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Let the babbling commence

This is the only one I've watched twice before attempting to post, (a) because it really kind of called for it, and (b) because that's how my life worked out last week. (The second viewing was on my Zen around midnight Tuesday. Yay technology and portable distractions when there is much waiting!) I've been trying to figure out where to even begin the babbling. It's definitely going to take several posts.

Curiously, I think I want to start with Kemp. Because at the end of the day, they did do something a bit more with him than the typical religious-fanatic monster-hunter, in a way I didn't foresee but maybe should have. The scene with Mark the hospital chaplain in 2x07 already gave us the badly-needed example of genuine faith to contrast with the twisted parody driving Kemp. (While also serving twin plot purposes, by reminding Mitchell of who he is and then giving him the last puzzle piece of Lucy's identity. What was it I said recently about economical storytelling? Dayum.) And I was pleased to see them make him unambiguously (despite that one line of George's) a former priest, no longer claiming any affiliation with the Church as an institution. (It's yet clearer in the alternative opening to 2x07, one of the reasons it's a VERY interesting read, even though I understand why they went with the Ivan/Daisy flashback instead.)

What took me by surprise, though, was that what ended up masquerading as religion in Kemp's insane reckoning was not merely evil, but outright sorcery. He carried out a human sacrifice for the purpose of binding a spirit to his will. If that's not black magic, I don't know what is, whatever props and script you care to subvert for it. Actually seeing the facility also brings home that there is indeed a spreading of evil going on, and Kemp himself is patient zero. His fear and hatred and obsession have grown into something that, if it isn't literally a demon with a mind and will of its own, might as well be.

It's every bit as insidious as a literal demon, finding weaknesses and worming its way in to change the way you see reality. We've already seen it at work on Lucy's points of vulnerability, and in a different way on Nina's. In the facility we have the unnerving example of the young acolyte/monk/whatever-you-call-him, who seems to have been taken in due to naïveté rather than uncertainty. It's gut-punchingly horrific to watch Kemp convince the poor kid that it's now his duty to murder Nina and George. By that point, it's abundantly clear that there's cult psychology at work (made further explicit by the dialogue between George and Annie about how he's not allowed protein in order to weaken the "demon"), so we're not surprised that the kid believes he has to do this absolutely unconscionable thing.

Funnily enough, I started thinking in terms of Kemp's madness/hatred/evil as a demon when I saw the signboard, because the quote on it put me in mind of a different verse entirely, the one where Jesus' accusers claim that he casts out demons by the Prince of Demons. Since it's not that verse, I don't think it's intentionally ironic, but my tangential brain finds it so anyway.

There's one thing I don't think they needed, and that's Kemp's creepy stalker drawer of Lucy's stuff. It's a shorthand for "yep, this guy has been pretty off, but now we're ramping that up into really really obviously round the bend," but for me that particular brand of personal obsession didn't quite mesh with the rest of his crazy. Certainly he was intense about her individually and about "saving" her from her feelings for Mitchell, but we already got that. It didn't need the extra layer of ick.

I have a feeling I will get to my ponderings on the main characters last.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
thanatos_kalos
Mar. 28th, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
I was okay with the 'drawer o'crazy' since it was, for me, an oddly humanising factor to him. He's not just into the whole evil sorcery stuff, or just wanting to kill Mitchell as a way of protectign the world, but he actually wants to ditch a rival for Lucy's affections.
wiliqueen
Mar. 28th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
I can see that. Maybe if we'd had more indication of it before it was suddenly all stalkery and weird? Because it does make sense that it would get twisted along with the rest of his original well-intentioned impulses.
thanatos_kalos
Mar. 28th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
It showed up a little in...2.7, maybe? When he was comfortign her and sort of lovingly stroked her hair.
wiliqueen
Mar. 28th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
I sort of remember that now. And think I remember it also being sort of a little creepy, but, well, anything from Kemp is going to be, isn't it?

So, yeah. I'll go with that. Still not necessary, but not off the mark either.

Also makes sense with his being content to just eavesdrop on them in the observation room until Mitchell mentions that they had sex.
thanatos_kalos
Mar. 28th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
quite. Esp. as vampires took his wife and child; history repeats for him. Just, y'know, slightly differently in that Lucy's not his wife, Mitchell didn't kill her, and Kemp's batshit insane. :P
wiliqueen
Mar. 28th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
And I think part of it is that I expected him to identify her with the child.

Though I'm still fuzzy on their relationship -- if he was a Catholic priest, as has been indicated by the dialogue, he can't have been married. My best guesses are sister or housekeeper and her kid.

