Counting SheepScheduled for November 29, 1997; aired scatteringly March 8, 1998
Anthony's favorite episode :) and a fab showcase for Kate/Naomi Watts. The concept of going inside a serial killer's dreams was revisited later in the Jennifer Lopez flick The Cell, but tight pace of the action, the creepy visuals, and Naomi's performance as Kate make this one worth it. This ep was titled "Flowers of Death" on the German DVD. The guest stars were: Patrick Kilpatrick as Conrad Phibes, Jeff Doucette as Det. Burke, Romy Rosemont as Det. Fusco, and Michael Watson as Steve. It was written by David S. Goyer, and directed by horror filmmaker William Malone.
(A warning: this is one of the episodes I have not seen first-hand-- the first few scenes were attached onto a Sleepwalkers tape I bought, but the tape ran out about ten minutes in. So my following synopsis will be uneven, at best. :)
A guy is perusing the flowers in a greenhouse. He engages the redheaded lady florist in small talk.... all the while mentally envisioning murdering her. Meanwhile, a group of suits is approaching him. He beats a hasty exit, but the suits-- a team of plainclothes police-- give chase. The man runs outside the flower shop, grabs the florist as a hostage-- and is shot in the head by the male member of the police force, detective Burke.
There's a beauty shot of Kate standing on the edge of a rooftop, gazing down at the sunset-lit cityscape of Vancouver. She asks Ben whether he's ever dreamt of falling. Falling dreams are thought to cause real-life death, but Kate assures him that this is a myth. Dying has no consequence in dreams, and jumping off the building will not harm them, as long as they are completely in control. (They're sleepwalking, in case you didn't guess.) She urges Ben to join her in falling backward off the building-- and they land, unhurt, in an underground cave, the walls of which are painting with aboriginal drawings. Kate relates how her brother disappeared in a cave just like this when she was a child. She comes to this place now in her dreams-- it's the same cave that was locked and boarded in the first episode. Now she "gives" these surroundings to Ben, telling him he must use everything he's been taught as a sleepwalker to find his way out of this dream. Ben ponders, then comes up with an idea straight outta Beetlejuice-- he draws a door on the cave wall, opens it-- and wakes up.
As Ben gets up, Burke and Fusco, the plainclothes cops who were chasing the killer at the beginning now enter the Institute. They're old friends of Nathan's, having worked on a previous case together. They inform him that they've got a much worse case-- "a nightmare". The killer, Conrad Phibes, is in fact a serial killer-- all redheaded women, all of whom he buried in shallow graves, after freezing them to death and blinding them. He met all his victims at the flower shop. He's now in the hospital, close to death from being shot. The police tell Nathan that Phibes' last victim may still be alive somewhere-- will Nathan and the team go into the killer's mind, to find clues as to the victim's whereabouts?
The team puts together their game plan. Nathan points out that since Phibes is mentally damaged, they can take control of the dream from the get-go. They choose the flower shop as the location to meet him, since he frequented it, and it's the last place he'll remember before he was shot. Kate decides to go into the dream as a potential "victim"-- a woman whom Phibes will see as his next target. Kate hopes that he will "kidnap" her and take her where he took all his other victims-- a path the team will retrace in the waking world, with the hoped-for result being that they find the final victim. (Here's where my tape ran out... just as it's getting interesting! The remaining scenes will be described from screenshots (and descriptions) my friend Anthony was kind enough to provide us with.)
Kate and Ben enter the dream flower shop. Kate is now a distinct redhead, and very vampily dressed. The entire dream is cast in vibrant off-colors; when she is approached by Phibes, he's got spookily neon green eyes. (Gotta love those contacts....) Kate strikes up friendly chat with the killer, who then takes her for a ride in his van. During this sequence, the lettering on all the highway signs are reversed-- a common signal dreamers can use to "realize" that they are in fact dreaming. Kate relays the path to Nathan and the detectives in the waking world, via her data glove.
Things get dangerous very fast when Phibes realizes that he is dreaming! (Maybe it was those pesky signs.) He immediately takes control, tying Kate up. He casts Ben into the midst of a huge, beautiful outdoor labyrinth, which Ben can't find his way out of. Phibes then drives Kate to what appears to be his greenhouse. After "blinding" Kate (her eyes are erased from her face!) Phibes reveals that he has a partner-- who turns out to be Burke, one of the detectives that was chasing him in the flower shop. At the same time, in the real world, Nathan and the cops have followed Kate's leads to a defunct mortuary-- where Burke turns on them, pulling a gun.
Burke turns out to have had a hand in killing and mutilating Phibes' victims. He shot Phibes in the flower shop, because it was clear the killer was about to be arrested, and Burke didn't want him squealing about their bloody partnership. He shoots the lady cop, and then tries to shoot Nathan, but Nathan gets the gun, after a struggle, and manages to shoot Burke.
Meanwhile, in the dream, Kate is trying hard to protect herself and deal with taking down Phibes, who's ready to kill her. Kate takes on the faces of each of the women Phibes killed, forcing him to face what he's done. Phibes, consumed with rage and perhaps even fear at seeing his victims, suffers a stroke, which is enough to seal his fate. He's got one last trick for the road, though: telling Kate he'll be with her in her dreams, he lodges some "thing" inside her (visible to us as glowing green energy that he pushes into her chest). Then he dies. Kate wakes safely in the real world (Ben does too), and they look down on the now-dead killer in the pod.
In the final scenes, Nathan and Kate pay a visit to Det. Fusco, recuperating from her gunshot wound in the hospital. They were able to rescue Phibes' final victim as well. And Kate and Ben visit the real-world counterpart of the rooftop ledge they jumped from in the first dream. Kate is no longer as confident as she was in that dream; she's thinking about what Phibes said.... a threat that must seem doubly dangerous, seeing as how one of the team (Nathan to be exact) already has an angry maybe-ghost haunting his nightmares. Ben, noting her depressed look, offers to "count sheep" -- stay over at her house. Kate refuses, assuring him she can handle any nightmares alone.... but nightmares are indeed what come, when she finally does manage to fall asleep in her room that night.
After being told that Naomi Watts had the starring role in the horror film The Ring, I rented it to see how she fared. I won't spoil the movie here (very frightening flick; you should definitely rent it, but don't watch it alone) but ever since, I continue to find striking similarities between it and some of the mood-setting landscapes and special effects that were used in Sleepwalkers. This episode in particular has a lot in common with the film. There's a billboard on the road that Kate and Phibes drive, featuring an ad with a group of people, the faces of which are all warped -- similar to how photos of the "cursed" soon-to-be victims in The Ring were twisted.
Some of this ep's exceptional mood and style may be owed to the pedigree of its director. William Malone, a bonafide horror filmmaker instead of the usual TV-ep vendor, directed the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill, the original version of which starred horror monarch Vincent Price. Of course, in 1971 Price was also known as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, from which this episode's Conrad Phibes may take his name.
In 2002, several Sleepwalkers episode were released on Region 1 DVD in Germany. If you have a player that takes that region's DVDs, check out our links page for places to buy them.
All the Sleepwalkers images on this page were very graciously provided by Anthony Larme-- thanks much, guy! :) Please go visit Anthony's homepage; he has a beautiful tribute to Naomi Watts, who portrayed Kate on the series.
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