As much as I thoroughly enjoyed Stampede, I think this next episode of La Brea was even better. Action is well and good, especially for a show set in the prehistoric past. But any show lives and dies by the character relationships and overall plot. Which is why I’m so happy that Murder in the Clearing does a great job further expanding both. Not just that, but it ups the ante with more drama and new tensions on old relationships.
Gavin was successful in stopping the full upload of Caroline’s virus, but that doesn’t mean it had no effect. Not only did it close the portal back in 1988, but the virus badly damaged the time machine apparatus. Or so says James. Honestly I’m pretty sure we can’t and shouldn’t trust Gavin’s good old dad, but that doesn’t make him any less enjoyable. He’s sinister without being overbearing, and he holds all the cards in his hands. Or at least that’s how it seems to me. James just wants Gavin’s help fixing the time machine, and says that a Dr. Moore can help. Apparently he was working on a way to stabilize time travel years ago, and he just happens to have been close friends with Dr. Clark. So what better course of action than to have his son go to his estranged wife to get the thing he so richly desires?
I’ll just say now, the show is quickly starting to push people into different teams regarding how they relate to James. Eve and Izzy very much don’t trust him, especially after he tried ingratiating himself to both. And while Gavin doesn’t fully trust him either, he is worried James is the only person capable of fixing the machine and thus getting his wife back home to safety. Caroline is really upset that her son stopped the upload, and in no way trusts her ex. So there’s a lot of great drama brewing already, and that’s before the surprise murder!
Back at the Clearing, there’s an uproar about Gavin and company’s mission to break the time machine. Special points to Lucas for returning to his past bratty self and rudely questioning every authority figure. But before things can get too out of hand, a scream from Riley draws a crowd. She’s fine, but she just found the dead body of Wyatt. Worse, it wasn’t a natural death. Someone stabbed him.
Just to make matters worse, Gavin finally explains why he’s working with James and tells Eve about his vision of her death. She tries to push all that fear aside, and organize a search party to find the unknown killer. Gavin just wants to find Dr. Moore and get the time machine fixed. He even enlists his mother Caroline by playing on her maternal emotions and guilt tripping her about time lost between them. He sets off with her, Josh and Riley to see what they can find. And yes, Josh is still being weird and vague about when and how he twisted his ankle, which is setting off my Spidey sense like crazy.
At the initial crime scene, only Scott recognizes the odd symbol the dying man managed to scrawl in the dirt as Exile related. He’s convinced that Taamet has come back for revenge, like he promised. As for the rest of the crew, they all find different ways to contribute. Perhaps my favorite part of the episode is when Scott joins Lucas for amateur P.I. time, interrogating various people to see if they can find the killer. When asked how he’s qualified, Lucas quips “both my parents are cops, dude”. Which is honestly a pretty good answer. That said, the interrogations mostly serve as much needed comic relief.
Despite the overbearing fear for Eve’s safety, her family foolishly decides to leave her to her own devices. Which of course leads to her finding a bloody print on a stone, moments before getting knocked into a pit, with a huge rock pinning both legs. On the plus side, she has a wounded bunny for company. On the negative side, while she landed with a flare gun, the flares are just out of reach.
Even though I usually find Izzy annoying, she had some good moments in Murder in the Clearing. She’s obsessed with her family healing, and she decides to unload on the resident psychiatrist, Ty. Unfortunately Ty is having worse and worse tumor induced headaches. When he asks Izzy if the people at the Tower might have a way to treat his condition, she warns him not to trust James or his people. But desperation has a way of making decisions for us in our darkest moments.
Gavin and his small group do find Dr. Moore, but unfortunately the man is long dead. All that’s left is a skeleton and some frayed clothing. Though Josh discovers an odd key on his effects. A bit later they find the cave where Moore was hiding. With some more searching, Caroline and Riley discover a hidden compartment with all sorts of diagrams that show Moore got close to stabilizing the time machine. Instead of sharing with the others, Caroline urges Riley to keep the diagrams a secret until she can look them over and vet them.
Back in the Clearing, Sam ascertains the murder weapon was about seven inches long. And wouldn’t you know it, shifty Virgil has a whole set of knives he uses to gut fish. Lucas feels strongly that circumstances point to the man as the killer, he just can’t find a motive. Then Izzy and Ty discover the murder weapon itself, which has the same Exile symbol on it that was scrawled in the dirt. Eventually this leads to Scott confiding in Sam how he let Taamet go, and suddenly the entire camp thinks they know who the killer is.
Eve manages to knock the flares down with a well thrown rock, but the flare ricochets and doesn’t get out of the pit. It does, however, attract the attention of something large and angry nearby. In response, Eve fires blindly deeper into the cavern, seemingly hitting the mystery predator. Worse, red flowers start to fall down into the pit, and suddenly Eve worries this is where she dies.
Her unseen predator rears up and shows itself to be a huge prehistoric bear. Despite her fears, there’s a special power in knowing how you die. In Gavin’s vision, Eve was surrounded by red trees. Here, there’s just one dropping flowers into the pit. Which means Eve doesn’t die in that hole in the ground. She tosses some jerky, causing the bear to rumble past and dislodge the rock in the process. This leaves her just enough time to crawl out of her dilemma.
Murder in the Clearing ends with two really dramatic moments. Ty decides to appeal to James for mercy, and goes to the Tower. He’s let in, and told that the people from the far future did find a cure to cancer. All James wants in return is for Ty to be his psychiatrist. Meanwhile Lucas begrudgingly apologizes to Virgil for his suspicions. Only for a couple of flashbacks to seem to indicate Virgil was indeed the person that murdered Wyatt.
Overall this was a very enjoyable way to deepen the lore of La Brea and expand on existing tensions. I’m very much looking forward to how James continues to serve as a polarizing and dynamic character. Here’s hoping next week keeps the good stuff coming.