“The Murderer” capably kicks off the final season of Room 104, with a bleak musical tale equal parts eerie and hysterical.
This recap of Room 104 season 4, episode 1, “The Murderer”, contains spoilers.
The shenanigans that occur in the titular Room 104 aren’t always consistent, but they’re usually interesting. As The Duplass Brothers’ anthology series enters its fourth and final season with “The Murderer”, that point is proven with a bleak, unsettling and odd half-hour opener.
And it stars Mark Duplass himself as Graham Husker, a musician missing for 24 years, the last trace of whom was a car wreck and a note reading, simply, “I am not a musician.” See, Husker made a five-song rock opera record titled The Murderer about a boy who killed his mother, and Bono insisted it was the best album of the year when U2 won a Grammy in the ‘90s. The resultant fame was too much for Husker, or at least that’s how it’s explained by Logan, one of four friends who arrive in Room 104 with a keg of Keystone Light.
The beer is, apparently, at the request of Husker himself, whom Logan has run into at an open mic night, seeing through his pseudonym. Husker has agreed to play a private show for Logan and his friends in exchange for the booze, and suddenly, here he is.
Husker’s a scruffy-looking oddball type who seems keen on the beer. His voice is decent but his lyrics – “Cradle Me”, “Hold Me Steady”, all creepy songs about a mother and her son – quickly paint an odd picture. Logan wants to slyly record the performance but Husker is adamant about not doing that, much to the misfortune of Logan’s phone. It’s only Katherine, the only female present, who Husker confides in, playing her a song in the bathroom in which he explains how he killed his mother, chopped her into pieces, and buried her in someone’s yard, admitting afterward that he really did kill his mother.
The gory details of this murder are contained in a song Husker left off the album, which, suddenly liberated, he performs for the group. It’s equal parts uneasy and hysterical; I’m not entirely sure where we’re supposed to come down on it. Either way, the group are impressed at the song’s realism, but less impressed when Husker confirms that’s because it is real. They panic, kick him in, and flee, leaving him with a sympathetic Katherine once again. She apologizes to him on their behalf and, when he confuses her for his mother, she plays the role, and the two sing “Cradle Me” together.
It’s an ominous ending to Room 104 season 4, episode 1, which is threaded with a great gag about how willingly consumers will overlook lyrical content. Husker’s song-writing was hilariously literal, and yet everyone still took it as tortured art rather than the outright confessions of a killer. That’s a very bleak idea nestled just below the surface of what is otherwise a very funny half-hour, and that unusual blend of tones hopefully bodes well for this final season.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.