Checking Into 666 Park Avenue

666 Park Avenue is a new horror drama from ABC about a young couple who move into a strange New York City building … which may be owned by the devil or one of his evil minions. Yikes!

Henry Martin, a do-gooder city planner, and Jane Van Deen, an out of work architect, accept jobs as the new building managers of The Drake, a fancy, historic high-rise located at 999 Park Avenue. Once they’ve settled into their luxurious new apartment, the privileged building owner Gavin Doran and his glamorous wife Olivia introduce Henry and Jane to a whole new world. They’re attending cocktail parties in the penthouse, golfing at exclusive clubs, receiving designer dresses as gifts and watching the symphony in style.

Gavin takes Henry under his wing and convinces him to dream big professionally. He hands Jane her dream project by asking her to help him restore The Drake. In their stylish new dwellings, it seems like all of Jane and Henry’s wishes are coming true.

But …we’re 3 episodes into this new series and it’s becoming horrifyingly clear that BAD things happen to people whose wishes are granted at The Drake. And Gavin Doran is behind it all.

– A violinist who bargains with Gavin for unparalleled talent enjoys 10 years of glorious success before his number is up.

– A grieving widower wishes his wife’s suicide away, but is forced to kill other people in order to keep her alive. When he can’t keep it up, she’s done … and so is he!

– An obituary writer enters some kind of crazy confident haze after speaking with Gavin and starts writing fake stories that propel her up the journalistic ladder. But a Russian mobster she invented comes to life and attacks her.

Every creepy event is intertwined with The Drake itself and the building has a strange, eerie presence. Henry is annoyingly oblivious to all the bizarreness unfolding around him (more on that later!) but Jane is increasingly shaken and worried as she gets acquainted with their new home. While she’s investigating the basement she uncovers an old dragon mosaic on the floor. Blueprints reveal a hidden door behind a concrete wall. Jane keeps dreaming about padding down to the basement in the dead of night to open the door – witnessing terrible events on the other side. In one dream the door leads her onto the balcony where she’s powerless to stop a woman from plunging to her death. In another, it takes her back in time to a gruesome murder from the mid-20th century. But are they really just dreams? She wakes up in a cold sweat … but how did the bottoms of her feet get dirty? And who brought the laundry up from the basement? And how could she possibly be dreaming about a real suicide and murder she didn’t know anything about?

Soon the strange basement door consumes Jane’s daytime hours as well. She demos the concrete wall during an exterminator inspection and can’t resist opening it. She finds a dark storage room containing old luggage and a creepy doll collection. Any sane person would have run like hell the moment they locked eyes with one of those porcelain menaces. Everybody knows that antique dolls either will kill you or get you killed! But Jane waits until she hears sinister whispers and is grabbed by a little girl ghost before she freaks the hell out. She’s rescued by Henry who cheerfully convinces her she’s probably just seeing, hearing and feeling things. Uh-huh. And how does he explain the incessant dinging bell noises that seem to come from nowhere? Or the giant waterfall of blood that pours over the door the next time Jane goes down to the basement? This is not a normal place they are living in!

I’m definitely intrigued by this series so far. It’s tense and unsettling and keeps me clutching my blanket from the comfort of my couch. But my biggest issue is that the ‘evil’ of 666 Park Avenue is all over the place. I can’t get a handle on the Rules. Generally, when you’re dealing with a sinister figure like Gavin Doran, there is a system to how he operates. A code if you will. So what is it?

He seemed to be bargaining for souls with the violinist and the grieving widower. He offered them something they desperately wanted, but they had to pay the price eventually. When their time was up – or they reneged on their bargain – he made them disappear/killed them. This involved a glowing blue light that sucked them into the walls of The Drake itself. It’s the classic ‘deal with the devil’ scenario. Gavin even reminded them, “You signed a binding contract.”

But it doesn’t seem like Gavin needs to make deals to inflict pain or violence. After a business associate isn’t swayed by a tempting financial offer, Gavin shoves him down a mystical elevator shaft (that appeared out of nowhere behind a door). The man dies screaming and disappears in the same flash of blue light. So … if Gavin can just go around mystically killing people, why bother messing with them first?

And it also seems like he doesn’t need people to sign on the dotted line to enact a deal. With Annie, the obituary writer, he didn’t directly bargain with her. He had some sort of to psychic influence over her … compelling her to become the instrument of her own demise (although I don’t think she’s dead yet, just tied up by a supernatural mad man).

