Room 104’s “Avalanche” Sees Bautista Shine As a Former Wrestler With A Fractured Memory

“This brain. A lot of abuse through the years. Don’t work so good anymore.”

The beauty of the Room 104 series on HBO is that one hotel room can be its self-contained universe. Where some characters confront darker parts of themselves or even the room itself takes on a different environment. This setting is perfect for the theme of pro wrestling. There are requirements of suspension of disbelief and larger-than-life storytelling. Real people who are taking on personas that aren’t real, but the damage to their bodies very much is. In Avalanche, this theme takes on a couple of forms that are both intriguing and heartbreaking.

Doug (Dave Bautista) is an ex-professional wrestler who is speaking with Tamara (Natalie Woolams-Torres)- she is presumed to be a therapist. They are both trying to get to the bottom of a terrible accident and the episode is trying to recall this through Doug’s distressed synapses. Director Ross Partridge shows the first part of this story through doll therapy – which is creative considering the wrestler context. Many people can recall playing out matches with action figures when they were kids – being your own personal booker. Doll therapy is also used as a tool for Alzheimer patients.

Photo Credit: HBO

Writer Mark Duplass gives you enough story, but also leaves things ambiguous for you to come to your own interpretations. Dual meanings are very present throughout the episode – as well as points of view. Avalanche has both physical characterizations and voiceovers. It’s not so much painting Doug as an unreliable narrator, but showing what traumatic experiences can do to our psyche. When Doug and Tamara are talking, it’s within a black backdrop where you see only their faces. The nature of the talk will lead viewers to believe that this is a therapy session, but this can also be within Doug’s mind. His conscious and subconscious working together to piece together things. He speaks about a Dr. Destruction, first described as a wrestling foe. He recalls the match result one way and when a discussion is played from the week before, he says the opposite.

The ‘doctor’ takes on many forms throughout the episode. He’s a wrestler, his father, and a random person in a bar that Doug may have assaulted. In this exploration, this leads Raw Dog Avalanche to see young Doug. In a scene, Avalanche does his finishing move on young Doug and injures him. There’s an anger that is present within Doug and it manifests in his wrestling character. Going back to the doll fight, Dr. Disrespect could have very well been the disruptive side of Doug that gets the best of him. This is what leads him to the bar fight. Avalanche as a wrestling character could also be personified as a protector for the younger version of Doug. His kid version asks for Avalanche’s autograph, is in awe of how strong he’s become, and wants him to do his signature move on him.

It’s Bautista’s performance that shines in this episode and makes it come to life. He’s linked to action roles like Drax of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies or comedy like Stuber, but Bautista gets to display his dramatic acting chops in his episode. You can tell that he draws from his own experiences as a retired wrestler and the miles it can put on physical and mental states. He conveys the pain and confusion of a man who is trying to remember the things that have happened to him. This comes to a heartbreaking impasse in the bar sequence when Avalanche cries out in desperation and it’s realized that he is a victim of abuse by his father.

In Avalanche, the only real certain thing is that Doug’s father did something to him in that hotel room repeatedly. Avalanche jumps timeframes, settings, it’s messy, and all of that adds to the sadness of a man that’s trying to come to some bit of closure. Some of the last shots we see in the episode is of him walking into Room 104 with a cane and recalling the incidents of his childhood with anguish. Doug is beaten down physically and emotionally – ‘Raw Dawg Avalanche’ has departed and we see a shell of the man that’s left. And that’s the tragedy. First, in that, he may forget the details about this in a week. Also, in arriving at that painful memory, he’s alone. The episode fades to black with Doug saying hello twice with nobody to answer back. Room 104’s veil of fantasy is lifted and we are left with someone broken in more ways than one.

Photo Credit: HBO

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Author: Murjani Rawls View all posts by
Journalist, Self-published author of five books, podcast host, and photographer since 2014, Murjani Rawls has been stretching the capabilities of his creativity and passions, Rawls has as a portfolio spanning through many mediums including music, television, movies, and more. Operating out of the New York area, Rawls has photographed over 200+ artists spanning many genres, written over 700 articles ranging displaying his passionate aspirations to keep evolving as his years in media continue.

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