The town of Midnight, Texas might be a magnet for all of the evil, but at least they have enough leather and hokey one-liners to hold it off in style. “Lemuel, Unchained,” gives us a whole lot of Lem’s backstory via flashback, yet another attempt to take the town to the dark side, and some remarkably dysfunctional relationships. In the case of this particular episode, all these things are one and the same.
Through a series of flashbacks spanning a century, we get a solid look at how Lemuel came to be the energy-leeching vampire we know and tolerate today. When a shady vampire from his past (I’ll get into this more in a second) returns to Midnight, Lemuel feels obligated to host him and his weirdo buddies.
The vampire in question is Lem’s friend and maker, Zachariah. He saved Lem’s life, and we learn exactly how when Lem flashes back to the plantation on which he was a slave. We find Lemuel being whipped by his white master in front of the other slaves. This leads Lemuel to plot an escape, relying on a folktale he heard about a Native American man that could help him find freedom.
Once Lem gets away, he finds said Native American, long-lost bud Zachariah, the same vampire who turned up in Midnight with his neo-goth squad 150 years later. Lo those many years ago, Zach is the one who turned Lem and helped avenge his mistreatment on the plantation and the subsequent death of his friend, Abraham. After eating all the evil slavers, Lemuel and Zach embark on a hundred years of hard vampire partying. They even pick up a pretty lady vamp, Pia, whose current day presence is merely meant to annoy Olivia but really only winds up annoying audiences.
Because Lem is a vampire with a heart of gold, he grows tired of all the murder and bloodshed and threatens to off himself in the sunlight. Lucky for him, Zach’s gift of a milky-skinned little redhead turns out to be Manfred’s grandmother, Zelda. Instead of eating her, he offers to let her go and, in return, she gifts him the power to leech. This means he doesn’t have to suck blood and is also strong enough to kill other vampires.
All this development happens in a flashback to Midnight in the 1950s, which is so poorly costumed that it looks like a high school production of Grease. With the sleeves of his white T-shirt rolled up and his jeans comically cuffed, Lemuel protects Zelda from Zachariah and forces Zach and Pia to leave Midnight forever. Or else.
Uninvited Guests (They’re Evil, By the Way)
Of course, Zach and Pia don’t listen and turn up in Midnight 60 years later, looking to make peace — or at least that’s the story they stick to for all of 30 seconds.
They arrive friendly enough, laughing, doing shots and reminiscing about old times, but Olivia is suspicious immediately — and it’s not just because Pia the vamp is super trampy and hangs all over Lem. Okay, maybe a little, but she’s not wrong about their intentions, and she’s determined to prove it.
Olivia enlists Manfred’s help to determine if the vampires in town are to be trusted. They break into their bus, and the inside would surely put the Rock of Love vehicle to shame. They find a helpless young woman who has been bled almost to death. If the bus’ resemblance to a ’90s rave wasn’t bad enough, now they have this girl to contend with.
Manfred and Olivia quickly go to tattle on Zach and his emo bunch, but he explains the girl away as a groupie — people who willingly offer their blood to vampires — and that is supposed to pacify everyone. It doesn’t.
Lem is the only one buying their obviously false story. Zach asks for a word alone with Lem, poisons him with silver in the glass of blood and chains him away from everyone else. It’s left to the rest of the town to try and rescue Lem, even though Lem is the only one with the strength to kill the other vampires.[Note: In the Charlaine Harris vampire mythology, silver is poison to a vampire. It makes them really weak. The only way to kill a vampire is a wooden stake through the heart or sunlight. Garlic, crosses and holy water will not affect them and are completely discounted as viable weapons. They also don’t have to abide by the ‘invited in’ rule like the characters on True Blood.]
Everybody, worried about Lem and desperate to save him from the biker gang-turned vampire-nest, tries to contribute to his rescue. Fiji and Bobo discover a “sunrise crystal” that could mimic UV light and burn them all alive but need a bigger flashlight for maximum impact. Of course, they send bad-ass Olivia into the shop to retrieve a bigger lamp, but she’s cornered, then injured by the vampire, but not before grazing him with a silver bullet.
Fiji and Manfred’s houses are safe havens for some of the residents because they are “inhospitable to the dead,” but that doesn’t do much for poor ol’ Lem, chained up and held hostage by the long-haired Zach.
For the newest kid on the Midnight block, Manfred sure does volunteer to risk his life a lot for these folks. He lures the nest into the street with the promise of more gypsy magic and faces off with Zach, holding a big ol’ box of nothing.
Manfred is merely a distraction and decoy, as Joe the angel flies up to the bell tower and uses Fiji’s crystal to blast fake sunlight all over the blood suckers. They light up easily enough, and the whole showdown feels a little anticlimactic.
The Latest in ‘Shipping Notes
Olivia saves Lem and allows him to drink her blood so he can break his chains (another heavy handed metaphor the show completely wastes). They kiss, make moon-y eyes and offer a few sexless platitudes to each other. These two are, hands down, the sexiest characters on the show, but they manage to be the most listless and anemic of all the relationships. Either they need to explore their kinks and give us some saucy sex scenes or just move on from this entirely. Even the jealousy bit isn’t enough to make me believe that Olivia cares about Lem as much as the show wants me to believe.
Manfred and Creek are similarly vanilla, but at least they have her weirdly overprotective (and apparently completely clueless) dad to offer a little tension. Even when Manfred saves him and both his children from certain death, he’s still a jerk about the two of them seeing each other. Of course, that right hook he took to the eye might have made it a more bitter pill to swallow, but if it was to save his life, he should forgive it. There is something entirely fishy about this dysfunctional triangle, and I certainly hope Midnight, Texas is savvy enough to surprise us with something unexpected in the Dad/Creek/Manfred plotlines. I have a feeling they won’t, and what we see is what we get, but I’m an optimistic person by nature.
Fiji is still all unrequitedly lusting after Bobo, and they share an awkward celebratory hug when they discover the sunrise crystal — not a kiss, not an accidental under-the-shirt-over-the-bra situation, but an innocent hug. Later, after everyone’s lives aren’t in danger, Bobo comes to Fiji’s house and starts a conversation with an actual, “About that hug.” Seriously, folks, we’re meant to invest in a hug between these two.
Bobo shuts down the possibility of a relationship, calling her his “closest friend.” This translates into “weeks and weeks of her pining after him, him not noticing and viewers wanting to stab their own eyes out from boredom.”
- Joe. It’s always Joe. I don’t even care that the special effects for his wings look like they were done with clipart or that he’s got a boyfriend nobody cares about. When he tells the Reverend his backstory as a fallen angel, all I can think about is, “Where is that show?”
- I also love that they are using him as vehicle, driving the overarching story for a promised “good versus evil” battle.
- Creek’s nonchalance at lying to her dad about her new romance. She doesn’t miss a beat when she’s forced to lie to him about sleeping with him. She’s up to something, and I like it.
- Manfred’s grandmother’s accent. It gets better every week. This show gets a lot wrong, but they hired the right dialect coach.
- Olivia’s leather pants. They should be the publicity art for the series.
(Image courtesy of NBC) (Source: BuddyTV.Com)