Either that, or he was an Anglican priest, and the people (maybe it was just George?) who mentioned him being Catholic just had it wrong.
studiesinlight
Aug. 6th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
BH S2 E8 - the Kemp Stuff
>"What took me by surprise, though, was that what ended up masquerading as religion in Kemp's insane reckoning was not merely evil, but outright sorcery. He carried out a human sacrifice for the purpose of binding a spirit to his will."

Yup.

And he did it while repeatedly calling on the name of my God.

I was disturbed, but not horrified, in part because I was kicked out of the story there. I hit some threshold of fictional absorption and could no longer be inside with the characters, only out here gaping through that scene.

BH often trusts that its viewers can grasp and understand things left unexplicated. However, given the tone of this season, I am left wondering whether they actually intended this climax to completely, decisively, indisputably and obviously sever Kemp from Christianity, which it does, and which is an admirable storytelling move with him at last... or whether this is actually how they, or at any rather their intended viewers left without explication, see Christianity, and there is no "obvious" about the distance between this mockery and what ought to be.

>"Actually seeing the facility also brings home that there is indeed a spreading of evil going on, and Kemp himself is patient zero."

Excellent way of putting it! Spot-on perceptive, expressed eloquently.

In the other comments, you and thanatos_kalos chat about the drawer of items belonging to other people, including Lucy's cup, expressing some romantic/sexual attraction for Lucy. That didn't occur to me, honestly. Instead, I saw a foreshadowing of sorcery. What I saw was a drawer with other people's possessions -- not just Lucy's -- and that these possessions could be used to gain power over others by assorted fictional and real world beliefs that a man with his supposed convictions ought not be messing with.

Additionally, in the other comments from months ago, you seemed to be under the impression that Kemp was a Catholic priest. Of course we've sorted that now, and canon clearly depicts him as Anglican in that flashback, with George for no canonically available reason jumping to the mistaken conclusion that he's Catholic. (I have not yet seen any of the extra scenes you've mentioned, just what's inside the episodes as the BBC aired them.)
wiliqueen
Aug. 7th, 2010 12:31 pm (UTC)
Re: BH S2 E8 - the Kemp Stuff
or whether this is actually how they, or at any rather their intended viewers left without explication, see Christianity, and there is no "obvious" about the distance between this mockery and what ought to be.

To me that evidence is in Mark, the hospital chaplain, who's absorbed the things he was confronted with last season and is now capable of reaching out to Mitchell at his worst. Unfortunately, that's one of the things I was thinking of when I mentioned in comenting on your post that the mitigating factors were too little, too late.

What I saw was a drawer with other people's possessions -- not just Lucy's -- and that these possessions could be used to gain power over others

Interesting! And that does give it a place in the story. All the tumblers didn't click into place for me to go "Criminy, that's black magic with stolen trappings" until he banished Annie, so the first time round I didn't connect it to the possessions. Of course. The way he handles the mug is still massively creepy, but I'm more satisfied with the existence of the scene now.

you seemed to be under the impression that Kemp was a Catholic priest.

Or that that was what they intended, with mixed signals. I picked up the same cues you did, of how his parishioners addressed him, etc., so I don't actually remember now why I decided the less likely option was what they intended. Probably just that the only reason I could think of for George's misidentification was that Nina had said so offscreen.
studiesinlight
Aug. 7th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Re: BH S2 E8 - the Kemp Stuff
[Shhh! Go enjoy VVC! Chat about BH later! :-)]

>"Probably just that the only reason I could think of for George's misidentification was that Nina had said so offscreen."

Outside the story, George saying the adjective "Catholic" must have been some sort of mistake; it should have been cut from the script.

Inside the story, presuming that Nina never gave a denomination adjective, George had two choices, and his imagination went to the demographically less likely one. I've been thinking about this, and I've decided to interpret that George's imagination went there for a similar reason to the not-on-screen backstory supposed for Kemp, that when he wanted to get in with exorcism, he turned to Rome. Popular media likely gave him that association through horror fiction. However, there could also be a cultural sense -- there in secular modern Britain with its historic predjudices -- as we're dealing only with subconscious associations, that there would be more supernatural power in the Catholic Church than in the, say, diluted (?) modern Anglican one.

Just trying to rationalize a random utterance. :-)

There's an ickier rationalization available, too, unfortunately. As the sex abuse scandals were erupting over Europe as this season was being written and filmed... what's more evil? How else would you characterize your Big Bad than to associate with the most evil thing going? The writer's subconscious or George's, both knew Kemp for bad news.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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