Sophie wakes up in a strange room. She remembers being at a club but nothing else. There’s a masked man in the room looking at various instruments. She tries to get away, but he stops her, giving her a paralyzing injection. He carries her to a workbench where he puts plaster on her face to make a mask. The Maskmaker mentions wanting to see her true face. He leaves the eyes for last, forcing her to watch him make the mask as she suffocates.
Chapter One: Washed Up
Detective Mal Fallon of the San Francisco Police Department plays Texas Hold ‘Em in a bar in the Mission District with Diego when Detective Ken Greene enters. Captain Yeong wants Detective Fallon to head the Maskmasker Task Force despite previously being on suspension. In the car, Captain Maria Yeong gives him the details. Detective Blackwell was heading the case with the killer was only targeting prostitutes. Now that the third victim is a college girl, she wants the best on the job. All the victims were young, Caucasian women who washed up dead. In addition, they all had plaster masks molded to their faces. While they haven’t positively identified her, her student ID says that she’s Sophie Patterson of Stanford University. The first two victims were killed by strangulation. There were no signs of struggle or sexual assault but did have chloroform in their systems.
At the crime scene, Mal meets Special Agent Natara Williams of the FBI. She’s helping with the case as a profiler. Mal notes that this victim doesn’t have any signs of strangulation. They talk with Eric Mills, the forensic technician and learn that she likely died of suffocation. In addition, they note a stamp of Zodiac animals on her arm that Mal identifies as belonging to the Zen Club in Chinatown.
Mal and Nat head to the club. On the way, they argue about whether hitting the streets and using gut instincts is better than profiling. Special Agent Williams profiles Mal. She thinks he’s descended from Malachi Fallon, first Chief of Police of San Francisco. She says he has an innate distrust of women likely from an absent mother. She also thinks he was a rebel as a youth, causing him to do his job without respecting authority. Mal admits that she’s close but wrong about his mother. He responds by giving her his reaction to her. The FBI branch in their area is working a big case on the Flores Cartel, which means she’s likely being punished. She admits that it’s true but doesn’t reveal what she did.
At the Zen Club, they talk with the owner Milo. He remembers the girl because she’s a regular and notes that she was talking with Jared, the bartender. He calls Jared over who bolts out the door. Mal and Nat chase him. During the chase, Nat almost gets hit by a bus before Mal pushes her out of the way. He manages to catch up to Jared and tackles him. He finds a baggie of white pills in his pocket, but he refuses to talk without his lawyer. They bring him into custody.
Mal and Nat talk to Jared and his lawyer, who recommends that Jared stay quiet. However, Jared starts talking when he learns that they’re dealing with murder. He admits that he knows Sophie; they hooked up in the past. She came to him for drugs, but he refused to sell to her because she already seemed on some substance. She walked toward the back exit and then disappeared. They call the owner of the Zen Club, and he confirms that Jared was working at the time of death.
Detective Fallon and Special Agent Williams part ways for the night. Detective Ken Greene talks to Mal for a few minutes, mentioning that Mal’s wife, Sandra, must be happy that he’s back at work. He asks how they’re doing, and Mal nervoulsy says they’re doing okay.
Mal gets to his apartment, which is dark and full of boxes. A message on his answering machine from Sandra mentions that she’ll come pick up her boxes next week.
Chapter Two: The Masks We Wear
In her hotel room, Williams gets a call from District Chief Blaire. He tells her that she’s being watched closely after what happened in Miami. For a moment, Williams remembers. There was a small apartment, high heat, a crying infant, gunfire, and a cry of pain. Williams asks about Agent Mallory’s recovery, and Blaire says that he’s in physical therapy but probably won’t walk again.
Williams and Fallon enter the police station, and Williams gives a report on the profile. The Maskmaker is probably between 20 and 40, an introvert, highly intelligent, and in a position to access a hospital or clinic. They head down to the lab to talk to Eric Mills. He asks Williams for her name, having missed it earlier, and is surprised that a woman who appears of South-Asian descent would have an Anglo-Saxon name. Mills proceeds with his findings: bruising supports Fallon’s theory she suffocated due to the mask. Amy Chen, the technical analyst and data specialist, calls out for Mal. She’s found that the type of plaster in the mask came from Southern Italy, and only one store in the local area sells it – Italia Imports and Exports. Their website says they deal with exotic masks as well.
The two head to the store where they meet the owner, Lance Boggs. Something isn’t right about him, and Fallon gets aggressive. However, Williams pulls him outside and says to play along. She believes Boggs is so narcissistic that he’ll open up to her. She goes back in alone and talks with him. He shows her three masks, asking which she likes more. She chooses a white plaster mask of a young woman’s face. Boggs explains that that’s the L’Inconnue de la Seine, originally created by a pathologist at the Paris Moruge in the 1880s who found a young woman who drowned so beautiful that he preserved her face by making the mask. Williams notes the similarities between that story and the Maskmaker, and Boggs agrees but points out that Sophie was only dumped overboard after the mask was made. After a slight struggle, Fallon and Williams arrest him, but he reveals that he didn’t kill her; he’s just been talking with the killer.
