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07 March 2016 @ 01:14 am
Rewatch: S1E05 "Dance by the Light of the Moon" (May 26, 1992) by Roy Sallows  
The least and last of first-season Forever Knight far exceeds the best and brightest of many another television series! That's good for "Dance by the Light of the Moon" (S1E05) (DBLM), which, in my personal opinion, is one of first season's few serious misfires. DBLM has many strong ingredients, but, as I see it, they never quite all click.

Recap: This is the episode in which former corporate lawyer, current stripper, Ann Foley, finds "fascination" (her word) and "thrills" (Nick's word) in seducing men previously renowned for their probity into committing crimes, and then murders the survivors. Before seeing Ann, but after learning of two "good men" gone very bad, Nick begins a flashback journey through his last hours of mortality, progressing from a banquet with his comrades, to Janette's arms, to Janette introducing him to Lacroix. Along the way, Schanke and Natalie become concerned that Nick has fallen for Ann's wiles and lost sight of the case; luckily for everyone, he hasn't. Ann jumps to her death to avoid arrest.

The title is a quotation

The lyric "and dance by the light of the moon" comes from the popular nineteenth-century American song known now as "Buffalo Gals" (lyrics) (originally "Lubly Fan" (1844), according to Wikipedia, and variously called "Boston Gals" or "New York Gals" or wherever it was played). The song is heard in such famous movies as It's a Wonderful Life and High Noon.

How does that song origin resonate with FK's DBLM? The song's chorus beckons certain women to come out and dance with the singer in the moonlight. In the episode, Ann beckons certain men to give way to their "darkness" with her. The moon's light is associated with madness as well as romance (the moon itself is associated with femininity), and of course moonlight is visible only in the dark of night, though really it is there all the time.

Naturally, other songs, poems, books, movies and TV episodes have also adapted this lyric. For me, the FK episode's title has always resonated with Jack Nicholson's Joker, in the 1989 Batman movie, asking: "Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" That line's meaning in that movie is debated, but it was a pop-culture catch-phrase for several years. The Joker's line seems to me to ask, in mad harmony with mad Ann's actions (and sane Nick's reflections): "Have you ever chosen to give yourself up to evil, to throw off every restraint?" The Joker and Ann have; they don't look back. Batman and Nick have gone to the brink; they stepped back.

Ann would seem to be meant as both the singer and the subject of the song, who answered by going out to dance in the moonlight. Ann can stand for both the devil and the one who dances with him. Yet... horrific, twisted, and abandoned as she is, Ann is a constrained representative of ultimate evil next to Lacroix, or Divia. Perhaps that's why the episode structure parallels her more with Janette than with Lacroix.

Eurominutes

I rewatched only the Region 2 version this time. Relying on memory alone, I believe that the Region 1 DVD copy of DBLM has the complete Canadian first airing, and that DBLM's Region 2 "Eurominutes" (as HL fandom used to call them) contain no dialogue.
  • Most of the DBLM Eurominutes are simply longer establishing shots inside Jilly's, showing more of the club's employees, both the dancers on stages and those working the floor.
  • One is a slightly longer cut of the banquet scene in the flashback, just showing more of the fireplace and table and men around the table before Janette's approach. "To victory!" they toast.
  • However, one scene is a prize, at least for me! It shows Nick, just awakened, walking through his living room to crack his shades and look longingly at the fading sunlight. He passes his credenza behind his couch, and we see that the credenza, for once, is covered with books! Books!
For years and years, a rumor has persisted that the Region 2 version of DBLM contains R-rated ("mature") footage, specifically naked breasts. It doesn't. FK apparently did film some such footage — cast and crew have said so! — but no fan has seen it and I have no indication that it ever aired anywhere.

