Kudos to Reaper‘s writers for shaking up the formula with this week’s Halloween episode, “Leon.” Before the opening credits, our heroes had already captured a runaway soul (who turned out to be none other than Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated President McKinley in 1901), only to discover they couldn’t dump him at the DMV as usual because demon Gladys was on vacation. Turns out — in the episode’s cleverest twist — all hell really does break loose on Halloween; Satan gives everyone time off, since it’s the one day of the year no one takes him or his scary minions at all seriously. Cut to a hilarious Ray Wise monologue, bemoaning the holiday’s Christmas-like “commercialization of evil.” (Then cut to one of those incongruously cheerful CW “Happy Halloween” promos for the show, where Wise tries to outgrin a jack-o-lantern while Perry Como croons about the most wonderful time of the year.)
The Halloween vacation only made things tougher for Sam (Bret Harrison, left), of course, since he not only had to hold onto the captured Leon, but also go after another escaped soul, who had once been a serial killer known as the Butcher. Keeping Leon under glass (his vessel was a snowglobe) proved especially difficult because Leon (a droll guest turn by Patton Oswalt) refused to shut up, nattering on about how he was improving himself through psychotherapy. This, in turn, led Sock to steal the vessel, first in order to prank Ted, and then (swayed by Leon’s insistence that he was a changed soul), to liberate Leon to help the boys find the Butcher. Not only was this a bad idea, but it threatened to destroy Sock and Sam’s friendship. Oh, and possibly get them both killed.
Still, Leon did raise an interesting philosophical question: does everybody, even escaped souls from hell, deserve a second chance, a shot at redemption? Leon blew his chance — first locking Sock and Sam in the cellar with the Butcher, then later, threatening to blow Sock’s head off with a sniper rifle (how Evil Dead of him to be able to transform his hands into long, metallic weapons) — but he felt really bad about it. On the other hand, Sock redeemed himself by coming to Sam’s rescue. The Devil told Sam that betrayal is a defining characteristic of humanity and that we’re the least trustworthy species on the planet (except bears, he added — was that a shout-out to Colbert Nation or just a nice moment of random absurdity?), but Sam didn’t buy it (I liked how he told Satan he’s starting to be able to tell when he’s lying). In fact, Sam was inspired by Sock and Leon’s examples to demand a second chance from Andi (Missy Peregrym, right), who’d all but ended their friendship after Sam baselessly badmouthed her new love interest last week. The reconciliation was a joyful moment, not just because it was clear Sam and Andi had both really missed each other, but also because it was a treat to see Sam stand up for himself, for once.
Questions: Will Sam ever tell Andi his true feelings for her, or will the two of them get stuck in the friendship track? How come the Butcher came back in the form of a giant hellhound instead of a person? (And how cute was little hell-pup Spike?) Did you like Ted’s surprisingly convincing Capt. Jack Sparrow costume? (His Roman centurion costume, not so much.) And does the Halloween suspension of hell’s bureaucratic rules mean there are other loopholes that might help Sam get out of his contract?