A Mystery Notebook

“How far would you go?” The Booth at the End asks us in its tagline, how far would you go to get whatever you want, to achieve your goals, to fulfill your dreams, to satisfy your deepest desires? That’s the premise of this petit Canadian show, another little gem in our TV landscape.

As a dark side of In TreatmentThe Booth at the End is a study of the human psique. A man (Xander Berkeley) with a notebook sitting in a diner offers you to make a deal: he can make anything you want happen, sorry, he can make you make anything you want happen, in exchange, you will have to fulfill a task that can vary from make 3 people cry to… kill 22 persons in plain sight. There’s also another condition, you need to come back and tell the man how you are proceeding with the task, he asks you for a confession so he wan write it in his pad, making The Booth at the End a show that features murders, deaths, births, religion and sex, although they remain unseen. You don’t really watch The Booth at the End, you listen to it, like an oral tale. A hidden novel.

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– What do you want? – I want you to love me

With a mise en scène in-between In Treatment (we are always in the same room) and Twin Peaks (that room is an unsettling diner) and a touch of Edward Hopper, this short series of only ten episodes, divided in two seasons, works with elemental ideas: good versus evil, God versus Devil, fate versus coincidence, fantasy versus reality. Its episodes divided in short segments of 2-3 minutes depending on what characters visits the man, making of this fragmentation one of its broadcasting virtues. The show, available on the online platform Hulu, fits perfectly on a mobile or tablet screen due to the predominance of close-ups and the briefness of its segments, and the importance of the word over the image.

The Man is the writer and the producer of a hidden TV show. He not only records every movement in his notebook, he, or is it his notebook?, also makes different stories collide. Every wish has a corresponding task that is apparently written in this object. The object becomes thus a creator of stories and purposefully makes the different character meet: a man has to kill a little girl in order to his son get cured, another has to protect the same girl for three weeks, an unseen version of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia where we mistake coincidence for fate. The book is an explicit variation of JJ Abrams’ mystery box: in the same way we never see what’s in The Booth at the End, we never see what’s in the notebook but it is the reason why the show moves forward. An excuse to gather our thoughts, our fears and our secrets, and make of them a story to be told.

J.

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