Amy R. (brightknightie) wrote,
Amy R.

Rewatch: S1E09 "I Will Repay" (September 15, 1992) by Brad Wright

"I Will Repay" overflows with noteworthy content to the point that it's awkward to discuss. Every scene — almost every line — merits examination. We rely on this episode; it pervades fanfic. IWR underpins our collective understanding of Natalie. It marks a boundary of our consensus on physical FK vampirism. It cross-references other episodes! Most of all, IWR exposes the jaggedness of the no-man's-land between vampirism and humanity, vengeance and justice, anger and forgiveness, where Nick endures.

Recap: This is the episode in which Crown Attorney Richard Lambert, Natalie's brother, gets shot. Natalie persuades a reluctant Nick to convert the dying Richard to vampirism. Nick consults Janette, and remembers Elizabeth, a woman he converted to save her life, but whom he later killed when she murdered humans. As a vampire, Richard becomes a vigilante spree killer, including of the vile kingpin whose prosecution failed with Richard's apparent death, and of the witness who'd attempted to deal for protection. Nick and Richard fight. Richard is killed.

The title

As discussed in the comments of the DK2 rewatch post — because that episode (in its longer versions, not the original CBS US version) also has the "I shall repay you" flashback line between Nick and Lacroix — the title "I Will Repay" is an explicit Biblical reference in English:
New American Bible (translation c.1990):
  • Deuteronomy 32:41: "With vengeance I will repay my foes and requite those who hate me."
  • Romans 12:19: "Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."
King James Bible (c.1611, most influential English translation in history):
  • Deuteronomy 32:41: "I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me."
  • Romans 12:19: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,' saith the Lord."
Both Elizabeth and Richard look for vengeance, and both repay their foes with violent death.

When Nick kills Elizabeth and Richard in turn, I think that it's not in vengeance for them defying him and his code, but in sad helplessness to stop rampaging vampires any other way. "Forgive me," he asks both of them. Nick wants justice, wants to give life, not death, and to leave vengeance to the law — and to God ("Leave it in God's hands," he begs Natalie). Elizabeth and Richard (and Natalie) wouldn't let him.

And yet this episode also includes a flashback to what Nick said to Lacroix, and we know Lacroix's fate at Nick's hands. Nick killing his converts can be argued to be free of vengeance. But his killing his maker...?

Natalie's family

In IWR, we learn that Natalie has a younger brother, Richard, sister-in-law, Sara, and niece, Amy. We learn that Nick knows them ("Does Sara know yet?" he asks), and they know Nick ("Oh, hi, Nick," Sara says).

We learn that Richard sacrifices his material good for the greater good of society as an overworked, underpaid civil servant (although his family, like Schanke's, has a "cottage"/"cabin" out of town); that his friends and family called him "the white knight;" that Natalie has anecdotes of his college days, suggesting that they were at least close in those years, and maybe even at the same university.

That Richard calls Natalie "sis" is a scripting cliche. Few people say that in real life, but it's such a handy dialogue signal for a relationship that doesn't naturally come up in dialogue that few scripts can resist. (The people speaking don't need to explicate their sibling-hood to each other, just to the audience.)

That Richard compares Natalie to their "mom" is more potent, especially in light of canon's near-void on Natalie and Richard's parents (see "The Fire Inside" and "Dead of Night" in addition to IWR, toss in "Undue Process," and that's... all).

That Natalie calls Amy a "baby" in one scene, and remarks that Richard has a child "now," strikes many people as odd, given that the actress playing Amy Lambert looks at least 10. I've heard that the script author originally intended Natalie's niece to be much, much younger than the actress hired for the role, and that the scene with the "baby" line was filmed before anyone saw the young actress.

Some physicalities of FK vampirism

In IWR, we learn from Nick that, "You'll get one of those [a vampire's heartbeat] about every 10 minutes." That's naturally news to us, the audience. What's peculiar is that it also seems to be news to Natalie, who should certainly have taken Nick's pulse by now! (This episode says that she's known him a year and a half; come "Only the Lonely," it will have been two years.) Perhaps she was so rattled by the distressing situation that she forgot. Or perhaps Nick's pulse works differently from a new convert's pulse. Or perhaps she really never has taken Nick's pulse (perhaps he's refused to let her).