And what about Danielle, the sexy singleton Gavin has been torturing for nearly a century? He keeps her eternally youthful; trapped in a destructive dating pattern. She goes out with guys who hurt her, use her, or cheat on her and then murders them in a passionate, jealous, possessed rage. But after each horrific crime Gavin erases her memory and the cycle starts anew. Her most recent victim was an unscrupulous married man who tried to swindle Gavin on a business deal. The man pissed off Gavin, but it was Danielle who delivered the death-blow. So have ALL her dead suitors been Gavin’s enemies that she helpfully disposed of? And was this originally a deal that went sour for Danielle (perhaps in exchange for eternal youth) or did Gavin just handpick her and give her nothing in return? And why would Gavin go to all the trouble of cursing her when he could simply have shoved ALL his enemies down elevator shafts? Is he just worried about becoming too predictable in his evil?

Then there are the freakish incidents that merely seem loosely linked with Gavin. Two of the supporting characters on the series are struggling playwright Brian Leonard and his successful photographer wife Louise. Brian has been busy with more than writing in his free time … engaging in a little Rear Window action with a hot blonde in an apartment across the street. When the blonde woman starts playing along – and putting on quite the show – Brian feels guilty and tries to stop peeping. But the blonde woman, Alexis, begins stalking him – taking a job as Louise’s assistant, breaking into his home in a bathrobe, and ‘accidentally’ walking in on Brian and Louise during sex. Very Fatal Attraction, but not Exorcist material yet right? … Until The Drake’s elevator doors start swatting Louise around like a cat toy, collapsing her lung and giving her a concussion. Was Brian harbouring a subconscious desire to be rid of Louise that Gavin was somehow able to tap into? Was the elevator ‘accident’ his way of granting an unspoken wish? And who exactly is Alexis? A regular crazy or a temptress created by Gavin?

Also in the weird category:

– the crazy flock of starlings that lives inside the walls of The Drake and attacks anyone who threatens them.

– the potentially psychic klepto teenager who walks around delivering cryptic messages

– the little-girl ghost living in the basement

– the locked suitcase with an evil being trapped inside

I’d just like to see a little more focus in the storytelling and right now it feels a little scattered. I don’t want another Lost ‘island’ situation where I have to accept that weird crap just happens at The Drake and I’ll never understand why.

As far as the characters go, most of them are pretty compelling. Rachael Taylor’s Jane is a likeable, albeit typical, horror heroine. She’s plucky and ambitious, but still lacks the bloody sense to STAY OUT OF THE CREEPY BASEMENT! But she’s our doorway into this world of weird. Even though we’re privy to more information than her, we’re still unraveling the mysterious of The Drake with her. Terry O’Quinn’s Gavin is masterfully evil and appealing at the same time. The man does so much with a subtle smile and the cock of an eyebrow. Vanessa Williams is appropriately chic and mysterious as Olivia, but I’m a little surprised they haven’t given her more to do. We got a glimpse into her pain in Episode 3, when she opened up to Jane about her daughter’s suicide, but she spends most of her time shopping and dining. I’m really curious about her role in the whole ‘evil’ deal. She definitely knows the score, but I’m not quite sure what part she plays.

And then there’s Henry … ugh. He’s just really boring and I haven’t seen evidence of a personality yet. He and Jane were supposed to be co-managers of The Drake, but I guess that was just on paper, because he just whistles off to work everyday while she’s dealing with rogue birds and malfunctioning elevators. I get that he’s busy, but he’s totally oblivious. And whenever Jane tries to talk to him about her growing alarm, he pats her on the head like an anxious puppy. I’m not really interested in what happens to him at all, which is a shame because apparently it’s going to be all about him. Gavin and Olivia are constantly watching him, waxing on how he’s going to be a ‘hero’. Gavin keeps giving him moral tests, pleased when he passes them with flying colours. They have big plans for Henry … although I can’t imagine what they could be.

I guess I’m like a skeptical fish with this show right now … the hook is dangling above me and I’m really tempted to bite down, but I’m not quite there yet 😉

What do you guys think of 666 Park Avenue so far?


So … I guess “I Only Have Eyes For You” is now the official anthem of old-timey crimes of passion? Buffy fans – you know what I’m talking about!

Photo Courtesy of ABC

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