In the sixty-eighth episode of Monster, something horrible is brewing in Ruhenheim. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
Trigger Warning: For cruelty to animals.
I’m fucking terrified, y’all.
I want to start out this review by praising “Ruhenheim,” which manages to build a terrifying air of paranoia and possibility. It’s clear that something is about to happen, but the show demonstrates this with the tiniest of moments. Lunge warns the local police—which is a warning to all of us, by the way—but I assumed that this was because Lunge knew that Bonaparta was somewhere in Ruhenheim. He most likely suspects that Johan, Tenma, and others are heading there, too, right? So, a showdown feels inevitable. What happens to those who would become collateral damage in that sort of showdown?
Except over the course of “Ruhenheim,” the edges begin to peel. The facade begins to crack. Even if I am reading too much into this, I still like that after the bombshells in the previous two episodes, this episode slows us down. We meet the people who have made a home in the same place Bonaparta has, and it feels intentional. How many times do we hear that this place is boring, or that nothing happens there, or that the rooms are always empty? Everyone seems to know everyone else; it’s quiet; it’s peaceful.
But is it? There are Wim’s bullies, who torment this poor kid, trashing his bike and beating him up. Which only echoes the violence Wim receives from his alcoholic father! There’s the owner of the competing hotel, who resents that the owner of Hotel Versteck takes most of his business. Or what about the older couple who bicker and pick at one another, only to have their dream of winning the lottery come true? Look how quickly both of them resort to paranoia as they become convinced that the town has already learned of their victory.
And what of the “vampire’s” home? What the fuck is that all about? I’m assuming that Lunge and Grimmer—who make such an interestingly odd pairing—figured out that the remote house was home to Franz Bonaparta. Those immensely creepy pencil drawings of Nina and Johan confirmed it for me. But why does he have that nickname from the locals? Why do they call him the vampire? If that’s the case, then I don’t think that Konrad (or Conrad; I was unsure how to spell it) is Franz Bonaparta. Would he be casually chilling in that supermarket if he was known as the vampire? Why didn’t the couple who won the lottery refer to him as the “vampire” rather than his name?
It’s all a puzzle, partially because the show itself is withholding information from us. Grimmer and Lunge may have followed different clues that brought them to the same conclusion—a point that is beautifully mirrored as they both use a missing dog as a means of investigating Ruhenheim further—but what is that conclusion? What clues did they find? They both believe something terrible is going to happen here. Are they otherwise in the dark as much as we are?
I don’t know. Monster is a show about many things. Like, I’m sure we could write about a hundred different essays on what this show is really about. Isolation? Morality? The value of human life, as exhibited in Tenma’s behavior, versus the devaluing of it, found in Johan and others? East versus West Germany? This show is beautifully, mind-bendingly complex. It’s also about persepective. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a story with so very many points of view, and here, in this one episode, we’re invited to see things through the eyes of at least five characters, three of them who are introduced in “Ruhenheim.” And when we take those perspectives into account, we get closer to understanding the complex world of Monster. I say all this because I have no doubt that Ruhenheim will feature the end, as much as there can be one. (That’s another theme to write about: cyclical themes and parallel storytelling in Monster.) This is where all of the people who have been tied together by fate and circumstance will end up. What Franz Bonaparta set in motion so very long ago is now coming home.
Johan. Nina. Tenma. Grimmer. Lunge. Eva. Roberto. The residents of Ruhenheim, an idyllic town that might not be all that idyllic. Who else is going to show up in these final episodes? Karl? Schuwald? Lotte? Dr. Guillen? Dr. Reichwein? Lipsky? I’m sure I’ve forgotten other people who have played a part in this story. Regardless: This is it. Johan’s final stand—whatever that might be—is going to be here.
Lord, that makes me so nervous.
The video for “Ruhenheim” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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