Main cast: Blythe Danner (Margaret), Salome Jens (Mrs Pritchard), Clarence Williams III (Grady), Obba Babatunde (Deputy Jameson), Adam Ant (Pipkin), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: John Frankenheimer
It is about time we have an episode on mentally unstable, potentially demented librarians. We have this poorly lit library, run with an iron hand by Mrs Pritchard with the help of security officer Grady. Margaret is the sweet and timid librarian who acts like she’s at the verge of a nervous breakdown. When the episode opens, Mrs Pritchard has Grady escort a rambunctious group of teens out for defacing a table with a blade; the teens leave the blade behind and Margaret pockets it.
She seems to be very nervous because the front page headlines all scream that there is a serial killer at large. With a killer prowling around the streets, and the library often accessed by the homeless, the vagrants, and other people who could very well be the killer, poor Margaret will soon become frantic with worry when Mrs Pritchard insists that she has to work late that day. It doesn’t help that she has to deal with the weird Pipkin who seems unusually interested in books on serial killers, the library power supply comes on and goes out so she has to spend time in dark basements and narrow corners, and… oh god, she starts seeing silhouettes of someone with a knife stabbing someone else… oh wait, Deputy Jameson comes to check and discovers that it’s just someone vandalizing books in the basement.
Is poor Margaret losing her mind or is there really a serial killer in the library, waiting to pounce?
Maniac at Large gets a lot of goodwill points from me for the sheer creepy atmosphere, as well as the very good performance from Salome Jens. Mrs Pritchard isn’t a clear cut villain – she is tyrannical and bullying at moments, but she is also unexpectedly kind or sympathetic to Margaret at other moments. Ms Jens steals every scene she is in, without the need of scenery chewing at all. Blythe Danner is also solid in her role as an increasingly paranoid woman.
The episode also introduces some potential candidates for the serial killer in the form of the unnerving Pipkin and Grady who has a drinking problem. But ultimately, the identity of the killer is obvious early on so there is little suspense to be had. Still, this episode has good build-up, solid pacing, and some strong performances from both Ms Jens and Blythe Danner. The pay off may not be that good, but it’s hard not to get a few goosebumps here and there while watching this episode.