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Forever Knight: Dying for Fame

"You think Mick Jagger ever feels old?"

This episode is ambitious in a way that doesn't happen anymore on TV. In the late 20th century (when I was a wide-eyed child basking in the glow of the cathode-ray tube) television shows explored new ways to tell stories, and the result was a smattering of magic realism working its way into our ordinary mid-western lives. Believe it or not, Americans in the 90s were accustomed to psychedelic scenes invading prime time, like they were grad students reading Salman Rushdie or Gabriel García Márquez.

Filming an experimental episode of a vampire show sounds like a recipe for disaster, but "Dying for Fame" competently balances the supernatural with bizarre imagery to explore Nick's loneliness, leaving us with an episode of television like none other.

There's a lot going on here.

For starters, we've got a rock star who's sooooo edgy and controversial, but her time in the limelight has only made her, as Nick puts it... lonely. They say fame is the mask that eats the face of its wearer, keeping celebrities from ever being themselves, a slave to their image. The rock star, who goes by the totally edgy name "Rebecca," is tired of being nothing more than her image. There's not a single person in her life who really knows her.

Rebecca's story makes a jolting parallel for Nick's journey. Watching Rebecca struggle with fame brings up a lot of dark feelings in Nick, which trigger highly symbolic hallucinations (I think) that frighten him.

This episode does a good job of mixing the Mystery of the Week with Nick's struggle as a vampire, which is what every episode should do, and the mystery will leave you guessing until the end. But the investigation is obviously just a vehicle for the weird stuff.


For the first time, we don't really have flashbacks. Nick has strange moments of getting lost in his own imagination, but these moments are filmed like they're really happening. It doesn't look like he was daydreaming, but as if the emotional impact of seeing Rebecca's loneliness has triggered a mystical realm for Nick to wander around in.

That might sound weird, but in season two we learn that Nick can cast himself into a bizarro world of nonsense if he takes on too much guilt, so maybe this is part of being a vampire. Or maybe being alive and lonely for so long has given him a form of dissociative disorder. Either way, it's fascinating to see it play out through glam rock videos.

The symbolism here is off the charts. Like, Twin Peaks level craziness. I miss 90s shows. On Due South, it's taken casually that the main character's dead father will show up, crack jokes, and then leave, without affecting the plot. On Northern Exposure, everyone thinks it's completely normal to have their boring lives invaded by mystical forces that live in the woods. If the weird stuff in this episode throws you for a loop, remember that it's a product of its time, a time when television was breaking new ground.

Don't overlook the details. Notice that in one of Nick's hallucinations you can hear Rebecca's song ("Fan Kill") but now a man is singing it. I can't tell for sure, but I'm 99 percent certain that's Geraint Wyn Davies. The mirroring of their lives is so complete that now Nick is singing her song about being alone in a dark world. That's quite a lot of work for a weekly TV show.

And it's downright chilling when Nick watches each of those Stepford families, which have been filmed in a nostalgic style, spending time on the beach or at picnics like perfect slices of Americana. It's bad enough Nick has to be outside of those normal lives, but they each stop and leer at him, making sure he feels unwelcome. Nick isn't just on the other side of the glass, he's shunned. Like the creature of evil he is. Davies does a masterful job portraying Nick Knight's struggle as society's pariah.

Of course, my favorite part is the intro, the wtf greasy spoon where Nick tries to eat french fries, only to find the ketchup is blood. And the southern-speaking waitress who handed it to him is actually Janette, being a total hottie in her dorky diner getup. And, naturally, La Croix plays the role of the soda jerk. It's the best scene ever.

(Is Deborah Duchene, who plays Janette, also doing the southern voice before we see her face? Hard to say. But Deborah did a great southern accent in a movie called Whale Music, so maybe so.)

But the most satisfying moment is the very, very end, when Nick spins around and pumps his fist in the air. Not only does it look cool, but it's happening in the place where he experienced some of his hallucinations. Maybe saving Rebecca taught him a lesson, that being a vampire hasn't stolen all of his life as long as he's helping others. Detective Nick Knight is no longer at the mercy of this shadow realm. He's dancing through it and finding himself.


"I think my dad listens to that band."

"What do you think it's like up there?"

"Who would ever want to be me?"

Little Bites:

-Does Rebecca look familiar? That's Tracey Cook. She's also Alma, one of the vampires who hangs around the Raven and once seduced Schanke. Coincidentally, her first role was on a TV show called Knightwatch.

-The diner scene looks like the same place where they filmed a very similar scene (but without the weird stuff) in episode 18, "Feeding the Beast."

-Wasting time: Nick sits around in his apartment. It's night time, so I'm not sure why he's acting like he's stuck indoors. It's also an odd placement for this scene; he just left the coroner's office in a hurry and is about to follow an important lead, but he stopped at his apartment first so he could brood, which involved climbing up to a high window ledge and looking sad. As I've mentioned, these scenes were necessary to make the show fit international time slots, but by now this episode has shown us a few music videos and it's starting to feel like late night VH1.

-Nick says he went to Woodstock with... wait for it... The Grateful Dead. That's funny. But, like so many other celebrity sightings on the show, I have a really hard time believing a vampire could get to Woodstock and hang out with people and never step into sunlight.

Final Analysis: Compelling mystery with very unique storytelling. I could nitpick a few things, and some scenes look corny by today's standards, but I'm overwhelmed by the ambition. This is a one-of-a-kind episode you'll never see again, and I love that. Five out of five electric guitars that aren't plugged in.

Adam D. Jones is a writer, historian, and undefeated cat wrestler. He's also something of a washed up rockstar himself, having recently broken something in a hotel room.


  1. Spike went to Woodstock, too, so vampires must have been everywhere. He fed on a flower person and spent the next six hours watching his hand move. :)


  2. A ... great episode? Probably would not work more than once, but yes very stylish and imaginative. So interesting to watch that I overlooked the killer backup singer being both out of her mind and almost entirely unexplained.

  3. "It's also an odd placement for this scene"
    That's my only "issue" with some the filler (actual filler) scenes lol. They don't always come during an expected downtime. And I put quotes around "issue" because I find the jarring-ness kind of amusing. Also at a relaxed pace I genuinely like the "intermission" feel of them sometimes.
    But yeah like you appreciated, this episode really feels like it had a tremendous amount of work put into it... you could just feel it. Very commendable


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