Room 104 season 2, episode 2 review: Mr. Mulvahill


After a disturbing second season premiere, the second Room 104 episode stars Rainn Wilson and ups the suspense as well as the suspension of disbelief.

A man sits alone in the second episode of Room 104 and trumpets Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. He’s pretty good. We hear Jim Herbert’s (Rainn Wilson) letter to Mr. Mulvahill (Frank Birney).

He was an ordinary child, with ordinary aspirations to lead an ordinary life. But everything changed when he met Mulvahill in the 3rd grade.

Jim asks Mulvahill to meet him in Room 104 and we see him clearing up the room in anticipation of Mulvahill’s arrival. His life was obviously greatly impacted by this teacher.

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There’s a knock on the door. Jim opens it and double-checks that it is the man of the moment. After an awkward exchange wherein it is evident that Mulvahill doesn’t remember Jim at all, Jim starts playing Ode to Joy on the trumpet. Except, he is completely off key! Mulvahill is too polite to say anything.

Jim recounts the day that changed his life. It was 1978 and Mulvahill wanted to finalize the music for the school production. All the kids wanted to play Star Wars since the film had been released the year before, but Mulvahill brushed the suggestion aside. Its evident Mulvahill remembers none of this.

Jim continues his reminisces in Room 104, reminding Mulvahill that he told the students about Beethoven – a successful artist with a tragic personal life, which was compounded by him losing his hearing later in life.

Ode to Joy was his final symphony and Jim is grateful that Mulvahill introduced him to this music and to Beethoven’s story so that he could know that no matter how much despair and isolation a person may suffer, everyone has the opportunity to end their life with an Ode to Joy.

Troubled by this statement, Mulvahill tries to leave, but Jim interrogates him some more. Does he remember what happened after all the children left? Mulvahill asked Jim to stay back and they played Ode to Joy together. And then something happened. Four minutes changed Jim’s life forever, does Mulvahill remember?

The suspense is killing me! What was it that happened? Mulvahill doesn’t remember. Disappointed, Jim sits back and composes himself before thanking Mulvahill for coming.

The teacher may think he’s safe, but he isn’t. The moment Mulvahill turns his back, Jim knocks him unconscious with his trumpet case.

We see Mulvahill tied up and Jim tells him that he’s booked all the other rooms near Room 104, so no one will hear if Mulvahill screams. Jim cannot understand how a moment that was so seminal for him could be commonplace for Mulvahill. Ugh, tell us already!

Jim returns to narrating the events of that fateful day. Mulvahill was encouraging, telling Jim ‘I believe that anything is possible in this world’. It made Jim believe that he could make something of his life. But then, Mulvahill ‘erased it’ by teleporting?

Yes, we heard that right. This is Room 104, after all. Apparently, Mulvahill teleported 30 feet from the piano to the desk. But, when Jim asked him about it, the man denied it. This back and forth exchange took place for 4 minutes. After Mulvahill’s vehement denials, Jim started to doubt himself and that has affected him his entire life.

This secret gnawed away at Jim. He couldn’t be close to anyone. He confessed to his college girlfriend and it didn’t go well. He talked to psychiatrists, therapists and took medication. Jim thought he would make something of his life, but instead, he ended up working a menial job and just ‘gets by’.

So, why wait 40 years to confront Mulvahill about it? Jim has been thinking about the truth for years, worrying that he could have been mistaken – perhaps he blinked or had a blackout. Maybe he’s actually crazy. But, if he confronted Mulvahill again, how could he ensure history wouldn’t be repeated?

He could never figure out a strategy to come up with to get to the truth, till now. Jim’s plan is to threaten Mulvahill with a baseball bat. Mulvahill has 60 seconds before Jim bashes his head in with a baseball bat. Jim starts swinging while Mulvahill tries to talk him out of it. Jim begins the countdown. Mulvahill begs for his life and for Jim’s salvation. He starts screaming for help, but there’s no one around. Jim’s countdown ends.

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The director slows it down as we watch the baseball bat swing towards Mulvahill. There is fear in Mulvahill’s eyes. Will Jim turn into a murderer? At the very last moment, with the bat inches from his face, Mulvahill disappears. Overjoyed, Jim crumbles to the ground in tears.