Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice (Moonlighting, Season 2, Episode 4)

"The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" (1985), episode 4 from season 2 of the television series Moonlighting. Teleplay by Debra Frank and Carl Sautter.

Casual Moonlighting fans will likely remember "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" as "the one in black and white." Operating as investigators on a dubious "unfaithful spouse" case, private investigators Maddie Hayes and David Addison (of the Blue Moon detective agency) are told about the notorious Flamingo Cove Murder, which involved a clarinetist, his songbird wife, and the new cornet player in their swing orchestra. The clarinetist was murdered, and the singer and cornetist (?) always swore that the other did the killing, right down to their dual executions.

Hayes and Addison instantly form opposing opinions as to who is "obviously" guilty, leading to an argument, after which each goes home and dreams his/her side of the story. It's fairly weak for a wraparound, but the dreams make it worth it.

Done in a film noir style, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" references films of the era (especially The Postman Always Rings Twice) in addition to being solidly crafted, designed, shot, acted, written, and directed. (That year saw the series nominated for sixteen Emmys, eight of them for this episode.)

Each's dream perfectly suits their personalities. Maddie's is more reminiscent of the expected style: straightforward, romantic, and melodramatic (with a nicely cathartic first kiss for Shepherd and Willis), while David's involves more ironic voice-over, wisecracks, and parodic fourth-wall breaking. (For those reasons, I prefer David's, although a tad more seriousness would have made it perfect.)

And how they did this, I don't know, but Orson Welles made his final filmed appearance by introducing this "Very Special Moonlighting." ("Television," he says with the ever-present glint in his eye, "is about to take a huge step ... backwards.") "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" is my second favorite of the series; only the second-season finale "Camille," guest starring Judd Nelson and Whoopi Goldberg, tops it for pure entertainment value.

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