Here we are, friends! It’s Part 13, the final episode of The Stranger! Part 12 ended with Clare smiling for once and now, after a weekend off, we return to discover just what she has planned.
Part 13: 7AM
Finally we get some time alone with Carl E. He’s decked-out in beige with a new dog and a beige early 90s BMW convertible that isn’t actually a BMW convertible because they obscured the logo. The camera pans to some obviously post CGI graffiti that reads: WELCOME TO THE CITY OF DREAMS
It’s funny because if you watch this scene in portrait mode, they modify the graffiti to fit within the screen constraints.
He blasts “When Will I See You Again” on the stereo, smooths his hair back and does what we all did in GTAV: rip through the L.A. River like a madman. But THEN something crashes against the windshield and sends the car hurdling into a dumpster.
The airbag refuses to save Carl E.’s back, or rather, his face, which smashes against the steering wheel. Stunned, he rights himself and picks up the pink bejeweled dog leash that Clare held onto in Part 11. He tosses it aside and grunts his way out of the car.
The accident breaks his shin bone. Like it’s literally busted out of his leg, dude. Pebbles just whimpers and I gotta wonder how she got out of this unscathed. She was just sitting in the effin’ passenger seat. Why is she not hurt or thrown from the vehicle?
Clare steps into the frame and Carl E. crawls uselessly for his gun. He’s a MESS, guys, and I kind of love it. Next to devious dudes I do love me a good miserable sad dude and Clare gets to have some FUN with with both.
“Trying to get this?” Clare asks, picking up the gun.
“The student becomes the teacher. Thanks to me and my experiment,” Carl E. says.
“If that’s what you call stalking, kidnapping and murder.”
“Well, some call it releasing their inner goddess,” Carl E. says, gathering some smugness back as he sits up. He asks how Clare managed to find him.
“The same way you followed me: with her.”
Cut to the dog.
“It’s the only thing that I loved, the one thing that I had here,” she says, referring to Pebbles as an OBJECT instead of the LIVING, BREATHING, GORGEOUS AND LOVING CREATURES THAT SHE IS. What kind of “vegan” are you, Clare?
She retraces Carl E.’s steps back to him as all thrillers do in the “grand plan is revealed!” scene.
“So you broke into my apartment, drugged her, and then fucked with her chip.”
You see, Carl E. expected that Clare would get her dog chipped, but he DIDN’T expect that she would just give up Pebbles. No, vegan Clare would totally make Pebbles commit dog suicide with her if she were REALLY gonna kill herself. That’s real human-dog connection, right?
“I underestimated you,” Carl E. says for the last and final time. “You get a gold star. Yay for you!” He holds out a hand. “Now help me up.”
Clare then recites some security camera statistics she probably Googled before her suicide fake-out. Turns out, security cameras are EVERYWHERE but NOT in the L.A. River.
“You’re not walking out of here, or crawling,” she says while the camera’s angle reveals the new rainbow shoes she picked up from the car package that JJ got in Part 8. They’re sneakers, which are closed-toe and wonderful and protect her feet!
“This is the one place where you an scream and scream and scream and no one will ever hear you.” She points the gun at Carl E., who still doesn’t buy that he’s gonna die.
Clare’s emotion gets the best of her and she asks him why he had to kill JJ. “He was a good person,” she says.
“Yeah,” Carl E. agrees. “And you’re not. You were made a loser and you’ll go out as one, boo-hooing down the Yellow Brick Road.” His voice starts cracking. He’s upset. He’s gonna cry. “Now fucking help me up!”
His rage echoes but Clare holds firm. She lowers the gun and whistles. “Pebbles, kill,” she says.
The dog whimpers, but her cries sound quite similar to the sounds from Part 8. What happened in that part? Do you remember?
TURNS OUT THAT THAT SILLY COYOTE INTERLUDE WASN’T SO POINTLESS AFTER ALL!
“What a badass,” Carl E. mocks.
Clare picks up the dog. “You wanna know why I’m crying?” she asks.
“Because you need a stylist.”
To which I say, YES, Carl E. she could use some legit pampering right now, but you have more important shit to think about.
Clare walks off and tells Carl E. not to forget his phone. He finds it jammed in the frame of an overturned shopping cart and struggles to crawl over to it. The wallpaper has his face on it. Seriously. Who uses a selfie as their cell phone wallpaper?
“California Dreamin'” by Sia starts to play.
The coyotes howl, approaching from a nearby tunnel.
Carl E. fails to get the phone, instead turning on the camera, which begins recording a video of the second-ever coyote-caused adult human fatality! So exciting, right?
EXCEPT, when Carl E. struggles to get the phone (as if it’s gonna save him) he knocks it off the shopping cart and the phone records his death in BLOODY PORTRAIT MODE and we miss all the good stuff.
Carl E. does his best Ramsay Bolton, but much like Ramsay Bolton, the dogs listen to no man. Also kind of funny how his beige ensemble and his car match the colour of the cement.
A Yellow Brick road of sorts, which Clare walks down back into the city of Los Angeles. Unlike most badasses, she looks back to watch Carl E. die. Then she turns, carrying Pebbles off into a very emerald-tinted shot of the city.
The Stranger: Part 13 Thoughts
Time constraints aside, this ending proved itself worthy. While I can’t entirely buy Clare’s character shift, it was fun to watch her and Carl E. banter back and forth a bit before Clare took the upper hand.
I loved the first 4 parts, but once the show detoured into its relationship B-plot between Clare and JJ, the tension suffered. The middle of this show sagged and Carl E’s threat really dissipated. Perhaps in a real movie we could have had more time to appreciate JJ, but he sadly was more of a caricature than an ally.
Ultimately, some bits felt clunky. The characters were B-grade at best. This Vulture article pretty much sums up the failures of the Quibi format. When you get right down to it, 10 minutes is just too damn short to make segments of a bigger production. A proper show would need about 12-15 minutes, you know, like that show Bonding on Netflix that I seriously recommend. (It’s only 7 episodes long. Each one is about 15 minutes AND we get depth and character and some fun tense scenes.)
The Stranger does work in short format, but only because it sacrifices on things like characterization and action. I really wanted to see a final action sequence similar to the climax of Red Eye, which starts with this scene where the protagonist outwits the villian (spoilers, obviously), and then progresses into many many many more action-packed minutes of upper-hand reversals.
Maybe in 8-10 episodes at 15-20 minutes an episode, it could have been more effective? This is just too tense a story to tell in such short bursts.
Instead, in The Stranger, Clare makes the switch and via stupid dialogue, Carl E. BEGS Clare to help him stand up? I just wish we had more time to spend with these two. Carl E. was such a fun villain but he came off as more of a comic book villain than a really memorable one. Dane DeHaan brought a lot of life to the script when he was given the opportunity to. Sadly, we got a lot of his horrific intimacy in the first two episodes, and we left wanting for virtually the rest of the entire show. We didn’t get to see how evil Carl E. really was.
Maika Monroe is easily one of horror’s best actresses but Clare just wasn’t a character she could add much more to. And I loved Avan Jogia as JJ. I’d kill to see him in a good Adventureland-esque kind of movie. He does the awkward dude character reaaaaaaaly well.
The Stranger proved itself an effective thriller, I suppose. It was a fun distraction while I worked through my writer’s block. But alas, now I can get rid of my Quibi subscription!