"Convert," per IWR, is FK's primary canonical term for a new vampire (not "fledgling," which later became big in fanfic).

So just how fast was that fake funeral? Because convert Richard apparently slept through it — for days? Actually, this is a part that's a little different in different cuts of this episodes; on the Region 2 disc, there's a slightly longer lead-up to Richard waking up, with Nick sitting by his side and wiping his face of blood sweat, which more strongly implies that Richard may have been asleep all this time and is only just now waking.

Speaking of blood sweat, that's another physical trait for FK vampirism that this episode makes sure to enshrine.

And Richard and Elizabeth alike leave no body behind, like Lacroix in DK2 and Erica in LA, but unlike Spark in BMV, Screed in "Fever," everybody in AtA... Fans have rationalized this discrepancy as either a vampire's age at death (older = corpse), or the presence or absence of sunlight and fire (sunlight/fire = ashes, decapitation/stake/other = corpse).

Looking back at IWR from the vantage of later canon, one might read "first hunger" (from "Fever") compulsions into Elizabeth and Richard's behavior, and note that the duration of deathly sleep between being bitten and waking as a vampire seems to last precisely as long as a given story needs, though sometimes hurried along by Lacroix's intervention (e.g. "Near Death," "Hearts of Darkness," "Fatal Mistake," "Baby, Baby," "Bad Blood").

Different cuts

IWR is one of those episodes with multiple distinct cuts in circulation.

The Sci-Fi Channel version chopped to bits Schanke's giving Natalie flowers and asking about Richard's funeral, and then the Chiller version made it even worse. Depending what versions you've seen, please be aware that in the maximum footage available:
  1. Schanke is putting flowers into a box.
  2. Nick teases Schanke about the flowers.
  3. Schanke wonders why Nick is being so flippant and insensitive when Richard has just died.
  4. Schanke gives the flowers to Natalie and asks when the memorial service will be.
  5. Natalie, at first surprised, accepts the flowers politely but absently, and makes excuses about the service being already over and very small.
  6. While Natalie and Nick rush off to talk about convert Richard, Schanke calls Myra, and forlornly reports that Natalie loved the flowers.

There is also an extra scene with a red-haired, glasses-wearing doctor telling Natalie that Richard won't pull through, and Natalie asking whether Sara knows. I think that this scene, because of its sequencing, makes little sense and should stay cut. It happens after Natalie has already told Nick that she's "cut up people who've died from less" and that she doesn't "think Sara will survive this," when she's wearing her heart-patterned jacket (the one from "Dying to Know You").

Not all the versions include all the flashback footage, either. It's worth observing that the Elizabeth flashbacks (seacoast, probably Ireland, could be Britain, c.1825-1830) begin with her stealing fish from the men who then chase her down, and that Nick seems to be camping out in a substantial structure of some sort, not just a lean-to.


I think that it's important to note that Nick begins remembering Elizabeth before — if only just slightly before — Natalie asks him to convert Richard. It seems to be on Nick's drive home from the hospital that memories of Elizabeth occur to him, and follow him to his piano, where Natalie finds him when she, too, drives from the hospital to Nick's loft.

The flashbacks to Elizabeth's role in Nick's life begin in the daytime, while Elizabeth is mortal, before she and Nick meet. They therefore cannot be Nick's own memories, and Elizabeth isn't alive to be remembering them, so they must either be imagined by Nick, or reconstructed from his memory of Elizabeth's memories from when he bit her, or intended solely for the audience's benefit in the storytelling context, and not literally part of what's playing through Nick's mind.

As mentioned above, in the longest version of these flashbacks, we begin with Elizabeth stealing a fish from drying racks of many fish, and two fishermen then chasing her down. She pleads with them to stay away. They say that she can keep the fish when they get "payment," clearly intending to rape her. When they see that she's a leper, one runs; the other stabs her, fatally. Later, when Nick carries her to his fire, it's not merely a fire, and not merely a windbreak. There's some sort of structure with multiple lanterns, two stories high, and yet it's an exposed structure, without walls on the front; I'm not familiar with the type.

