Zero Hour 1.02 "Face" TV REVIEW
Written by Paul Scheuring
Directed by Pierre Morel
THE ONE WHERE (Deep breath…) Hank and Beck are joined at the New Bartholomew’s U-Boat/tomb by White Vincent who helpfully knocks Hank out, helpfully drags him inside the sub, helpfully gets captured and then helpfully escapes with New Bartholomew’s watch. However, Beck hid the navigation journal for the U-boat and takes it with her. She and Hank are rescued and Hank examines the photos he took of New Bartholomew’s watch to decipher the odd markings on it. He works out they’re a constellation, and that the date and time the watch is stuck on serve as celestial navigation markers. The only place on Earth the constellation would have been visible at that date and time is Chennai in India so off Hank goes, not accompanied by Beck, who’s in trouble for the whole “Letting the international terrorist escape” part of the trip.
Whilst his staff translate the last words of New Bartholomew in the journal, Hank travels to India and discovers the Standing Mother, a holy woman being hidden in the heart of one of the area’s slums. Joined by a slightly reluctant Beck, he attempts to reason with the old woman, who has conducted a standing vigil for 70 years. However, she tells him that she was ordered to destroy the clock she’s guarding if she was ever to see his face. She was told this by New Bartholomew, 70 years previously. Then, shots ring out…
VERDICT The pace is, weirdly, a little slower this week. Oh sure we bounce from the Canadian tundra to New York to Chennai and we get some nice meaty bits of mythology but this episode shows up Zero Hour ’s major weakness so far. We’ve actually got two shows here: Hank and Beck travel the world failing to save Hank’s wife, and whilst Arron and Rachel (And Father Mickle! I KNEW Charles S Dutton was too tough to die!) Scooby Gang their way around mid-1940s Forteana in New York. Now, both these shows are fun but they’re not quite in lockstep. As a result, we get a lot of variations of Arron and Rachel sitting in the office figuring stuff out whilst Hank and Beck are out in the field. There are times this episode where the constant gear shifts in pace start to cause problems and I can see that being a recurrent problem as the show continues. However, right now it’s still as bug-eyed crazy and fun as ever.
So this week we get Rachel and Arron tracking down an immensely creepy Nazi paraphernalia collector who’s also a fan of Modern Skeptic and is quite prepared to let them look through his archive. There, they find footage of a Nazi project called Zero Hour, and, of course, New Bartholomew (who gets a name this week – Korbin Sturm!). This leads to the massively refreshing sight of characters in a show like this actually talking to one another and explaining what they’re doing, as well as the neat dichotomy between Sturm as a Nazi and Sturm’s actual job in Chennai; to find, and name, the New Thomas.
This is where the plot goes from zero to crazy. The scenes with New Thomas, a young girl who can talk to the dead, talking to Korbin are genuinely moving, as is the reveal that she’s now a holy woman known as The Standing Mother, who hasn’t sat down in decades. The Standing Mother is a fascinating, haunting figure who neatly ties Hank and Korbin together and raises more questions than she answers. The implication that Hank will bring about the end of the world is only built on by the fact we’re outright told that Korbin Sturm expected Hank, or someone wearing Hank’s face to show up. Was this just a holding action? Is Hank actually the bad guy? The implication seems to be that Hank is an unwitting tool of the apocalypse, and also that the clocks themselves seem to be placed at very geographically specific locations. Could we be looking at a Rosicrucian Osterhagen Key? Made of clocks?
Make no mistake, Zero Hour is a completely loopy hour of TV and characters react in very odd ways for, seemingly, no reason. However, it’s also far stronger and more intricately plotted than it’s being given credit for. Because let’s face it, with a backstory like this, if you don’t plan it out beforehand sooner or later you’ll end up in a ditch somewhere between the Council of Nicaea and Raiders of the Lost Ark, wondering why your episode won’t start.
Plus, the writers are actually backfilling the characters as they go. The offhand revelation that Rachel’s an orphan who Hank apparently raised and gave a job to is fascinating and casts her in a whole new light. She’s very calm and focused and together and quietly more worried about Hank than anyone else, in a really very sweet way. I’m now interested to see how Arron and Hank are related, both to see if Hank really does like taking in strays or whether it’s all part of THE PLAN (See below).
We also get a needed course correction on Beck this week, with the reveal that she’s a former Peace Corps worker. This neatly positions her as someone who can actually be useful to Hank on his travels, not just a bizarre Scully/Marshal Sam Gerard hybrid whose existence is solely dedicated to never quite believing, or catching, Hank. Finally, we get the neat counterpoint between Korbin Sturm and Hank, shown through the letter to Korbin’s wife. These two men appear to have been placed in identical positions, only Korbin looks like he made the right choices and Hank… well, let’s just say it’s not looking good for the end of the world being delayed right now.
