Harlan Coben’s Shelter is shaping as much as be quite the twisty-turny mystery with disappearing children, sinister suspects, and an overall haunting and suspenseful atmosphere. Yet, despite all of the keep-you-guessing red herrings and flashbacks to some clandestine past, the show has fallen victim to a handful of clichés that, through the years, have develop into a bit eye-roll-worthy.
Mild Spoiler Warning for Episodes 1-3 of ‘Harlan Coben’s Shelter’
1. The ominous (and omniscient) old woman
What would an adolescent-targeted mystery be with out a creepy old woman? With long, straggly gray hair, unmanicured nails, and jewel-adorned fingers, “Bad Lady” — so aptly named by the townsfolk who share stories about her child-eating ways — peers from the window of her decades-old foreboding home. It’s shrouded in unkempt bushes and vines. We wouldn’t be surprised if the wallpaper is peeling and there are cracks in the toilet tile. A kind of evil Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, should you will. She’s one in all the show’s leading suspects. She’s puppeteering the boys who spy on our youngsters. She’s serious and sagacious. It’s as if every time she knits her brow, a recent wrinkle forms indicative of the hurdles she has had to beat. The lives she has needed to break.
Creepy old women are nothing recent — think Drag Me to Hell, Rosemary’s Baby, Barbarian. It’s that combination of wisdom and weariness. Will and woe. She speaks with precision and purpose. However, there’s a way of ambiguity in her words. Concerning this trope, age itself acts as fear-striking, for what might be scarier to our youth-obsessed culture than a girl who has done the unthinkable three words: Let herself go. It’s not only old hat, but truthfully a bit problematic. Now, all of the show must do is make her the hero in the long run, as if defying the expectation set forth from her appearance can be any more original than including her in the primary place.
2. The social outcast clad in black is an artist
Why must the quiet girl all the time possess a creative inclination? It’s so very Allison Reynolds alla The Breakfast Club. The girl clad in black, the social outcast — so beyond the hormonally-driven, popularity-craving ways of her peers — sits with a ballpoint pen and creates a dark masterpiece. Never rainbows and unicorns, but skeletons and shadowy passageways, as to visually suggest her internal turmoil. It’s so overdone. The artistic talent acts as an extension of the character — furthering their illustration as introverted and self-sufficient. Not “too cool for college” just like the jock, but fairly “too realized” for it. She’s all the time smart and determined. Introspective and evaluative. A vital ingredient. A splash of spice in a pool of vanilla.
Yet, there are other ways to suggest such qualities. To imply that those that tend toward artistic pursuits are antisocial, quiet, shy, or simply uninterested is a drained cliché that only works to two-dimensionalize the character (and their supposed real-life counterparts) at hand.
When it involves this particular stereotype, many will often cite the “kernel of truth” theory, which posits that there exists a core of truth amongst such wild generalizations applied to people. It’s because many have known someone who matches this description that results in its propagation. However, the problem just isn’t that this person exists in any respect, but that this person becomes the usual for a gaggle of people that don’t fit the mold (on this case: artists), and the numerous who don’t align develop into exceptions to the rule versus extensions of the usual.
3. The bully has a crappy home life
The good-looking jock who bullies the brand new kid. Give us a break. In Shelter, Brian Altamus plays Troy, who becomes a self-selected nemesis to Mickey. He pushes him around on the basketball court (in a game he bulled him into playing) and fouls him with reckless abandon. He’s got a wisecrack up his sleeve and seems content to go around stirring trouble… a little bit glimmer sparkles in his eye and a side smirk crawls across his face with each shove. Yet, the bully can’t simply be a bully. He must be more complex than that. Okay, let’s give him a crappy dad and oldsters who don’t get along.
The concept that bullies are sometimes victims of bullying or victims in another sense of the word just isn’t recent, neither is it psychologically unfounded. Because it’s such a simple line from cause to effect, the trope has develop into a scapegoat explanation for crappy adolescent behavior. It’s lazy. One: it’s okay to only present a bully. But, if you need to further characterize them, ideate something more original to substantiate their ways. To imply every motion has an opposite and equal response is just too scientifically objective in terms of the human mind. The brain is commonly more complicated than that, so make the story as equally complex because the psyche. Or, should you prefer a direct road, at the very least pick one less traveled.
4. Octopus face
So, there’s this creepy guy chasing around innocent girls and assumedly inflicting harm on those that get in the best way of his mission. Let’s give him a creepy tattoo – an octopus that takes up half of his face. For, those with nefarious intentions all the time wear their villainy on their sleeve (or should we are saying face?). How often do “bad guys” appear like criminals in point of fact? Almost never. Think Ted Bundy or Richard Ramirez or “The Cassonova Killer” Paul John Knowles. All have been described as charming, seductive, smooth-talking, and trustworthy.
Shelter takes the black-and-white, good vs. evil shtick to a complete recent level, making all of its suspects visually frightening. If Octo-face seems to be a real baddie, it’s going to only further the false notion that the creepers of the world don’t hide in plain sight.
5. The nagging mom
Just after we thought we saw all of the clichés that Shelter had to supply, in walks Shira’s mother. And, after all, she will’t simply be a supportive and loving mother who cherishes her daughter. She must remind Shira that her uterus has an expiration date. She “compliments” her on her achievements as a lawyer, but she’s concealing her disapproval — suggesting she made a alternative that eschewed any opportunity she could have needed to be a mother. Being a successful, single woman isn’t enough.
Tense mother-daughter dynamics have been a feature of movies and TV shows for ages – whether Grey Gardens, Postcards from the Edge, Lady Bird, or Mildred Pierce, mothers who know just how one can get under their daughters’ skin aren’t recent. Yet, at the very least in the films listed above, the relationships receive just exploration. In Shelter, it’s one extra trope that can undoubtedly not receive a likelihood to breathe in such a twisty-turny show with multiple subplots. Thus, it’s there seemingly so as to add a little bit drama to a slower scene. A little bit tension. But, for what purpose? The show has enough tension.