The only thing connecting any two episodes of Room 104 are the people behind the camera and the room itself. Created by Mark and Jay Duplass with executive producer Sydney Fleischmann, every episode of the HBO anthology series tells a different story with different actors set in the same nondescript American hotel room. Aside from the occasional Easter egg, there’s nothing to connect them, but in the Season 3 premiere, Room 104 fans finally get the one thing they’ve been waiting for: an origin story.
“We thought about it for Season 2 for sure,” Mark Duplass tells Inverse. “I think we thought it would be such a great way to start Season 3 in a place that you kind of were not expecting it to. We’ve been in one room for 24 episodes and we thought it would be a good time to try and shake things up a little bit.”
The Season 3 premiere, titled “The Plot,” takes place on the plot of empty land where the hotel will soon be built. There, a pair of siblings reconnect after many years apart following the death of their father. The sister (Christine Woods) has plans to open a hotel, and her brother (Luke Wilson) happily agrees to invest his part of the inheritance. Not every episode of Room 104 veers into horror, but this one does, and without spoiling anything, I’ll note that by the end of “The Plot” there’s at least one dead body sprawled across the dirt that will become the show’s hotel setting.
So is Room 104 (and the entire hotel) haunted? That might explain some of the things we’ve seen happen over the past two seasons, but according to Mark Duplass, it’s not that simple.
“We’re not saying that in particular,” he says, “but one of the most common comments everyone has is some version of ‘What da fuck wrong with dis room?!’ So we thought that our origin story should at least incorporate the type of energy that we’ve come to expect from the room. Something a little off about it.”
Another Season 3 episode, “Itchy” verges into the supernatural as well, telling the story of a man (Arturo Castro, Broad City) who books Room 104 to investigate a chronic rash and discovers that it may have extraterrestrial origins. It might seem like a strange concept, but it’s actually an idea Duplass has wanted to bring to the series right from the start.
After all, what’s more synonymous with a cheap hotel room than a questionable rash?
“It was one of those areas of interest when you’re telling a hotel room story: hygiene,” he says. “There’s weird shit in these rooms. So the idea of like a rash happening in the room felt like a big idea that we wanted to get.”
With Season 3, Room 104 finally checked off that box, but there’s at least one more hotel-adjacent theme the show still needs to tackle. “What’s the prostitution story gonna be?” Duplass says. “We haven’t even found that yet because we want to do it justice.”
The showrunner also tells Inverse that Room 104 Season 4 is not only confirmed, but they just finished shooting. So it seems fans will have to wait until at least Season 5 for the show to tackle hotel prostitution (assuming there is a Season 5).
For as long as the show does run, Duplass and Fleischmann are confident they’ll keep coming up with ideas. Not just because the show’s format makes it possible to do almost anything (don’t believe me? Try watching the Season 2 episode “Hungry”), but because it means every episode of the genre-defying show begins with a mystery.
“I think that unsettling piece of it is just inherent to the format of the show,” Fleischmann says. “You turn it on, you don’t know what the episode is going to be. You don’t know if it’s going to be a drama. You never know where it’s going to go in the first minute or two. So it’s when you first tune in you’re immediately unsettled because you have no bearings yet.”
And if they ever do run out of good ideas, Duplass has a pitch for what could be most unsettling Room 104 episode ever.
“My wife always says that her favorite Room 104 episode is one that will never get made,” he says, “but she really is begging me to make it. It’s just like, you see a couple come into the room and nothing is happening. They’re just slowly unpacking and the tension is building. What’s going to happen? Is it going to be a romance? Is he going to kill her? Are they aliens? What’s gonna happen!? And then, 22 minutes goes by and nothing. It’s just an Andy Warhol episode.”
Room 104 airs Fridays at 11 p.m. Eastern on HBO.