The Maskmaker had contacted him online, wanting to sell the mask. Fallon decides to pose as Boggs and meet for the deal. However, after getting out of the car and approaching, the other car took off. They chase him, forcing him into an accident. They find that the suspect is Marvin Celemente and that Fallon knows him. Marvin was a crooked cop who took bribes. Soon after, a secretary in their case file library reveals that she was dating Marvin and that she was feeding him information about the case so he could make a fake mask and try to sell it for profit, passing it off as one of the Maskmaker’s masks.
Williams heads to the lab, where Eric needs to get her DNA on file so they can filter it from the DNA they find at crime scenes. He’s not there, but Amy Chen agrees to do it. She mentions being romantically interested in a coworker, and Williams deduces that it’s Eric. Amy asks she’d ever been involved with a coworker. Williams says that she was once and that it didn’t end well; he was shot.
Elsewhere, Brittany Emerson, a high school sophomore, is at a beach party after lying to her parents about where she is. She steps away from the party near some quiet bushes so she can call her mom, telling her a lie that she’s studying. When she gets off the phone, the Maskmasker grabs her. She puts up a fight, but he gives her an injection in the throat. He says that she looks just like her, beautiful, disgusting, a stain. He goes on to say that she might be the one, but that he needs to see her true face.
Chapter Three: Bad Medicine
Mal, Nat, and Captain Yeong stand on the beach where they found the body of the slain high school girl. Captain Yeong seems especially upset to Natala. Mal informs her that it’s getting personal for her because she has a daughter who’s about the same age. They notice that this body doesn’t show any signs of being in the water. It didn’t wash up here; it was placed here. The police identify the victim as Brittany Emerson. They head to her house to talk to her family. Her father, Timothy Emerson, greets them, explaining that she called the night before to say she was working on a school project, and that was the last they heard of her. Next they talk to Brittany’s twelve-year-old sister, Anna. She admits to them that Brittany was at a party on East Beach. This makes them realize that the beach wasn’t simply the location where the body was dumped; it’s the crime scene.
Amy Chen and Eric Mills examine the scene for evidence. The detectives told them she was likely attacked near the fire. Amy thinks this is unlikely due to the visibility. They begin bagging bottles to take DNA samples when Amy notices some secluded bushes about thirty feet away. She discovers torn clothing and blood, realizing that this was the location of the struggle. She finds a vial and believes it to be the drug the Maskmaker used. They find that it’s syccinylcholine, “a powerful neuromuscular blocker.” From the batch number, they know it matches confiscated items from Dr. Christian Rose. A few years earlier, Dr. Rose was performing illegal plastic surgery. Nat believes he matches the profile of the killer, but Mal doesn’t think it’s him.
They head to an old warehouse near the ocean that Dr. Rose owned. He used to perform his illegal surgeries there. Nat notes that it seems like a bad area, but Mal responds that it used to be much nicer, and that his dad used to take him there when he was young. Natala wonders if Mal and his dad are close. Mal says that they’re not, explaining that his dad’s serving 35 to life for corruption, racketeering, and extortion. When they get to the building, they see a muscle car in the parking lot full of bullet holes and blood. They hear screams from inside. Mal peaks through a crack and sees one person lying on his back, one person standing over him, and one of two in the back of the building. They kick in the door and enter, guns drawn.
They find Dr. Rose operating on Miguel Flores, an important family member of the Flores drug cartel. In the back are two bodyguards who point guns at Mal and Nat. Flores thinks they’re there for him, but they explain that they’ve come for Dr. Rose. Dr. Rose seems to think it’s absurd that they think he’s the Maskmaker. He pulls a gun and shoots at Mal, who fires in response, hitting him in a limb. He escapes as the bodyguards and Flores open fire. Mal and Nat dive for cover. Mal provides cover fire for Nat by shooting blindly at the bodyguards while Nat shoots a bullet straight in the center of Flores’ forehead. As one bodyguard stops firing to make a Molotov cocktail, Mal fires under a cabinet, shooting the bodyguard in the foot and causing him to drop the Molotov on himself. Mal leaves cover to look for the other bodyguard. Nat calls him, and when Mal turns around, he finds the second bodyguard holding a gun to Nat’s head. Mal shoots him above the left eyebrow, dropping him to the ground.
Outside, they get their bearings. Mal asks if Nat’s ever been in a shootout. She replies that has been, once, but that it didn’t go very well. She talks to District Chief Blaire, who’s impressed with her work. Back at HQ, Captain Yeong proceeds with the idea that Dr. Rose is the primary suspect despite Mal and Nat thinking he’s not the Maskmaker. She calls a press conference announcing him as the prime suspect. Detective Ken Greene talks with Mal and is surprised to find that he doesn’t think Dr. Rose is the killer. Mal and Nat agree that the fact that the city’s police will now all be looking for the wrong person is bad.