Flashbacks

I find it important that the flashback sequence launches within DBLM before Nick and Schanke know of Ann Foley's existence. Similarly, the flashback sequence begins with Nick alone among his comrades, not yet with Janette. What this order tells me is that it's the self-inflicted descent and destruction of two "good men" that brings this memory to Nick's mind, not Ann. It is clear to me that the fallen cop and accountant remind Nick of himself (and not that Ann reminds him of Janette).

For me, personally, the dialogue in the flashbacks is too heavy-handed to enjoy those scenes except on "mute." I cringe. I nitpick. Ms. Duchene and Mr. Wyn Davies did everything that could be done with those lines, but... maybe it would have sounded better in French?

"How badly do you want me?" alone is a potent line! But trailing increasingly blatant constructions like "the light will never satisfy you" and "surrender to the darkness" and "just how strong is your weakness" ... ~sigh~ If Janette really said those words in 1228, what was she thinking? (I presume that Nick was essentially not thinking at all by then.)

The DBLM flashbacks have launched endless speculations of why, when and how Janette and/or Lacroix first chose Nick. All canon gives us for sure is that Janette summoned Nick from that banquet, and introduced him to Lacroix.

Schanke's sexism
  • Calling Patrice "hon" and whining about being asked to stop.
  • "Do you think they know the power they have over us?"
  • "You can trust them as far as you can throw their credit cards."
  • Expression on his face as he shows his badge to the woman who'd been dancing by the table where he and Nick had been sitting, when she'd obviously been working for (and hoping for) a tip.

Try, try again

Many elements that I think fail to wholly click in DBLM turn up again later in FK, like puzzle pieces rotating around and around until they fit.

For example, DBLM's motif of a good cop gone bad turns up again in both "Dead Issue" and "The Fix" (I won't count "Cherry Blossoms," as there the immigration agent's family was held hostage). Interestingly, both the deceased "good cop" Burkhardt in DBLM and Inspector Fiore in "Dead Issue" are very good friends of Stonetree's, and the deceased in "The Fix" is a very good friend of Schanke's. Stripping — Nick: "Investigational theory 101?" / Ann: "Stripping 404." — comes up again in a passing reference in "Black Buddha," and as a plot device in "Hearts of Darkness." Schanke's unfortunate articulation of "what power [women] have over [men]" sounds all too much like the internalized views that doom poor Ilsa in the "Dead Issue" flashbacks ("woman's evil").

Ann says that she "wanted purity" from darkness. This resonates interestingly against Nick's use of "purity" in "Love You to Death" (about Sylvaine, 1890) and Lacroix's and Nick's use of it in "Be My Valentine" (about Fleur, 1229).

Most strikingly, DBLM, like "Dark Knight" and "Faithful Followers," invites us to suspect Nick himself. The story structure wants to urge the audience to think that Nick really has fallen for Ann and really is doing her bidding. (In my opinion, this trope fails in DBLM. As soon as Ann asks Nick to "steal" for her, it's clear to the audience that he's under no spell, no matter how much he pouts around the precinct and is brusque to Natalie.)

"What makes a guy change like that?"

This is a worthy question for FK! What turns anyone, and what specifically turned Nick?

But there's a certain tension in this episode between present-day Nick's firm refusal to blame women for men's weaknesses — Nick: "Greed, fear, lust for power..." / Schanke: "Women?" / Nick: "Yeah. For some guys, it's women." — and the flashback depiction of Nick being led down a path by Janette (literally, she leads Nick down a hallway and eventually opens a door to Lacroix; heavy-handedness R Us in DBLM flashbacks). Yet in "Dark Knight," though perhaps just as a leftover line from "Nick Knight," Lacroix seems to believe that immortality was Nick's big temptation ("to never end up like this").

Some things are great in DBLM. The scenes in the loft, for example, where the give and take between Nick and Schanke on the case — coordinating on the shift change — is both light and substantive, an equal exchange that advances the plot and characterization alike, and gives us a grin while we're there. Also the way Nick reads Billy, the Jilly's manager, and replies to his unspoken extortion. Also the back-and-forth scheming between Nick and Ann in her dressing room, as he gathers evidence and she keeps an eye on him. Also Natalie's work analyzing the perfumes and cosmetics.

