Spoilers for "Reaper" episode four just as soon as I find out whether my local Home Depot stocks obscure documentaries on DVD...
After two episodes suggesting that this might be a quintessential "Great pilot, mediocre series," we got a significant improvement last night. It still wasn't nearly as good as the pilot -- nothing's made me laugh out loud like Sock hitting the dog with the car door, or Sock and Sam suiting up and then having to sit around while the Dirt Devil charged -- and there are still some ongoing problems, but other things may be getting fixed.
First, Sam's interaction/climactic fight with the Soul of the Week lasted more than five seconds. The bad guy still didn't have much personality outside of being a Criss Angel wannabe, but at least he was scarier than the bee lady or the lightning guy.
Second, while I doubt the writers will ever come up with another vessel as inherently funny as the Dirt Devil, Ben's interaction with Winston -- sweet at first, disgusted at the end -- was amusing. I think Ben may have more long-term viability as a sidekick than Sock. As with Morgan on "Chuck" (and I promise this will be the only "Chuck"/"Reaper" comparison this week), a little of Sock goes a long way.
Third, there's some semblance of an ongoing storyline with Sam's attempt to get his hands on the contract. As Ben pointed out in the pilot, all the theology/mythology about souls being sold to the Devil agree that another person can't sell your soul for you, and setting up a situation where Sam might be able to find an (eventual) escape clause -- or even just find some kind of leverage to ask Satan for fringe benefits -- is interesting. At the very least, it'll save us from the repetitive "Sam hates both jobs but is stuck with them" theme we've been getting. Also, about time we saw Satan act genuinely menacing. I love Ray Wise.
On the negative side of the ledger, Andi being out of the soul/vessel loop seems like a waste of both our time and Missi Peregrym's, I hate how cavalier they've made Sam's parents about the soul-selling thing (the mom's angst in the pilot over what she'd done and Sam's attempt to let her off the hook gave the show some emotional weight it's been lacking ever since), the notion of The Work Bench carrying everything is going too far, and the escaped souls still need to be better written in the future.
But an improvement's an improvement, and as Ken Levine noted a couple of weeks ago, the second and third episodes of a series are often subject to a lot of creative compromises, so I want to be optimistic about the future.
What did everybody else think?