Welcome to another edition of Going Antiquing, a special column that only comes around when a new Friday the 13th is on the horizon. This Friday, January 13 is the occasion in question, and so The Moon is a Dead World will venture on a week-long journey through the annals of Friday the 13th: The Series, also known as Friday’s Curse. In the past, I’ve covered the first eleven episodes of the series; this time, we’ll be taking a look at some classic episodes recommended by avid viewers. This episode was recommended by reader Joseph Mello.
“Tails I Live, Heads You Die” is a banner episode for Friday the 13th: The Series. That’s not just because it’s a solid episode altogether, but also because it cements some throughlines in the overarching narrative of the series. It addresses some common issues that have cropped up along the show’s progression, including why Micki and Ryan have, over the course of thirty episodes, not decided to call it quits on their detective work tracking down cursed objects. It presents Ryan as a more sympathetic person, who could often be described as aloof and sometimes acerbic. It gives Friday the 13th: The Series arguably more stakes than any previous episode. In short, it works better than most of the series’ episodes, and this is only the fourth episode of season two.
This hour finds Micki, Ryan, and Jack investigating a witch coven led by by a taxidermist named Sylvan (Colin Fox), who is looking to raise the dead by using the Coin of Ziocles to transfer life force from a living body to the disciples of Satan. Sylvan has to raise three people from the dead before his conjuring of Satan can succeed, and he gets through two of three before Jack and Ryan jump in to stop him.
While most episodes of Friday the 13th: The Series aren’t particularly frightening, “Tails I Live, Heads You Die” manages to present some fairly spooky imagery – namely in the form of an underground cavern beneath Sylvan’s taxidermy shop, one where Satan worshipers gather to chant and say the Lord’s Prayer backwards. The episode is dingy and dark, with director Mark Sobel focusing on few settings besides the cavern and the Curious Goods shop. It’s a solid way to evoke atmosphere, and “Tails I Live, Heads You Die” is draped in darkness thanks to these choices.
More than that, though, is the danger inherent in pursuing Sylvan, who basically has an unstoppable force at his disposal: he flips the Coin of Ziocles, and it blasts a coin-sized burn mark in the victim’s forehead, sucking their soul into the coin for use in conjuring the dead. There’s no way to stop this event; as the title suggests, it’s a damning situation with not way out. And for Micki, “Tails I Live, Heads You Die” is a mortal episode indeed.
That’s because she ends up a victim of the Coin, to be used to summon the last disciple. There’s always danger in tracking down cursed objects, but Friday the 13th: The Series actually documents the loss of one of the cast members, at least for half the episode; Ryan and Jack, distraught with Micki’s death, have to figure out how to stop Sylvan without her. It’s an emotional episode tinged with a little bit of melodrama (overacting from John D. LeMay hinders the moment), but ultimately “Tails I Live, Heads You Die” finds a way to bring Micki back without it feeling like a cop-out. (And at least they made Robey look pretty ballin’ throughout.)
In a twist that I’ll admit I did not see coming, Ryan makes a mask of the dead woman’s face and plasters it onto Micki’s, so when the Coin is placed on her forehead, it brings Micki back to life instead of Satan’s last disciple. The ingenuity of the situation, though, comes from the episode’s focus on Ryan’s art – in the beginning he’s sculpting a bust of Micki, a subtle reference to the episode’s later predicament.
Even better, though, is “Tails I Live, Heads You Die”‘s characterization of Ryan in particular, who has, for the most part, blindly followed Jack into a supernatural world he never would have experienced if not for his inheritance. After Micki’s death, Ryan renounces his commitment to
Sparkle Motion tracking down cursed objects, stating that he’s done after they find the Coin of Ziocles. As a fourth episode in season two, that’s clearly not going to be a lasting decision; however, it does foreshadow Ryan’s eventual end in season 3.
“Tails I Live, Heads You Die” is truly one of Friday the 13th: The Series‘ best episodes, one that forgoes the usual formula for a chaotic but believable storyline that even kills Micki off for a period of time. It doesn’t get much better than this, and I thank Joseph Mello for bringing this wonderful episode to my attention.