Mark Watches ‘Monster’: Episode 21 – Happy Holidays

In the twenty-first episode of Monster, HELP ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma

I truly believe that if you were to ask me to predict what would happen in the remaining 50-ish episodes, I would not get a single thing right. Y’all, how? How does this show keep twisting into new things and in new directions? Even characters who would be disposable in other narratives become incredibly important here, so I never know when the show is going to bring one of them up. We dealt with Messner, one of the detectives who murdered Nina’s foster parents, and now, many episodes later, the other detective, Müller, must face the ramifications of what he’s done.

Johan isn’t in this episode; neither are Dieter or Dr. Tenma. Yet the show is willing to follow its narrative in whichever direction gives us the best story, and THIS WAS SO GOOD. I love that we get to focus both on Müller to understand why he may have done something so heinous, but we don’t get to a point where this excuses him for the traumatic thing he did to Nina. BECAUSE HER TRAUMA IS STILL ADDRESSED HERE. 

But lemme back up, because like a number of episodes on Monster, “Happy Holidays” opens in a confusing manner. Granted, it took me a while to recognize exactly who Müller was, but I love that. I think it’s challening in a fulfilling way that each episode is allowed to be what it is. Case in point: Much of this episode felt like an examination of what happens after you do something terrible. In Müller’s case, years have passed since he was blackmailed into committing murder. And I like that this story doesn’t try to say that this was a sensible decision. Oh, I’d argue that Nina’s VERY direct confrontation is a complete rejection of the notion that Müller and Messner had to make this decision. Johan—still the mastermind behind so many murders on this damn show WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM—just knew where to apply pressure to compel these two men to do something horrible. They were willing to do pretty much anything to hide the corruption they’d been a part of. INCLUDING MURDERING RANDOM STRANGERS. 

So no, I have no real sympathy for either of these characters, and I don’t even feel like this episode does. There is a tinge of sadness here, but its rooted in tragedy, not pity. Because the truth is that Müller and his partner ruined someone else’s life by taking the lives of the Fortners. They destroyed that family and now, years later, Müller pays his comeuppance. It’s not lost on me that Müller’s life falls apart at this exact point. He struggled to feel like he was part of the family he started with his wife, particularly since his son refused to accept him as his father. Did Müller deserve a second chance? Did he deserve to start a family and find happiness after he denied it to other people?

To be honest, I don’t think “Happy Holidays” is necessarily trying to answer that for us. Because Nina’s refusal to kill Müller when she has a chance is less about him and him being forgivable; it’s more about how Nina refuses to ruin someone else’s life. She possesses an ethical code that Müller did not, and thus, I see this episode as a chance to build her character more than anything else. Her brother might be a horrible murderer, but she is not, even when there’s some pretty strong justification for her getting revenge. Instead, she still sees this horrible man as a whole person who has had a life outside of what he did to the Fortners.

But this also is why I was so shocked by the ending. I thought Müller was absolutely going to remain behind in the comfort of his family. If he was willing to murder to protect himself, perhaps he had learned in some fucked up way: he was now willing to do anything to protect his family. So yeah, I fully did not anticipate that he’d show up to rescue Nina. And neither did she! HOLY SHIT, THAT WHOLE SEQUENCE WAS SO SHOCKING. And it all ends on a tragically poetic note. As the sun sets in the distance, Müller thinks about taking his son fishing for the first time. His epiphany about what is important in life—who should be valued, who should be protected, who truly matters—doesn’t actually come until his life bleeds out of him. 

Y’all, how many victims does Johan have? Does Müller count as one given what he did and how easy it was to manipulate him? How many people has Johan compelled to murder someone else??? WHY IS THIS SHOW LIKE THIS.

The video for “Happy Holidays” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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