So, two episodes in and Zero Hour is still moving faster than most shows and at least trying to fix its problems on the fly. It’s breathless and deeply crazy and it knows and does not care. This is full tilt, wide-eyed pulp of the absolute first order and as long as you accept this is fun, but categorically not sensible you’ll be fine. Roll on episode three
THE AWFUL TRUTH As part of Zero Hour, a Nazi supernatural research project, New Bartholomew visited Chennai in India and recruited Sri Trailanga, a young girl who could apparently speak to the dead, to be the New Thomas. The fact she was female and not Christian didn’t matter as she appears to have been destined to live in that time and place. He gave her a clock to guard and she did so, becoming The Standing Mother and standing guard over it for seven decades. She was told to destroy the clock if she ever saw his face again and was guarded by Rosicrucians until one of them apparently killed her.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS (We think there will be an awful lot of these left unanswered after episode three). Why was The Standing Mother chosen? Could she really speak to the dead? Are there other gifted people at similar sites? Were all the Apostles told to recruit people at various locations? How many apostles were sent out if they needed to recruit more or were they recruiting their successors? Who was the third person in the car with White Vincent? Why did White Vincent let Laila live? Is White Vincent one of the original Nazi babies? If not, is he one of the dead men on the U-boat? Are White Vincent and Hank clones? Who cloned them? Who placed them in their new lives? Does Hank have white eyes? How does White Vincent know who or what Hank is? Why is Hank so grumpy around Federal agents? Why was New Bartholomew sent to the Canadian tundra in a U boat? Who executed everyone on board the U boat? Why does Hank look exactly like New Bartholomew? Where are the other apostles? What was the prophecy the Rosicrucians realized was coming true? Who is White Vincent working for?
ANSWERED (ISH) QUESTIONS
• What Is Zero Hour? Zero Hour seems to be a Nazi occult research project that New Bartholomew subverted for the Rosicrucian’s ends. And the simple fact I get to write that sentence is one of the reasons why I love this show.
• Where are the other Apostles? At least some appear to have been recruited by the initial wave.
TANGLED WEBS There’s no evidence that Laila’s evil this week but something just feels… off. She can’t give Vincent a reason why he should let her live and frankly neither can we, and Vincent’s fake out that he killed her seems very odd (Also what was he using the quicklime for if not to dispose of her body?). Most intriguing though is how calm she is in the car at the end. Almost as though she’s not that worried…
THE PLAN This episode seems to hint pretty strongly that Hank is actually being manipulated into starting the end of the world. We also now know he essentially adopted Rachel, an orphan and that he himself may very well be a Nazi clone, in essence, another kind of orphan. What if Hank’s been subconsciously programmed to gather people with no ties to him? Like the widowed Beck? And orphaned Rachel? What if the instrument of global destruction is the very group of people put together to stop it? There’s basically no evidence for this but the beauty of shows like this is how fun it is to speculate.
TATTOO CORNER Whoever designed Agent Beck’s tattoos did some pretty decent research. The five vertical lines on her right arm are a type of Thai tattoo called a Sak Yant, specifically Sak Yant Hah Taew. The Yant is made up of five powerful blessings, one dedicated to Buddha and the other four chosen by the wearer before its tattooed onto them. They’re intended as protection for warriors and Thai boxers commonly have one or two. This particular design was made popular in the west by Angelina Jolie, and it fits neatly with Beck’s past as a peace corps volunteer.
IT’S WOSSISNAME!? Just two guest stars this week but trust me, you’ll have seen at least one of them before:
• Yolande Bavan , who plays The Standing Mother, is actually a musician and musical actress by primary trade. However, she’s best known for roles in The 13th Warrior and The Brave One .
• Zach Grenier , who has a cheerfully OTT turn here as a Nazi paraphernalia collector, is going to be a very familiar face to a lot of you. As well as being Edward Norton’s boss in Fight Club , he’s appeared in Zodiac and Pulse , is currently filming the RoboCop remake and has also appeared in CSI: Miami , CSI: New York , Medium , 24 and Curb Your Enthusiasm .
BEST FULL ON CRAZY PULP MOMENT Actually this week it’s a three way tie between:
• Sinking Frozen Nazi U Boat!
• Hank and Beck getting rescued and flown back to the US by the END OF THE CREDITS.
• The genuinely very chilling moment when The Standing Mother steps away and you realize exactly why she’s been standing there all along…
Zach Grenier: “Care for a… Brazil nut?” (Nailing both a reference to the thousands of Nazis who fled to Brazil after the war, and more specifically, to The Boys From Brazil , Ira Levin’s novel about Adolf Eichmann’s plan to clone Hitler. A hint of what’s to come perhaps?
Zero Hour has just been cancelled by ABC in the US. No UK broadcaster as yet. Maybe one of those new local channels?