Roomcap: There’s no refuge for the rogue in ‘Room 104’

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Best line: “Lemonade, crunchy ice, hit him once, hit them twice, hit them twice, hit them at the bottom, hit them at the top, hit them at the middle and watch them drop” — Zohara

MVP: Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno)

This week’s episode of “Room 104” opens with almost complete darkness. The hazy blue of the moon seeps in through the window and shows bits and pieces of the room we’ve come to know so well. Suddenly, the harsh brightness of a flashlight peers through the blinds, revealing the room to be completely thrashed.

Through the door walks a figure, undefined, still only lit by the flashlight. Heavily breathing, it scrambles around the room, exposing empty corners and upturned tables until it opens a backpack and pulls out a bloody hammer. The suspense is building, and the breathing is shortening. But as the flashlight finally turns on the face of our protagonist, we see a young girl named Zohara (Iyana Halley) with nothing but fear in her eyes.

Zohara lies on the floor, singing a haunting children’s rhyme to herself as if it is a form of comfort. But as she turns the light off to go to sleep, she hears screaming and banging from outside the room. She jumps up and runs into the closet as tires screech and a gun fires. She stands calmly in the closet, breathing slowly and quietly.

Someone, who we later are introduced as Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno), opens the door to the room, backlit by fiery red outside the room. She turns her flashlights on and notices Zohara in the closet, and opens it to reveal her crouching on the floor. Zohara asks Maria if she was sent by Zohara’s father, but Maria says no. She says she is just looking for some supplies and then is moving on.

Zohara continues to press about whether her dad sent Maria as she scrounges the room for air filters out of the vents. Maria reiterates that no, Zohara’s dad did not send her, but that the room isn’t safe. “You should go back to wherever you came from,” she tells Zohara. Through Maria and Zohara’s conversation, it is slowly made clear that there is a reason for all this darkness, for the chaos and destruction in the room and the outside world.

Maria tells Zohara about a rogue planet that ejected Earth from its orbit around the sun. Zohara shoots into a rage, prodding at why she should go home and why Maria needs supplies if they were all just going to die. Maria pulls open her jacket, revealing that she is pregnant and building an incubator for her baby, and Zohara understands that Maria is not planning to stay on Earth.

But Maria changes the subject, asking Zohara what happened with her father. Zohara doesn’t answer and instead attacks Maria. She asks why she should even believe her as Maria pulls wires out of the walls. Maria tells Zohara that she has always known that the world was going to end, that she is a psychic. And when Zohara doesn’t believe her, Maria tells her that her mother used to squeeze her hands three times, saying, “One. Two. Three. I. Love. You.”

There is a change in Zohara’s face. She begins to ask Maria questions about her life, about how Maria knew the Earth was going to end. Maria tells her that she met a man named Malek who saw the same things she did and that he had an underground habitat she was going to. In the soft light of the flashlight, Maria shows Zohara her journals, scribbled with detailed notes and drawings of her “baby’s birthmark.”

This episode is all about the dialogue. With the only light sources being a flashlight and the dark moonlight seeping through the window, “Room 104” can’t rely on haunting visual queues and suspenseful shot structures. The whole narrative plays out in the conversations between Maria and Zohara; the Duplass brothers and episode writers Jenée LaMarque and Julian Wass are careful to write exposition without being boringly blunt. As the characters’ relationship develops, the more intimately and naturally familiar we become with their lives and the apocalyptic situation at hand.

But then Maria gets up to leave, and Zohara starts packing up too. Maria tells Zohara she can’t come with her, so Zohara begins to tell Maria about her dad. She says he was always strict and obsessed with conspiracies. When he caught Zohara trying to sneak out of their bomb shelter, he handcuffed her to her bed, calling her by the wrong name. But when she tried to sneak out again, they broke into a fight and she hit him with a hammer, running away. As Zohara cries, Maria holds her and whispers it’s OK.

This soft and sweet scene cuts to the characters in full action mode, collecting supplies and building the incubator. As they are making Zohara a suit, Zohara’s dad Willis bursts through the door. He grabs Zohara and begins dragging her out but Maria grabs a small garden rake and thrusts it at him. It’s too dark, too difficult to see what is happening but as their bodies fall to the ground, it is revealed that Maria is the one who got stabbed. She breathes shortly, and Zohara begs her dad to help her. He holds Maria’s head, about to snap her neck, but Zohara hits him in the head with the hammer.

Zohara sits next to Maria as she slowly drifts into death. Maria holds her hand and squeezes one, two, three times, smiling with tears in her eyes as she takes her last breath. Zohara holds onto her for a few more minutes before grabbing her bag, taking a deep breath and braving the outside world.

Maisy Menzies covers television. Contact her at [email protected].

Correction(s):
The image accompanying this article previously was a still from an episode not discussed in the article.