But many things never quite fall into place.
  • For starters, Ann is a terrible exotic dancer, not "really something." Whether that's on the actress or the director, it frustrates the story's bedrock contention that Ann is an irresistible siren, when the unnamed dancers in other scenes so far outclass her work.
  • And why does Ann make the stupid blunder of citing unreleased evidence to Nick? This is at least her fourth murder, from what Schanke's research turned up, and she's trained as a lawyer; surely she should know better? If she's meant to be deliberately baiting a trap for Nick, that doesn't come through to me in the scene.
  • There are no other suspects, no red herrings. There's only Ann, and the encouragement to perceive Nick as somehow in her thrall.
The pinnacle achievement of the episode is also the moment when the episode falls apart, as I see it. In Ann's home, as she attempts to seduce Nick into darkness, into abandon, and she seems to be succeeding, she ratchets up the tension, talking about the "darkest, most dangerous" part of Nick, and Nick's thoughts — and the audience's — go to his vampirism, to his murders, to his eight centuries of horrors, and then Ann pronounces her climaxing evil request: that he steal for her. Everything deflates. Steal? She's asking him to steal Burkhardt's case notebook? That's so laughably far from Nick's "darkest, most dangerous" self. And the audience sees it in Nick's expression, in Nick's eyes. Ann is quivering with excitement, but there's nothing matching in Nick. He's a cop on the job, not a man on the make. She has no idea.

In the end, Ann is just a monster. There's no mystery to solve about her. If she were real, I would suppose that she has an extreme mental illness, of course! But she's a fictional character, and not a sufficiently rounded one. Ann likes to be bad, and to make other people bad. She kills; she destroys. She's the only possible suspect ("There are other strippers at Jilly's" really doesn't cut it). Finally, Ann jumps to her death because it'll be a new sensation... and as she dies from the internal injuries from the impact, she claims that it feels good. (DBLM's suicide is quite a contrast with LA's suicide, last week!) Even Nick is given to say that Ann was "one simple lady" out for nothing but "cheap thrills." There's no there there, as the saying goes.

What made Ann change? She said that she "liked to watch that descent." What made Nick change, and then change again? "Love You to Death" will bring the second. Canon never quite settled on the first.

Miscellaneous

  • Pet peeve: The closed captioning for Region 1 mistakenly says "Miss Paris" where it should say "Miss Priss." Drives me nuts. I know that Billy draws out the word, but "Miss Paris" makes no sense, while "Miss Priss" is a common term for a girl perceived as a stuck-up goody-two-shoes who is also meticulous about her appearance, just like Ann's initial costume.

  • Natalie has flowers in the lab again! There's what look like pink chrysanthemums on top of the filing cabinet, and what looks like a glass of cut pussy-willows on her desk.

  • This rewatch is the very first time that I've wondered about the fate of Billy, the Jilly's manager. Accessory to attempted felony, at least, I suppose. But, curiously, he doesn't seem to fit her pattern of corrupting "nice" men. He tries to get Nick to bribe him. Maybe she was just out of her usual targets. Or perhaps he used to be a better man, before she talked him into being "bad" for her.



What do you think?

Next week: S1E06 "Dying to Know You" (DtKY)

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(Anonymous) on February 3rd, 2017 10:30 pm (UTC)
Cindy preston is a gorgeous woman. The writers made a mistake killing her character off , she would have made a great vampire !
Amy R.: Nick Againbrightknightie on February 4th, 2017 04:58 pm (UTC)
>"The writers made a mistake killing her character off"

That's an interesting opinion. Many of us seem to take for granted that the Ann Foley character in "Dance by the Light of the Moon" was a bit flat, one-note, with not a great deal to contribute to developing the story on a long-term, ongoing basis. Perhaps someone should write a fanfiction exploring what more the Ann Foley character could have added to the series!