After a wild and wonderful ride, we’ve arrived at the season-two finale of R&B genius R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet. What’s next for the Pied Piper? If not prison, then a fall tour, apparently. Chapter 22 is available now at IFC.com and we’ve asked performance artist Neal Medlyn and Kenny Mellman (Kiki & Herb) creators of the musical Kenny Mellman + Neal Medlyn = Robert Kelly, to help us say good-bye … for now.
Recap: The entire cast of characters returns, as gossip spreads about which of them have contracted the mysterious “package.”
Mellman: It ends like Bye Bye Birdie begins, which is just bizarre — the references that this man makes! But instead of just idle high-school gossip, chapter 22 ends with just about every character thinking of the possibility that they have been infected with HIV. Think about it: What other mass-marketed product even mentions AIDS? And here, R. Kelly has every character he so lovingly voiced and created through the 21 preceding chapters, getting the one phone call they never, ever wanted.
It’s as if, after 22 chapters, R. Kelly is thinking about just killing them all off. It’s a season finale like in the old days, where, at the beginning of the next season, you’d find out that the previous one was just a dream. He’s written a season-finale cliffhanger to a song cycle! He’s a genius. I heart R. Kelly!
Medlyn: Holy shit! I had no idea this was going to wrap up this way — overlapping paranoid AIDS phone calls! I want to amend something I said at the very beginning of all this: R. Kelly isn’t the new Cole Porter, he’s the new Stephen Sondheim!
It all reminds me of the first R. Kelly song I really fell in love with: “Imagine That.” I thought it sounded weird and sexy and brilliant, then he threw in a few off-the-wall things like monkey noises, at which point I realized he was a brilliant maniac. But the song wasn’t over. He started screaming “Say my name!” in a distorted voice and cymbals and guitars and all crashed into some heavy-metal sexplosion. And when it was over, I realized my life would never be the same. I feel much the same now, after realizing where we’ve arrived after 22 episodes. And we’re really only, maybe, two-thirds of the way to wherever it is that R. is trying to lead us. Oh, the things the future holds!
Trapped in the Closet: Chapter 22 [IFC.com]