“Dead Mall” delivers a Halloween episode a couple of days late, as the whole gang find themselves trapped in an abandoned mall that is scheduled for demolition.
This recap of Bless the Harts season 2, episode 4, “Dead Mall”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s a couple of days after Halloween, but “Dead Mall” hasn’t quite realized it. Then again, the plot of this week’s episode could apply to any time of year in a cash-strapped town like Greenpoint, where fickle consumer habits can reduce any local fixture to a cobwebbed husk of its former glory. Although I suppose putting the title in a pumpkin gives the theme away.
Anyway, the ramshackle Greenpoint Mall is scheduled for demolition, but before that, there’s time for a walking tour of its creepy open spaces and shuttered-up storefronts. It’s a time for nostalgia, meditations on capitalism’s ceaseless, all-consuming sprawl, flashbacks, and light spooks – the first thing Wayne does is stumble into a mannequin, and he doesn’t get much braver from there.
It’s also a good excuse to get the whole gang together rather than pair them off for A- and B-plots. Jenny, Betty, Violet, Wayne, Brenda, and David are all in attendance, mostly in search of a keepsake to remember Jenny’s illustrious run as the mall’s “queen”. The guest star of “Dead Mall” is Kristen Schaal is Stacey, a former employee who has been living in the mall since it closed, and whom Wayne immediately assumes is some kind of vengeful spirit, which would only be right.
When Wayne’s fear gets the better of him, everyone discovers they’ve been locked in – an excuse for even more reminiscences as the characters, though especially Jenny and Brenda, get to think back to the town’s heyday, their longstanding relationship, and who they might have been in their youth. Far from being just an excuse to play up horror clichés, “Dead Mall”, fittingly for an episode of Bless the Harts, is pretty explicitly about the march of time and the ceding of local charm to corporate uniformity. But there are plenty of horror clichés too.
Stacey, for instance, is off her rocker, with a creepy bedroom full of vandalized mall queen posters and a grudge. Back in the day, she was always in Jenny’s shadow, having nursed a years-long obsession and finally lured Jenny here so they can all go to the big mall in the sky together. It’s up to Wayne to save the day by evoking early-2000s pop music and teen TV. Nostalgia, folk. You’ve got to love it.
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