Roomcap: Episodes 6, 7 of ‘Room 104’ look at internal, external sides of being an artist

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“A New Song”

Best Line: Nina’s song

Episode MVP: Nina (Julianna Barwick)

In the past two episodes of “Room 104,” a lot of ground has been covered. The show, one that is known for pushing the boundaries of what a series can do, has used this season to explore a more existential type of thriller.

The sixth episode of this season is titled “A New Song,” and begins with Nina (Julianna Barwick), an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, entering the room with loads of recording gear. A voice-over of her being interviewed for a radio show plays as she sets up her equipment, the host prying into her process curtly.

But the voice-over stops when she is finally ready to sing. The lighting changes to deep red and orange highlights her face as if she is not in a room, but on a stage. Behind her, a projection of her thoughts, of her inspiration for her music, is projected as an animated visual story. The etchings move and jerk around the wall as she croons soft mystic notes.

This is the main formula of this episode. When Nina is inspired to sing, the animation projected behind her tells us why. It flicks on by itself, it controls Nina’s need to sing and not the other way around. And the episode’s real power is in those animations. The low-quality sketched drawings moving across the walls are incredibly brilliant yet simplistic representations of Nina’s life and of her mind. Implementing this cinematic element is something entirely new for “Room 104.”

The episode really takes a turn when, after Nina has finished recording a bout of riffs, the door slams open and a hooded figure enters the room. It slowly circles Nina and as she tries to play her music, it hits her hands and pulls away her headphones. We can see that it is the dark shadow that has been following Nina throughout the projections. It pulls its hood back to reveal a beautiful woman, with dark and mysterious makeup, as she lights Nina’s keyboard on fire.

But the shot quickly cuts, and Nina is coolly sitting on her bed. The woman (Atsuko Okatsuka) is sitting on the other bed. It comes to be revealed that they were once together. Nina tells the woman that she was the love of her life, but she “ruined” them when Nina began to become successful.

The woman tells Nina that it is difficult when the person you love most in your life is more successful than you. She says that she was jealous, and she understands why Nina doesn’t want to talk to her. The lighting behind them is a bright pink as Nina tells the woman that she forgives her.

But whether the conversation really happened is up for debate — the next and final shot is of Nina, alone in Room 104, composing her next song. She has a smile on her face, a fulfillment in her eyes as she sings the eerie notes of the song she has been struggling to write this entire episode.

 

“Jimmy and Gianni”

Best line: “It’s real for him, so I have to respect it.” — Jimmy

Episode MVP: Jimmy Ray Flynn and Gianni Arone

Where “A New Song” focuses on the inner turmoil that comes with art, “Jimmy and Gianni” focuses on the very real and extremely visual nature of art. Jimmy Ray Flynn and Gianni Arone are an actual father-son pair who come to Room 104 to create art pieces for a documentary.

They come into the room and begin to draw on the walls and tear up the towels. The room becomes their canvas as they discuss their different styles and feelings on art. But as they stand in front of the camera, they share that their collaborating has helped them work through Gianni’s addiction and mental health struggles.

This then leads into home video footage of Jimmy and Gianni from years past. Gianni in a kids’ tuxedo walks up to his dad, his dad picking him up and holding him. The footage paints a loving scene of father-son intimacy and love, but Jimmy makes it clear that their relationship wasn’t always like this.

Gianni begins to talk about his experience with addiction, smoking weed and then meth. The father-son duo says that it stole Gianni’s soul, as Gianni then explains that he wanted to understand what these drugs could do to his body. This conversation is interlaced with shots of Gianni and Jimmy crafting art delicately.

Jimmy begins to tell of a night, almost a year ago, when Gianni came to his house high and he had to call the cops on his son. Gianni says that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and he struggled to stay on his medication because the mania of his disorder made him feel high.

These interview clips cut to Gianni struggling with his piece and Jimmy trying to give him advice. He tells him to use the paint roller, but Gianni doesn’t like the roller. Jimmy tells him to go over it again, Gianni doesn’t like to do it the way his father is telling him to. It’s disjointed but in a classic parent-child way. It’s tense yet endearing. Gianni struggles with his art but his dad is there to parent him through it.

This episode is about the real and tangible relationship between a struggling son and his father. The way Jimmy relates to his son and gives him space to grow is a sweet and heartfelt exercise in what the aftermath of addiction and the road to recovery looks like when one has a support system. “Room 104” has taken its finger off the pulse of fictional horror and thrill for a moment to take a crucial look at the real-life horror of addiction that invaded Jimmy and Gianni’s life together, and the deep importance of human connection.

The episode ends with Jimmy and Gianni sitting at the table by the window. Gianni tells Jimmy that hearing his father say he trusted him again was a huge moment for him. Tearing up, Jimmy reaches out, and Gianni takes his hand.

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