Thursday, October 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'Superstore' - A Dead Body in the Store Leads to a Memorable Halloween in 'Sal's Dead'

NBC's Superstore - Episode 3.05 "Sal's Dead"

A dead body is discovered in the store on Halloween, throwing Glenn and Dina into a panic, and confusing the shoppers. Amy and Garrett get into big trouble using a dating app on Jonah's phone.

Superstore is only five episodes into its third season but it has already told two stories centered around death. It's clear that that is going to be a big trend of this season. This isn't a show that has operated with life-or-death stakes before. It had that tease at the end of the second season with the tornado that destroyed the store. The show confirmed that almost everyone survived that natural disaster almost immediately. Brett was the only one whose fate was up-in-the-air over the hiatus. And then, the show confirmed that even he survived. It was a twisted punchline at the end of the episode that memorialized him after everyone else in the store believed him to be dead. It was a very funny moment. And now, the show tackles death once more. This time though it's right there staring everyone in the face at the store. The cold open establishes immediately that Creepy Sal has died. He got stuck behind the walls and died from starvation. His body was only discovered because of the ongoing construction. His death had nothing to do with the tornado. He was just a creep who got stuck while trying to peep inside the ladies' bathroom. That's disgusting. But it's also Halloween. So, it's very amusing to see the store stay open despite this discovery and the coroner's office being delayed all day long.

Plus, this discovery brings the focus back to the ongoing mystery of the severed foot that was discovered following the tornado. Everyone assumed it belonged to Brett. Then, he was revealed to still be alive with both of his feet intact. And now, the speculation goes to Sal and it being his foot. That too is quickly shot down. Sal has both of his feet as well. And so, it's a continuing source of frustration. It's this grand mystery that everyone in the store is aware of. And yet, they have no answers to it. They have no clue what's going on. Because this is now becoming an ongoing storyline, it makes me suspect that the show has a big idea about how to pay all of this off. The mystery of the foot wasn't just suppose to be a joke in one episode. Instead, it's bound to have this massive payoff later on in the season. As of right now, it's very intriguing to see what that payoff is going to be. Of course, the show can only reveal characters who are dead or are perceived to be dead for so long. This is a trick the season has already played twice. So, the payoff will need to be fantastic. I have trust in the creative team that they can handle it. It doesn't need to be anymore than an ongoing mystery right now. But I'm curious as to when the explanation will happen and whether it will be worth all of the buildup.

Of course, that's a concern for the future. Right now, it's just fantastic to see how everyone adapts to there being a dead body in the store. Most of the employees are able to just go about their day. It doesn't really interrupt their ability to do their jobs. There is just one section of the store where no one wants to work. Meanwhile, Glenn takes it very seriously. It's a dead body. He doesn't want any of the customers to be traumatized by that. He sees this as a very family friendly store. That's his perception of the workplace. It's not a specific mission statement of the actual corporation. And so, he earnestly wants to cover it up or warn people not to go to that part of the store. But his pure intentions are quickly twisted because it is Halloween. That's honestly a good excuse for this body just being able to be in the store without anyone being truly freaked out by it. The customers don't know any better. They think it's just a part of the display for the holiday. That's a ton of fun. Glenn doesn't know how haunted houses operate. So, he has no clue how his statements about the body will be misinterpreted by the customers. He's making it sound like an enticing offer that no one can refuse. His frustration that goes alongside all of that is so absolutely delightful.

Plus, there's an immediate payoff in the end to the coroner being delayed for so long. Cloud 9 is told not to move the body. They fail at that early on because Glenn wants to cover it up. He doesn't want anyone to see it. Then, it falls further down the wall. And then, Dina mistakes someone for an actual representative from the coroner's office. Instead, it's just a guy who is a part of a couple's costume where he is the coroner and she's the bag with the dead body. That's such a completely random and specific Halloween costume. No one would immediately suspect that this guy isn't who he seems to be. And so, that leads to another strong bit of miscommunication where Dina is taking the transport of the body very seriously only to later learn that this guy isn't who she believes him to be. So now, the body is just out in the middle of the store. The customers still perceive it to be a part of the decorations. And in the end, the employees just go along with that perception. Sal's body literally becomes a part of the display. It's a fantastic punchline to this story. Dina has to genuinely say that no one moved the body even though they very clearly did in order to entertain the customers. That's just great and so funny.

