Anthropology professor Jeff Storck (Chris O’Dowd) is not having a great life. His father, Otis,with whom he lives, has just killed himself. His estranged wife wants a divorce (she’s met another guy called Jeff) and sends a lawyer (also called Jeff) to deliver the papers. The weapon Storck Snr. used, turns out to be an ultra-rare historical piece known as The Blue Scorpion, named after the image that graces its ivory handle. Its presence confuses Jeff as his father was an aged hippie who detested guns and the suicide note that reads ‘I loved him more than you’ leaves more questions than answers.
At first O’Dowd’s Jeff is only interesting in selling the gun and putting as much distance between him and it as possible, but frustrated by other elements in his life, he begins to research the piece and finds out pieces of its sordid history – and the investigations lead to a series of ever-growing offers to purchase it rom him. His temperament getting more and more frazzled as his judgement becomes questionable, Jeff can’t decide if he will continue to honour the elements of the story that say the gun will be lucky unless left in total darkness or to get rid of it. But with the name ‘Jeff’ appearing on one of the bullets that belongs with the gun and the firearm refusing to fire the bullet yet, is Jeff still in control or is The Blue Scorpion’ excerting a genuine and sinister influence that Jeff has long dismissed in his lectures…
For most of its running-time The Blue Scorpion feels like classic Twilight Zone in tone – with something suggesting the fantastical at the forefront of a story about how everyday people deal with it. At its best the original series could pivot between pathos and cynicism like a ballet-dancer, knowing how to achieve that balance – the modern run far less effectively. The Blue Scorpion has the titular gun as the maguffin and traces the effect that ownership of the fire-arm has on the people who possess it, want to possess it or just want to get rid of it. The way in which the story is paced largely works (though it’s a hard truth that every instalment of the run would have seen the benefit of a shorter running-time) and the performances are fine.
If there’s a cultural ticking-off in the week’s episode, as there usually is now, then The Narrator’s book-ending monologue tells us it’s less about gun violence itself and more of the danger there is in letting any inanimate object affect our needs and desires, but it’s not a maxim that dominates the tale or preaches it too hard for once. It’s really only after watching the episode that it will likely occur to you that if the gun is indeed holding sway over the people who own it, then the episode isn’t really taking a stand on the positives or negatives of that in its tale.
If empowered as such, the Blue Scorpion certainly didn’t bring much good luck to Jeff’s father or other previous owners, but the implication that the gun was ultimately there to save Jeff from one of the multitude of other Jeffs he encounters, rather than slay O’Dowd’s character, – so in essence being fateful rather than cursed – is a mixed one. The idea of being strong-enough willed to let go of a treasured object being the action that benefits would be an interesting one, but Jeff doesn’t give up the weapon until after he’s saved (and it passes into the hands of another, a young boy whose fate remains unknown). By the end, Chris O’Dowd’s Jeff has actually turned his life around and one can read that as because of coming into ownership of the gun or despite it. (The fact that the gun does take a life is largely glossed over and the rapidly-rising number of guns in the American homeland is a point irrelevant to the plot).
The current run of episodes seem to come on far too strongly with a central singular message that dominates the story or multitude of targets which it seeks to cram in, diluting the impact. Written by Glen Morgan (The X-Files) who also penned A Traveler earlier in the run, The Blue Scorpion has all the right biological make-up in its tale of Animism vs. Anthropomorphism an interesting one, but somehow lacks a definitive sting…