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Review: 666 Park Avenue

Sleepy Sundays no more; starting with Once Upon A Time, following with Revenge, and ending with 666 Park Avenue, ABC aims to keep viewers up past their bedtime this fall. 666 Park Avenue is the network’s venture into horror, and it’s nice to see it slotted into something other than the Friday night death slot. ABC seems genuinely determined to give the show a shot, and it makes a good pairing with the supernatural and fantastical Once Upon A Time and the chillingly pragmatic Revenge.

What would you do if your greatest dream could come true, but only at a cost? That’s the question characters face in 666 Park Avenue, as they take on an exclusive address at The Drake and discover that the building’s owner, the enigmatic, yet avuncular, Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn) is ready to grant their greatest desires…but they’ll have to pay for it. Each character becomes snarled in a waking nightmare within a building that’s very much alive and ready to exact a price in blood if necessary.

When the innocent and fresh-faced Henry Martin (Dave Annable) and Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) interview at the building for positions as managers in the pilot, there’s a part of you that wants to scream at them until they run in the opposite direction. They’re too caught up in the glamour and excitement of the building to realise what they’re getting into until it’s too late, though, and that sets the stage for the drama of the coming season.

666 Park Avenue is not going for subtlety. It’s creepy and in your face from the very start, with a decidedly chilling opening sequence of a violinist who traded his soul for more talent and tried to run from The Drake before the building had its fill of him. This is a show that’s going to be filled with eerie dream sequences, gross-out supernatural happenings, and the quiet, even smile of Terry O’Quinn with a small look of satisfaction on his face as he watches the possessed building devour its victims.

In a nice twist, it’s Jane who’s the handy one here; she has the skills and experience needed to be a manager, including specific familiarity with architecture and renovations. It’s clear that she’s going to be the one who uncovers The Drake’s secrets, and she’s already on her way in the pilot with her discovery of a rather unusual mosaic in the basement. I suspect she’s going to have an uphill battle convincing Henry of the dangers of what they’ve gotten into, though, because he’s firmly anchored in the mundane world.

She’s not a hapless victim flailing around the set, and she’s obviously hyperaware that something is wrong. Whether Jane can figure it out and outwit the building is another question; it’s obvious that generations have failed before her, so the question is whether she has what others haven’t. Can she resist the allure of the dreams The Drake promises? Can she keep Henry out of trouble? And what, exactly, is going on with her necklace? Because I’m willing to bit there’s more than meets the eye with that particular talisman.

O’Quinn is more than the antagonist of the series: He’s also the runaway star. I loved him in Lost, and he’s equally captivating in an entirely different way in 666 Park Avenue. On the surface he might appear to be any other mild-mannered businessman with a spine of steel, focused on the needs of his building to the exclusion of other things but with a taste for fine art and theatre. Behind that cool exterior, though, lies something much creepier, and while the show itself is not very subtle, O’Quinn is, and that might be its saving grace.

Every time he pops up on screen I start feeling a little edgy, even though usually there’s nothing specific to put me off. After all, he’s just explaining job duties or having them sign contracts or appreciating some fine music at the symphony, nothing to see here. When he gets down to business—never getting his hands dirty, of course—and the full flower of his personality comes out, even that is quiet and restrained. Gavin is a cool customer with his own load of secrets that are going to crack wide open over the course of the series; is he a demonic figure himself, another victim of the building, the person who controls it, or something else entirely? And how about his wife Olivia?

666 Park Avenue has a fascinating setting, too, among the playground of the rich and famous in New York City. While Gavin describes it as ‘a friendly building,’ it’s also a glamourous one, we’re reminded, and it raises interesting questions about how far people are willing to go for what they want most in life. While the events of the show may be fictional, and the idea of selling your soul for fame and fortune is nothing new, there’s something quiet in the background of 666 Park Avenue that asks how real people in positions of power, control, and fame got there.

Perhaps their success isn’t demon-powered, but there’s definitely a price in blood being paid, even if it’s not theirs. I’m curious to see if the show keeps hinting at and playing with that theme over the course of the season, or if it sticks firmly to the supernatural realm.

I’ll definitely be tuning in to see where the show goes from here; it may not be great television for the ages, but it is entertaining, and sometimes, that’s precisely what one needs.

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s.e. smith

s.e. smith is the Editor in Chief at Global Comment, with publication credits including Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Bitch Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, and Rewire.

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