Meanwhile, the show is also setting up an ongoing story where Jonah and Kelly begin a romance. It's not all that surprising as a plot development. The show had its big moment between Jonah and Amy at the end of last season. That's a romance the show is definitely interested in - though much more than I am as a viewer. Right now, they are basically just in delay mode with that coupling. And so, that means a new love interest comes in for Jonah because Amy is suddenly becoming available for the first time. She's getting a divorce from Adam. She's not ready to start dating yet. She makes that clear early on in this episode. But she also just has a ton of fun in stealing Jonah's phone and making fun of the various Tinder profiles that he may be interested in. It's a solid setup for a story that quickly becomes twisted because it spirals out of control for Amy. She doesn't mess with his dating life because she has feelings for him and wants to date him. The two of them addressed their kiss and wanting to just be friendly co-workers in the season premiere. So there is no malice to what Amy does throughout this episode. It's just a comedic storyline that only works with an escalation of events. And so, Amy steals Jonah's phone and matches him up with Kelly. She keeps sending messages without thinking through the consequences. And before she knows it, she's creating this new relationship for them.

Of course, Kelly is still a new character on the show this season. She wasn't immediately introduced as a potential love interest for Jonah either. Have the two of them even shared a moment together before this episode? I honestly don't remember. It was just important that Kelly was a new addition to the staff. She's spent a few episodes just in the background with her own little subplots. But now, she's moving to the foreground with this desire to date Jonah. It's something she genuinely wants to do. She confesses as much to Amy at the end of this story. And again, that's perfectly fine. I understand why the show is doing all of this for the overarching narrative of the season. But the success of this story comes from Amy not knowing what to do after creating this mess for herself. Sure, it's problematic how she matches Jonah with Kelly in the first place. But after that, it's just a really fun story. It's all building to that moment in the store where Jonah and Kelly put on a performance for Amy - and Garrett to a lesser extent. It's such an amusing moment too. Jonah has the upper hand and really wants to trick Amy right now. He and Kelly were able to figure out what was going on pretty easily because they work together. Jonah has no idea what Amy has messaged Kelly. He just knows that Amy has his phone. As such, it's a perfect scenario for him to deceive her into thinking that all of this would build to a deadly conclusion. That moment where Kelly pulls out the knife and stabs Jonah is very intense. But then, it's very effective funny when Jonah reveals it was all a prank. It was such a great moment. Though there will still be some ongoing tension because Kelly makes her intentions for Jonah clear right away too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sal's Dead" was written by Gabe Miller and directed by Geeta V. Patel.
  • I just love that Dina is going to wear the same Halloween costume every year. It would have been great if none of her co-workers even mentioned it. But it's also understandable why Cheyenne does. Halloween costumes are suppose to change every year. But Dina thinks the outfit is appropriate until it starts falling apart. With this being the only day she wears it, that could take awhile.
  • Jonah and Amy's costumes this year are the source of lots of conversation as well. Jonah is dressed as the disappearing bee crisis. He's hopeful that people will understand it. Unsurprisingly, they don't. Meanwhile, Amy is dressed as Selina and it's so tragic that no one else in the store knows who that is. That's very devastating. They think she's Jennifer Lopez even though J-Lo played Selena in the movie!
  • Garrett really isn't an active participant to what Amy is doing with Jonah's phone. He's just there as the only other person who knows what's happening. As such, he enjoys stirring the pot to ensure that it gets even more uncomfortable for Amy. And yet, she still confides in him every single twist that happens in this story.
  • Cheyenne and Mateo have been spending a lot of time together this season. They are a pairing that works and makes sense. They would be friends in this job. It's just gotten somewhat repetitive as well. Of course, this story sets up some potential ongoing concerns for them. Cheyenne wants to become a professional make-up artist while Cheyenne telling a kid that Mateo is undocumented could come back to hurt him.
  • Elsewhere, Cheyenne and Mateo's story is just fine. It's not bad but it's not the best or funniest part of the episode either. That's been a consistent feature of Cheyenne and Mateo stories this season as well. It's amusing that Cheyenne makes Mateo look like Sal. It's just a little surprising that that doesn't lead to any confusion with him interacting with any of the other employees. It would have been so great to see Glenn's reaction to seeing Mateo like that.