Welcome to the Friday The 13th The Series rewatch. Each day throughout October, we’ll watch one episode of the seminal 1987 television series and tackle the highs, the lows and Micki’s hair (of course). Now step into Curious Goods and peruse our cursed antiques, won’t you?
S01E08: “Shadow Boxer”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: Tommy (David Ferry), a punchy, broken-down fighter gets in touch with his dark side.
- Director: “Hellowe’en” and “The Poison Pen” director Timothy Bond returns
- Writer: New writer Josh Miller joins the Friday franchise
- Famous Guest Star: Ferry would go on to play Dr. Kissinger in FX’s Legion
Cursed Antique of the Week: Killer Ken Kelsey’s boxing gloves, which produce a shadow that beats opponents to death
Setting: The boxing gym
Best Death: Both of the episodes’ two deaths are the same and neither are all that impressive: punch to the face for the kill
Quirkiest Add-On: Micki (Louise Robey) randomly remembers that she has a fiancé and decides to make him a scrapbook featuring a day in the life of Curious Goods. This has nothing to do with the fact that they’ll need a camera to combat Tommy’s shadow later. 😉
Character Bits: At her undercover diner date with Tommy, we learn that Micki’s mother is Irish and her father is English
Corny Finish Line: Naturally the week after I introduce a new bit, Friday the 13th fails to deliver a funny end line. Unless you count Jack (Chris Wiggins)’s idle threat to pay Ryan (Jack D. LeMay) back for the shiner, which is more ominous (though we all know it will come to nothing because the writer’s have NO MEMORY for past events)
80s Fashion Closet: Woof – Micki is rocking an absolutely terrible looking pony hawk. None of the rest of the clothes stand out because my eyes were continually drawn to that (frankly) giant mane.
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: As mentioned, Lloyd re-enters the picture (in name only), which brings up all of the sexual tension between the cousins early on. Particularly on point is when Ryan points his ass at Micki and claims it is his best side, which prompts her to smack it. So cute, you two — maybe just fuck and put us out of our misery.
“Shadow Boxer” winds up being a surprisingly good episode. Unlike some of the more poorly paced entries, there’s an appropriate amount of story here and even when the fight is wrapped up and the action moves back to Curious Goods, it feels organic, as opposed to being shoehorned in as in previous episodes.
One reason the episode works so well is the hissably entertaining performance by David Ferry. Like most of the other villains on the show, Tommy isn’t exactly complicated, but Ferry makes up for the character’s lack of depth with a truly memorable performance. Tommy is a genuine creep, especially in his interactions with Micki and he’s truly threatening in the climax when he holds her at knifepoint.
The other component that works exceedingly well are the visual effects of the killer shadow. While they’re not great by 2018 standards, it looks great (in late 80s terms) and the cross-cutting between it and Tommy’s fights provide a level of excitement and dynamic action that isn’t present in most of the other cursed objects. Contrast this with Houdin’s Box in “The Great Montarro” and the difference is night and day.
What Doesn’t Work…
Continuity is clearly not the series’ strong point. While we do get more than a few reminders of Micki’s absent boyfriend Lloyd, “Shadow Boxer” seems to entirely forget that just last episode Jack nearly had a fatal fall and had to have emergency surgery that left him recuperating in a wheelchair. None of the latter events are mentioned or addressed here; it’s as though they never even happened! This is a frequent problem with procedural television, but it is all the more glaring when a core character is nearly killed and those events are immediately disregarded.
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- Is coach Manny (Jack Duffy) smoking a pack a day because that is one hoarse voice!
- Unlike some other episodes that feature awkward exposition, the news that Tommy has a bad temper (that sent him to prison no less!) is organically woven into his initial terse encounter with Manny
- At nearly 6:40 minutes, this may be the longest cold open yet
- It’s a bit on the nose that the boxing gloves literally have the word “KILLER” stitched into them, no?
- Friday The 13th delivers its first African-American character in the form of “Kid” Cornelius (Philip Akin). He is disappointingly not given a ton to do, but still manages to make an impression. Another thing that “Shadow Boxer” does well is create memorable secondary characters. This is arguably the best since “A Cup Of Time“
- It’s odd how the boxing fight is only occasionally convincing. This episode really needed a fight choreographer because only around 50% of those hits look close to connecting (caveat: the later fight with Kid looks much better)
- “There’s something I can do that you two can’t”. I’d been wondering how long it would take the writers to use Micki as sexual bait and now we have our answer!
- What’s more gross: the way that Tommy aggressively touches Micki on their diner “date” or those close-up shots of half eaten pie with cigarettes in them?
- The action sequence when Jack and Ryan are caught in Tommy’s apartment while the shadow threatens Micki, which includes the revelation that Tommy can be blinded via the shadow, is really effective. It involves everyone, is well shot and conveys important information they’ll need to solve the case
- Unsurprisingly we learn that Ryan collects comics (specifically Green Lantern). This is late 80s shorthand for “Nerd!”
- Love how Ryan just grabs the gloves off Tommy’s unconscious body post-fight (in front of everyone) and casually saunters off
- Micki’s aggressive reaction to Tommy’s lack of punishment is understandable, but I’m confused by the shot of her looking at Lloyd’s picture in bed. Honestly all of the Lloyd stuff feels artificially inserted into this episode
- I do not appreciate the close up shots of Micki’s breasts and tears while Tommy holds her hostage at knifepoint. It feels unnecessarily focused on female suffering simply as a visual shorthand to hammer home the danger
- I may have chuckled when Tommy threatens to “hurt her [Micki] to death!” Am I a monster or is that line just really odd?
- The resolution to the hostage situation is unexpected: Ryan puts on the gloves and punches both Jack and Tommy. It’s strangely aggressive and then played for literal laughs when Micki and Ryan laugh about Jack’s large black eye at episode’s end
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode nine: “Root Of All Evil”