I've always wondered about the slight ambiguity in Elizabeth's line here:
Nick: This is not what I wanted.
Elizabeth: No, but it is what I did.
By "what I did," in context, she could mean "it is what I wanted" or "it is the action I took." The difference is a slight nuance, but I think about it every time I rewatch that scene. And of course it echoes, from the opposite side, so many exchanges between Nick and Lacroix. Nick tells Elizabeth that he won't require her soul in exchange (implying that some would), and yet he does require that she not be an unrepentant murderer... in a way, perhaps, he is very much requiring her soul: that she have one, and act with it!

Sara's objectionable theology

"Daddy's death is something God wanted," Sara plans to tell her daughter.

I can't find the words for how strongly I disagree with that plan. I think that's a terrible, false, hateful thing to tell anyone, especially a child. It upsets me every time I rewatch this episode. Doesn't Sara know anything about free will? How about simple, ordinary rhetoric? She's giving her daughter an enemy, not a comfort. No wonder Natalie's mostly agnostic, if this kind of brain-dead predestination represents religion in her world. I imagine that Amy Lambert could grow up fearing, in the worst way, and hating God, because her mother told her this. I imagine that Natalie — whom fanon generally gives deceased parents, herself — would be cringing at Sara's words, also, if she weren't feeling so profoundly guilty at that moment that she'd agree with anything that came out of Sara's mouth.

Christianity has been working out these explanations for approximately two millennia. You don't have to start from scratch, Sara. Read a little.

This is rather personal, but my mother died when I was ten. I'm grateful that no adult tried to tell me that God wanted her dead.


  • "When was the last time you put coolant in that thing?" Natalie asks, in an exchange that suggests she knows and cares more about cars than her brother does.

  • Natalie specifies that Richard "caught" her "at home" when he called from his broken car. Fandom has long speculated that she looked a little too nice to have merely been going to work that night, and that she was probably headed for a date or other event.

  • "The life I can give him is worse than death," Nick says. Natalie disagrees, and her final, distraught argument is that if Nick's life were really so bad, he would have committed suicide. Under the circumstances, we can forgive Natalie's overreach. But I think that this indicates that Nick and Natalie think fundamentally differently about what happens after death, as well as that Natalie at this point doesn't yet know as much about vampirism as she thinks.

  • "You owe me," Natale grates. Yikes. Quite a card to play. Yeah, he does, and yet... she really doesn't know what she's asking.

  • "I'm not exactly the mothering type," Janette says, and "I guess I'm just too much the glutton." Here, she leads us to believe that she never converted anyone to vampirism. And yet in "If Looks Could Kill," she seems to play a pivotal role in Sofia's conversion. A few stories have tackled that, including my own "Not the Mothering Type."

  • After Janette claims to be "too much the glutton," Nick says, "I can control my urges." Janette agrees, but disapprovingly, "Yes, too well, I should say. Few of us are like you." Some interpretations relying on later canon (like "Dead of Night" and "Trophy Girl") assert that Nick has chronically poor control. I always come back to IWR for Janette's authority on the matter.

  • IWR, "1966" and "Last Knight" are the three episodes in which someone is shot inside the precinct. (No one dies in the "1966" incident, though.)

  • In IWR, Schanke says that Myra's mother died. Later (second season, I think), he'll say that Myra is in Florida with her mother. Fanfic usually presumes that one is a stepmother.

  • Obviously, the prop of Saint Joan's cross references "For I Have Sinned," and the shared DK2 "I shall repay you" flashback references DK2. But did you notice that the nurse at the hospital is one of the two from "Last Act," and that the young uniformed officer from "False Witness" is one of the extras here?

What do you think?

Next: S1E10: "Dead Air" (DA)

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Tags: foreverknight:canon, rewatch, rewatch:foreverknight

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