Last night the CW freshman series Reaper returned with its first of five post-strike episodes to close out the season. But the fate of the show still hangs in the balance. But it’s the status of Sam’s soul that I’m curious about – or actually more specifically, his lineage of his soul.
The premise of the show is that run-the-mill slacker Sam Oliver (Brett Harrison) has his life turned upside down when he turns 21. On his birthday he finds out that his parents (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) sold his soul to the Devil (Ray Wise). The Devil decides instead of taking Sam’s soul to Hell, he’d rather employ him as a bounty hunter for escaped souls, telling Sam:
“That’s a problem we’ve been having lately, what with overcrowding and so forth. Honestly, we were underprepared for the influx. I blame myself. But that’s not your problem. All you have to do is track down fugitives and haul their asses over to a portal to Hell. Easy.”
The story sounds pretty simple and straight forward; and as you can imagine hilarity ensue when Sam tries to take down souls mean enough and bad enough to escape from Hell with nothing more than the help of his two best slacker pals – Ben (Rick Gonzalez) and Sock (Tyler Labine) – and a vessel given to him by the Devil:
“This will help. A vessel. Handcrafted in the bowels of Perdition, by the iniquitous and the vile.” (Sam looks blank) ”Oh, I forgot, you got 600 on the SATs, didn’t you?”
And while on the surface the story sounds simple, the episodes are littered with clues that suggest there’s more to the tale.
First there’s the parents reluctance to tell Sam about the deal. He’s dad stumbled through:
“There’s something I… I have to tell you. I, uh, I probably should have told you this a long time ago. I, uh… Before you were born, your Mom and I… sold your soul to the Devil.”
The parents tell Sam that his father was dying so they bartered the soul of their first child (because they didn’t they could have any) for the return of his health.
Then there’s the contract. When Sam ask his parents to see it, they stall, coming up with vague places it might be before admitting they don’t have it. An outraged Sam replied:
“You put the contract for my soul with my third grade report card, and Mr Huggles?”
And when he asks the Devil for a copy of it, the Devil claims inefficiencies in his administration:
“You know who works for me in my central office? White collar criminals. They hate me. They hate their jobs. I’m lucky if I get coffee in the morning.”
Eventually Sam gets it, but it’s so thick (think War & Peace) and written in legalese that Sam doesn’t understand it.
And finally, there is the unusual relationship between the Devil and Sam. The Devil has taken Sam under his wing – acting like a mentor – helping him to succeed with his reaper duties and “interfering” with the rest of his life. An example of the Devil’s guidance:
“Get the girl. Get the soul. I don’t care which, man, just pull that trigger. I’m tired of coddling you.”
It might not sound like much, but it’s clear that the Devil doesn’t dote on all his employees like this. In fact, Sam’s demon neighbors – Steve (Michael Ian Black) and Tony (Ken Marino) – mention how rare it is for the Devil to talk to one of his charges, let alone confide in them in this latest episode, “Rebellion” in which the Devil invited Sam out for ice cream.
These clues make me believe that Sam could actually be the Devil’s son.
Think about it. The Devil fears his enemies might harm his infant son (or worse, corrupt him into challenging his father), so he sends him to be raised in secret by humans. Maybe the Devil traded his son’s safety for Mr. Oliver’s health or for the Olivers to have a child of their own (Sam has a little brother that we haven’t seen since the pilot).
This explanation could clarify why the Olivers were so uncomfortable with revealing the deal and why nobody wanted Sam to see the contract.
And now that Sam has come of age, the Devil is teaching him the family business and getting to know Sam, thereby explaining the Devil’s particular interest in Sam.
Furthermore, in “Unseen” when Sam candidly asks the Devil if Cady (Jessica Stroup) is his daughter. The Devil openly admits that she is not. But it’s the way the Devil says it that makes you think that Cady might not be his offspring, but someone Sam knows (like maybe himself) is.
Either way, the addition of the demon neighbors has added a new dimension to an already great show. I know some people might not have given Reaper a chance because it’s on the CW or because they fear it’s some dark sci fi show dealing with the supernatural like Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the CW hit Supernatural.
In reality, Reaper is a comedy that relies on witty dialogue, pop cultural references and comical storylines for the slacker in all of us. I particularly like the dialogue as you can tell from the many quotes I used above. Unfortunately, reading them in print is not the same as when Ray Wise delivers them. The Devil has the best lines in the show.
Reaper airs on the CW at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. You can watch full episodes on cwtv.com.