in

Room 104 S4E7: You’ll Never See Me At a “Foam Party”

Photograph by Tyler Golden/HBO

Room 104 S4E7 “Foam Party” (written by Bryan Poyser and directed by Natalie Morales) is like one of those horror movies you might have seen in the 1990s: the premise is absurd (by which I mean far-fetched, or outlandish), and so is its logic (which I ultimately don’t think is consistent—how does the foam function exactly?). I have to surmise that this is intentional. After all, we have seen Room 104 play with genre any number of times over the course of its run, and just two episodes ago got Room 104 the sitcom with “Oh, Harry!”—which also played with tropes from the ‘90s.

Indeed, something about the 1990s seems to be baked into Room 104 Season 4, from the nostalgia for ‘90s music expressed through “The Murderer” to the vibe of “Foam Party” here (and the fact that actual foam parties were a phenomenon that arose in the 1990s—did you know these were a real thing?)

Room 104 S4E7 also carries forward the thread of this season in relation to questions of personal identity. Jack (Benjamin Papac) is ultimately revealed to be one with the foam in some way at the end of the episode, and its horror proceeds through his friends variously taking on his visage as the foam moves to overtake them. One by one, this occurs to Luke (Harvey Guillén), Jenna (Olivia Crocicchia), Hunter (Timothy Granaderos), and Morgan (Alison Jaye) until by the end of “Foam Party” they are dead, having been consumed by the ever-expanding foam.

Jack, for his part, doesn’t seem to know what has happened. As he holds Morgan’s damaged ID he doesn’t seem to remember the events of the previous evening, which culminated in him wrestling with the force of the evil foam before it swirled itself into him. And this tracks with the way we learn towards the beginning of S4E7 that he has only been friends/roommates with the others for a short period of time. The inference is that this has all happened before. But Jack doesn’t know it. He’s a vessel for malicious foam.

This might bring to mind the plots of such films as The Thing or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but “Foam Party” is not nearly as deep or visceral. Instead, it is light on substance, much like the titular foam. If there is a message to Room 104 S4E7, it is perhaps about how something so light and, well…foamy, can nonetheless be pernicious. There is a danger posed by the insipid precisely by its ability to spread. Soon everything is surface, and we may as well all be Jack—boring, run of the mill, clichéd, but also seemingly palatable. If it’s just foam, it should wash away. What’s the big deal?

So it’s not Jack’s loss of self that “Foam Party” should get us thinking about—he never had one in the first place. The fact that he is a kind of walking stereotype has simply made him a vessel for this foamy malevolence. He has all of the depth of a Limp Bizkit song. He represents the threat to the identity of the others in Room 104 S4E7, but he himself is never presented as anything but vacuous.

Jack throws his hands in the air as he stands by the bed
Photograph by Tyler Golden/HBO

This is all thematized in the “Conformity” song that plays during the montage of the party toward the beginning of the episode, and then again as the credits roll at the end (though the lyrics are different, I take these to just be different verses). Much as with “Sorry Not Sorry” from Season 2’s “Arnold,” Room 104 gives us here a song that was written for the episode, but which is done so well you might think it existed independently of it. (I’m told that Julian Wass and Mark Duplass co-wrote the song, and that it is Phil Matarese singing, so kudos to them for writing something that immediately got stuck in my head).

But “Conformity” also gets to the point of “Foam Party” as I am interpreting it. The song decries drinking Bacardi while our friends proceed to do just that, and intones negatively against the idea of a foam party in the verse after the credits roll, despite the fact that it just served as the soundtrack for one.

More to the point, this is an anthem against the forces of conformity, but is an utterly generic song. By this I do not mean that it is bad so much as I mean it embodies its genre. It is emblematic of so many tracks released in the ‘90s when this kind of rebellion was in the zeitgeist, but precisely by being a perfect version of such a song shows the lack of substance that occurred when the Alternative became the popular. Rather than Nirvana knocking down the structure that pre-existed them, ever more watered down versions of the sound they brought into the mainstream appeared, until we got pop music that may have resembled grunge or punk on the surface, but it was empty on the inside. It was all surface, like foam, or putting an anarchy sign on your book cover because you think it looks cool.

Of course, though I have spoken in the past tense, this has never stopped. One could even argue that everything is surface now.

There is no real Jack. There is only the foam.

Bloop!

Caemeron Crain

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain studies philosophy and is a writer and head of the TV department at 25YL. He is a party to a Twin Peaks podcast that then did a few episodes on Surrealism before entering an indefinite hiatus. He also has a cat.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Every week after I watch a new episode of Room 104, I come to read your analysis to see what elements you picked up on that I missed. You are much better at catching the nuances and weaving a story between them than I will ever be. But I’m beginning to believe that sometimes, there is no story to weave and the writers are in above their heads. Room 104 has run it’s course and it’s really time for the show to end. I’m sad that a show that used to excite me week in week out has lost its magic touch and ingenuity. The episodes make such little sense to me and I feel like the writers are just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping we can find meaning in it. Kudos to you for finding some kind of personal meaning in this because I’m trying my hardest and failing to do so.

    • Thanks! It’s certainly harder sometimes than others, and of course I think some episodes are better than others. I think there have been some this reason that are really strong. Others less so. But part of what I love about Room 104 is how they give space to different people to write and direct episodes and so on. That involves a risk, but it’s cool how open things are, with the only real constraint being the room. So I think it could keep going, but it looks like it is not going to beyond this season. So maybe it has run its course and there is a recognition of that. I don’t know. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

3 members of Indie band Doves

Doves live for the moment on ‘The Universal Want‘

Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe in Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru, from Letterboxd

Akira Kurosawa: More Than a Man of Action