writer who writes Soul Slasher, which is also about murders. The last one? Jack the Ripper.
I find it endlessly amusing that the dude was researching things he's already published, since we see the Black Dahlia cover right after. I think they justify it as part of his "process," but it's a giant stretch done to make this work. Minor quibble.
Lucas is a big fan of Soul Slasher, because while this episode delights in ignoring all the suspect tropes, our actual main characters are never going to color outside their own lines.
What's the word for these kind of kids nowadays? Did emo die out? He's not dressed for the TV interpretation of goth. I'm getting old.
Plus, it's not the writer, because the Black Dahlia body's shown up in a park. Drained of blood, bisected, and with the gruesome mutilations to the face. In her mouth is a stocking, a hint that the next murder will be based on the Boston Strangler. (" Soul Slasher comics, issue 37," Lucas informs us.) A misplaced leaf at the scene tells Henry the killers in Brooklyn, specifically Carroll Gardens.
So obviously, the killer is one of the Soul Slasher fans that goes on message boards saying that the comic character compels them to kill, right? And one's in Carroll Gardens, typing on the message board right then! They burst into the house and tackle the first guy they see, but "the suspect is still typing." (Now, I may just be ignorant, but is there a prominent messaging system out there that shows each letter as it's typed? Because that's what the Soul Slasher fans use.) It's the teenage son upstairs.
The parents don't believe their son could do this, but Henry says he can prove that their son bought the super-rare medical scalpel that killed the first victim. Why can henry prove this? Because he asked Abe to look into the antique dealer (antique dealers being involved is also rapidly becoming Abe's trope) who specializes in weaponry/sharp antiques. And he stole her records! So there!
While I was busy trying to untangle if the stolen ledger wouldn't be admitted as evidence if neither the police nor Henry, acting as a sort of police proxy, asked Abe to steal it — the detectives act as if that's the case, and now they're in trouble, while I'm pretty sure it's actually fine — Henry goes to return it. It's in a code they haven't been able to decipher, but Henry tells the dealer that they did decode that the buyer's last name is Bentley.
Falling for that old trick, she confirms it. But just as my eyes attempt to roll out of my head that the killer has the old "comics book causes violence" motive, she says he was a man and not a teenager. Now, I think that Henry figures out that it's the dad — making that they first tackled him and then let him go ironic — because of the name and home being right but not the age, but it's unfortunately cut so that the dealer says "polo shirt" and Henry's memory brings up the father in the polo shirt. So it seems like Henry's connecting polo shirt wearing to murdering. #notallpoloshirts
And Henry's stupidly told him that they know who sold the murder knife, so the father shows up to kill Henry and Boston strangle the dealer.
Henry stumbles around trying to stave off death long enough to save the dealer and get somewhere unseen to die. Henry's got a scalpel in his back and then he falls down a flight of stairs getting the killer off the dealer. So now he's got a broken back and is bleeding out. And, fortunately for the new victim, but unfortunately for Henry, whose undead cover'll be blown if he dies in front of someone who can recognize him later, Jo shows up.
But who should save the day but Adam, who helpfully slices Henry's throat before Jo can see either of them. Henry, as usual, disappears from the scene and wakes up as Ioan Gruffudd shivering in front of a green screen.
Now, while I was a big fan of the fact that the show gobbled through trope red herrings like a starving cat, it did mean that the whole episode felt rushed. It was too packed with stuff because of all the suspects. I might have liked this better as a two-part Halloween episode. Plus, while Jack the Ripper got some significant time devoted to him, the other crimes got much less. And while I know it makes me sound like a ghoul, I wish that there had been some other cases thrown in there. These feel like what happens if you google "famous murders" and just picked the top three results. They're not all unsolved. They're not all serial killers. And since we had to get past the comic to move on to the next bag o' clues, there weren't enough details to really world build.
Two smaller details I loved, and they're both Abe related: First, he was the one to explain the burner phone concept to Henry. Because, while he may look older, Abe's actually the younger one in that room and the one who isn't resistant to change (see last week's episode for proof of Henry clinging to the past). It was a perfect little detail.
The other detail is that the antiques dealer who sold the knife is called "the Frenchman." She's an Asian woman. Why is she called the Frenchman? WHO KNOWS! And it's not a nickname other people call her. Abe goes into her store and tells an associate he's there to speak to "the Frenchman" right in front of her. This is her only name! It's completely weird and I love it. You go, Frenchman, define yourself however you want.