Main cast: Michelle Ryan (Jennifer) and James Marsters (Brad Davis)
Director: Guillaume Lubrano
I confess that, prior to this, I had an irrational dislike of James Marsters. It’s unfair to him, but I couldn’t look at him without associating him with the atrocious later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which were basically a never ending Spike and Buffy fanfiction made canon. Besides, a man in his forties sucking in his cheekbones so hard just to pass himself off as someone half his age was always ridiculous to see.
Well, he’s clearly making the most out of his post-Buffy career, I see, by showing up in the second episode of Métal Hurlant Chronicles, playing someone more closer to his actual age – an awkward, creepy man perving on a young woman. No, not Spike, but close – Brad Davis, the owner of the underground bomb shelter in which Jennifer wakes up. They are neighbors, and her father knows him. Actually, her father hates him, but that’s because Brad is known in the neighborhood as a creepy man.
Brad tells the groggy and confused young lady that, about four hours ago, there was a nuclear missile attack, and he knocked her out and dragged her into the bomb shelter along with him. He claims that he has no time to save her family; it’s just him and her now. He even has a good story for the bomb shelter: he built it for his late wife, a mentally unstable woman who refused to leave the house because she was terrified of the dangers present in the outside world, although she eventually took one too many sleeping pills despite his efforts to assure her.
He has the bunker stocked up with food and water, so they can stay there safely for quite a long time – provided that the door remains shut to keep the deadly radiation out. Things seem okay for a while, although Jennifer has a hard time accepting that there is no one left alive up there. Eventually, though, paranoia arises, and she begins to wonder whether he’s telling the truth or is just a creepy fellow who keeps her here with him for his own twisted reasons.
Shelter Me is a solid, well-paced story, and I have to admit, albeit reluctantly, that Mr Marsters looks like an attractive human being for once when he wears those glasses and stops sucking in his cheekbones. If I were Jennifer, I probably won’t find it hard to spend more time with him in that bomb shelter, ahem. Interestingly, there is no good or bad guy here – Brad is a creepy man, despite his sympathetic back story, and the mistrust Jennifer’s father had of that man is warranted. As for Jennifer, she is very young, self absorbed, and even cruel at times, but that’s probably a result of her inability to process her situation. Can anyone blame her for being what she is in her situation?
This is a pretty engaging episode, even a thought-provoking one at times, but it is spoiled by one thing: Michelle Ryan’s robotic acting. Maybe she’s forced to take up this role only to pay her rent, or maybe she’s pushed into it by her agent, I don’t know, but she looks like she’d just like the whole thing to be over so here she is, going through the motions ASAP so that she can collect her check and get out of town. Given that there are only two characters in the entire episode, so she is half the show, it is not a good thing when she’s doing her best impersonation of an android. Mr Marsters tries – he acts rings around her here – but he can’t carry the show alone.
Still, this is a far better episode compared to the previous one, so who knows, maybe the party will kick into high gear soon.