Reaper returns on Tuesday to The CW and this is one mid-season premiere I’ve been looking forward to since the finale in May. While I’m grateful the show got renewal, I’m still wondering why a show this entertaining was brought back so late by a network with more holes in its schedule than Swiss cheese. It’s back though, so that’s something.
Here’s a brief description from The CW on what we can expect in the season two opener:
Sam (Bret Harrison) returns from a road trip with Sock (Tyler Labine) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez) hoping to make things right with Andi (Missy Peregrym). However, when the guys return they discover they've been fired from the Work Bench and evicted from their apartment. With nowhere else to go, they head to Sock's house only to find a strange girl (Eriko Tamura) living there. Meanwhile, Andi refuses to talk to Sam and The Devil (Ray Wise) is back with a new assignment. Stephen Cragg directed the episode written by Craig DiGregorio.
In honor of the season two premiere, I thought I’d share some of the reasons why this show ended up on my TiVo season pass.
The Devil Made Me Do It
Let’s face it, Ray Wise, who plays The Devil, is this show. Sure, Bret Harrison does justice to the straight-laced, drifting through life Sam, who’s forced on his 21st birthday to become a bounty hunter for The Devil because his parents sold his soul. Who ever pictured Satan, though, to be the equivalent of a fast-talking used car salesman, complete with fancy suits and well-tanned skin? His tastes range from fine wines to homemade chicken fried steak, which makes him grateful that he doesn’t have arteries.
Anyone who can make the devil exude class, be good humored, and always carry that smile, yet underneath have motives of pure evil requires brilliance. Ray Wise has risen to the challenge. The show often gives glimpses of The Devil’s other qualities too, hinting there’s more to this monster than evil personified. His human side often comes out, showing a lonely guy with an interest in teaching Sam the ropes and who realizes that in the end “God wins.” He doesn’t let any of that get in the way though when it’s time to get the deed done for after all, he is the titan of the underworld.
Sock It To Me
Bert Wysocki. Slacker. Best friend. Total goofball. Lives life with reckless abandon. Comes up short in the reliability department, and is often getting his buddies into more trouble than they can handle given the already stressful circumstances.
So why do we love Sock (Tyler Labine) so much? For one, slackers like him aren’t boring and Sock brings the comedy to this comedy show. He has no dignity and proudly admits it, he doesn’t care what the world thinks of him, and he’d most of the time rather be pals with demons than capture them. He sees the good in everyone, including the most vile of creatures, and that quality often comes back to bite him in hilarious ways. He also parties like an animal and doesn’t let anything in life bother him, including the antagonistic boss at The Work Bench who often calls him out on his pathetic work habits.
Sock also does everything he can to help his best buddies Sam and Ben, sticking by them during each one of their dangerous missions to capture escaped souls. He’s never afraid to put his life on the line and takes each challenge with bombastic enthusiasm. He sees the whole devil thing as a blessing instead of a curse, and will take in the perks when he can, even if he happens to lose years of his life cozying up to soul-sucking creatures like a succubus. After all, what are best friends for?
Demons Have All The Fun
Demons live among us and apparently they can be anyone, including the harmless gay couple next door and the menacing woman at the DMV.
Gladys, the DMV Demon (Christine Willis) adds fantastic support to this crazy world of Hell on earth, for she’s much like Satan herself. She tries to blend in, live the normal life, but there’s that whole being evil thing that gets in her way. She’s lonely too, but that doesn’t stop her from messing with people, including putting Sock in his place (the vindictive sex dream being my favorite). Her need for companionship has her betraying The Devil, and she's sucked back to Hell when eaten by a giant worm in the parking lot of The Work Bench (the visual is way funnier than that sounds). The Devil agrees to bring her back though after Sam says “please,” so she’ll be back for more tormenting this season.
Then there’s Steve and Tony, played by Michael Ian Black and Ken Marino. They’re Sock, Sam, and Ben’s eager-to-please neighbors, flamboyant and happy in their little loft. Sam finds out they’re demons though, and they take offense to his prejudice because it’s hypocritical for Satan’s lowlife bounty hunter to shun them. After all, they made a mistake a few thousand years ago by backing the wrong guy and are making amends by running a demon support group that intends to overthrow Satan in a thousand years through peaceful resistance. That should count for something.
The plans go wrong though, and Steve is obliterated while Tony grows suspicious over Sam’s cozy relationship with The Devil. Tony maintains his friendly neighbor attitude throughout the process however, even in his full blown demon form with wings and horns. He’s always willing to do favors without reciprocation, even if he’s trying to kill Sam. Last season's finale has Steve emerging in a white light, setting Tony straight by telling him Heaven’s better than Cancun. Demons have all the fun.
“A Vessel, Handcrafted in the Bowels of Perdition by the Iniquitous and the Vile”
So what do a Dirt Devil, a remote control monster truck, a toaster, a white dove, a really ugly snowman sweater, a snow globe, a meat thermometer, an 8-track tape, a taser gun, a blow dryer, a cigarette lighter, a spear gun, a Magic Bullet blender, a bottle of bubbles (my favorite), a whip, a scythe, a Nerf gun, a Polaroid camera, and a baseball all have in common? With a little extra mojo, they can send escaped souls back to Hell. Apparently demons have to be innovative since The Devil blames himself for creating the overcrowding problem.
As Gladys explains, the vessels are chosen based on what the hunter can handle, so Sam must be a moron. It’s comical to see Sam, Sock, and Ben have issues with these basic items at the time when they’re needed most, for working a toaster and Dirt Devil that’s lost its charge isn't as easy as it looks. The baseball too only worked when Sock was amped up on a succubus high, so vessels aren’t foolproof. They’re entertaining though, and play as much of a role in the adventure as the people involved.
The Work Bench vs. The Buy More, You Decide
As a Chuck fan too, I often compare hijinks at the Buy More vs. the hijinks at The Work Bench. Both are the ideal places for the unmotivated and shiftless, and employees from both thrive on getting the better of one another.
The Work Bench has plenty of departments for fun, hiding, and romantic entanglements. It also has a less clueless yet very annoying boss who's politically correct enough to offer those of Semitic and Muslim persuasions a gift certificate in replacement of the 20lb spiral-sliced ham prize in the employee sales contest. Also, any place that has a paint can shaker that can be ridden like a mechanical bull is cool by me.
I think in the end though the Buy More wins, because despite its smaller size, you can’t top the Nerd Herd Beetle cars. Also, the video game room is a way cooler hangout than Andi’s video lair amongst the storeroom boxes at The Work Bench. In the end, flashy technology wins.
Reaper isn’t flawless, for the Sam and Andi storyline drags way too much. There's more sexual tension between Sam and Sock than Sam and Andi. Also, Ben’s character often seems out of place in between the spectrum of Sam and Sock, but he does have his moments, like being suckered into marrying an overbearing woman who needs a green card. For all its unevenness though, the story still gives us characters we can love, and off the wall moments unlike anything we’ve ever seen on television.
After all, when you’re Satan’s bounty hunter, anything can happen.