S2E1&2–Black Hat Society part 1 & 2
We pick up where we left off last season, in 1692, with Evie about to be burned at the stake by Constable Eccles. There is no last minute savior, here–she actually burns. But let’s be honest–there is no way that Evie is going to stay dead, is there?
A week later in the present day (well, more than a week, but not more than two), we see Stan dreaming about digging a grave. There are flashbacks to the past season finale, and he awakens to see Evie in a coffin, who tells him he’s in he wrong world, and that he needs to fix things–and fast.
Given Evie is dead, he doesn’t remember her. Like any good ghost,the memory of her haunts him even with her not about, causing him to call his daughter Denise by Evie’s name. Again, I have to call out Deborah Baker Jr’s performance here–her rambling about not wanting another mother (as she doesn’t remember Evie, either), is great. All of the actors here have great comedy chops, but I can’t help but love Deborah’s random yet sweet Denise brand of humor the most.
Things are in general all wrong in this world. Leon, the old deputy, is the current sheriff (in all his stupid glory), and Constance (Constable Eccles’ daughter, whom we met last season), is alive and well in this world. Which isn’t right. The subtle humor of Stan’s confusion really plays well in these scenes.
In this episode we learn a bit more about Stan’s wife; she was a part of a group called the Black Hat Society–basically a small coven of witches. Well, witches and one warlock. Besides Constance, there is a new witch on the scene named Lara, who seems relatively smart. The other two…not so much (they literally argue over snacks. Funny, but not the best witch material). They believe Stan is the ‘prophesied’ one–prophesied to do what, we don’t know. But really, does it matter? We know Stan would reject any sort of title like that–he just wants to get to the bottom of these shenanigans.
After another spout of dreams, Stan realizes that Evie’s in the cemetery, and after dealing with Denise (who crashed her car over chocolate milk–don’t ask, just watch!), we head over to the church, where we meet the grave digger played by none other than Showrunner himself, Dana Gould. He’s great in this small role, playing the straight man to everyone else’s jokes.
Stan genuinely wants to get drunk, and I don’t blame him. While this show is a horror comedy, dealing with remembering someone you knew but can’t actually place has to be maddening. A lot of this could fall flat, but the entire cast, and John C. McGinley especially, plays it with such aplomb you can’t help but believe him.
After finding the grave, Stan starts digging, and finds not the body of Evie, but of a wraith that immediately starts flying and attacking our cast [to see pictures of it without the flying effects, see my on set visit]. Being told something is indestructible has never stopped Stan, and he manages to destroy the wraith with a few well placed hits with a shovel. Constance reveals that her father set the thing as a trap 400 years ago, and that the eyes are important-so Stan has to dig them out of the skull.
They all head to the Eccles farmhouse where Stan is informed if he goes through a certain door, he’ll go back in time. Despite being skeptical (because really, when is he not), he does as he’s told, and ends up back in Willards Mill in 1692, just in time to save Evie from being burned. The pure joy in his face when they recognize each other is wonderful. Despite anything he says to the contrary, Stan has a large heart–it’s why he’s such a curmudgeon. He’d rather be mean than get hurt, but in the end he’d still risk life and limb to save those he cares about.
Upset over losing Evie, Constable Eccles summons the wraith into this time period, and almost gets both Evie and Stan–but the latter manages to get them back into present day just before they lose their heads. It’s there that Stan’s memories of everything come flooding back as the time period is set to right, and Evie starts to get emotional. It’s rare to see such a genuine, platonic friendship between two characters like this, and I’m always so glad to see the small beats of emotion come through the characters, even if it doesn’t last long.
Saving someone from the past can’t be that easy, though–we find out that both Evie and Constance can’t exist at the same time. One of them has to go back. This is imparted to Stan by Constable Eccles (who apparently is in his head?), who also plants the idea that with just a small bit of one of the wraith’s eyes, he might go back just a year in time and save his wife’s life. No one should be messing with time, but let’s be honest–Stan totally is going to try.
Stan decides he’s going to have to kill Constance to save Evie (which is sweet, really). Constance doesn’t want to die, obviously, so she uses her powers to turn two jocks into one giant jock monster. It’s hideous, amazing, and a really neat practical effect. It doesn’t last long, though, as Evie takes the monster out with the cop car, and proves, as Denise says, “teenagers are full of goo.”
Frustrated over Constance trying to save her own life, Stan begs her to just leave. He can’t bring himself to kill her, but he can’t have her stay. He literally gets on his knees to beg her to leave–which is something I didn’t think I’d ever see him do. She agrees, and we next see her in 1919, leaving Stan one of the wraith’s eyes and a note to find in the present day. Which means operation, ‘mess with time to save wife’ is still on.
These two episodes, while funny, are a lot more serious in tone, and show a much softer side of Stan than we’ve seen before. I’m really excited to see what it means for the rest of the season, given what has been teased.