Spoilers for the much-improved Halloween episode of “Reaper” coming up just as soon as I figure out whether I still have my copy of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” script...
Just when I was about to write off “Reaper” as a one-episode wonder, along comes an episode that was easily the best since the pilot, full of humor, pathos and tweaks on an already-tired formula. Now, a show about Satan’s minions should consider a Haloween episode a gimme, but the “Reaper” of the last few weeks seemed incapable of rising to the occasion. (I figured, at best, that we’d see Sam go after the soul while dressed as a ballerina or something else humiliating.)
When I’ve complained about the lack of face time for the escaped souls, a character like Leon -- very loosely based, given the real guy’s fondness for anarchism, on Leon Czolgosz -- is exactly what I had in mind. It’s a lot more interesting when Sam’s prey has a personality – compare how Leon dominated the episode while the primary target, the Butcher, was just an afterthought (and the lamest-looking CGI hellhound since Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis at the end of “Ghostbusters”). It helps when you have a very funny guy like Patton Oswalt around, but Leon was entertaining both as himself and as a wedge between Sam and Sock.
Meanwhile, we got the first real growth in Sam’s relationship with the Devil, who (perhaps foolishly) let Sam witness an unguarded moment of his Linus-esque melancholy over the commercialization of Halloween. I don’t know if any other Satan-themed movie or TV show has made that point before (I stopped with “Brimstone” after the pilot), but it’s an astute – and, as beautifully played by Ray Wise, funny – one.
There were some other nice touches throughout, like the shameless Sock’s pumpkin envy, the visits to the DMV both without and then with Gladys, and Ben bonding with yet another animal from Hell. I even found Ted amusing for once with his overenthusiasm for Halloween.
So, one-time fluke thanks to the Halloween inspiration, or a sign that Fazekas and Butters have realized they can’t just stick to the formula every week?