Chapter Four: Buried Secrets
Mal and Nat don’t think that the Maskmaker is Dr. Rose. They discuss similarities between the victims. They realize that all the victims had red hair and that he must stalk redheads before killing them. However, the last victim, Brittany, was killed on impulse. They think he must have seen the party because he was too old to have been at the party. Looking at map, they think that if he was on the cliffs in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the city’s nicest, he would have seen the party.
They had to the neighborhood where they meet a real estate agent. Mal pretends to be Charles Waldencrest and says Nat is his wife, Claudette. They ask about the safety of the neighborhood and learn that there’s a peculiar doctor who keeps very odd hours in one of the homes. They examine the home and find an empty can of plaster from Italia Imports and Exports in the crash can, giving them probable cause to enter the house. As they explore the completely empty house, the Maskmaker approaches Mal from behind to attack him. Nat opens fire but misses him. Mal falls in surprise, and Nat chases the Maskmaker into the back bedroom and down through a trapdoor. In the back of the basement, she comes upon the Maskmaker lying on the ground, barely moving, with a syringe sticking out of his arm. She removes his mask and sees Dr. Rose.
The police arrive to secure the crime scene. The basement appears to be the Maskmaker’s lair and is filled with tools, newspaper clippings, and other similar items. Outside, Nat asks Captain Yeong if she can go back to examine the basement so she can answer some unanswered questions. Yeong says she can go back tomorrow morning.
Still wired from the events of the day, Mal and Nat go out to dinner together. Mal takes her to Rip Van Winkle’s. He reveals that his great-grandfather started the restaurant after leaving the police force. After World War II, it was sold, but Sean, the owner, treats Mal very well. He hopes to one day buy it back. They trade stories and have a nice evening together. After dinner, Nat asks Mal about his wife, and he admits that she left him a month previously. He asks her what happened to her. She refuses to tell him and leaves.
That night, Dr. Rose wakes up in the hospital. Office William Rye watches him, saying that he saw what Dr. Rose did to the girls. Dr. Rose isn’t sure what he’s talking about. There’s a commotion outside, and Office Rye goes to check on it. The Maskmaker sneaks into the room and suffocates Dr. Rose.
Chapter Five: Unmasked
Mal and Nat hear that Dr. Rose was killed but proceed to examine the Maskmaker’s lair while Eric bags evidence. They find many articles about the Maskmaker killings along with some information on previous murders. They also find many photos of young redheads. Mal tells Nat that the house wasn’t owned by Dr. Rose; it was owned by Michael Resler. The only known match for that name was an accountant who died in 1998, so he believes Dr. Rose used his mob connections to purchase the house under a false identity.
There are carvings of phrases in the desk, including “We All Wear Masks,” “Face Your True Face,” and “Stain.” There’s also a scratched out carving that says “R.R.” In a lab coat pocket they find an old photograph of a young woman and a boy holding hands on a pier. They suspect they’re siblings. Their faces have been removed from the photo, the boy’s cut out and the girl’s scratched out, but the woman has red hair.
The scene flashes back to June 15th, 1988. A young boy poses with his sister. He doesn’t smile for the photo, and she gets mad at him for it, calling him a freak and picking on him. He gets upset, and his mom gets mad at him. He runs away, banging his head against a railing and drawing blood.
Nat says that most serial killers have childhood trauma and believes this could be the Maskmaker. However, Dr. Rose doesn’t have a sister. The back of the photo has an address near to their current location, so Mal decides to go investigate, and the photo is sent to Amy to analyze.
As he looks at the house, an old woman approaches who answers some questions. The house has been vacant for years. A woman, her daughter, and her son once lived there. Two children were gone, and years later the woman died. Shortly after that, a member of their family wrote to her, offering to pay her monthly to check on the house regularly and keep it up because he couldn’t bear to part with it. Mal pretends to be looking for a gas leak, and she lets him in the house. In the basement he finds many animal skulls hidden in a compartment in the wall.
The scene flashes back to December 10th, 1989. The boy is in the basement, torturing a bird. When his sister sees him, she calls him a freak and threatens to tell their mom. He says that if she does, he’ll tell her about what she does to him – about the slaps and the mask. She shoves up and leaves, turning off the light on her way out.
Back in the Maskmaker’s lair, Nat finds hastily burned papers. She can make out something like “Reb,” possibly “Rebel” or “Rebellion.” Eric asks for a word with Nat. He explains that he knows Amy talked to her and would appreciate it if Nat dissuaded her for pursuing him if she brought it up again. He continues to explain that he’s a private person and likes to keep his love life and work life separate. Nat understands.
Eric leaves to head back to the lab as Mal enters. He tells her about what he found. He also mentions that Dr. Rose grew up in Wisconsin. Mal shows Nat a ferry ticket he found dated July 18th, 1990.
Behind a mask on the wall, they find a wire leading to a small crack in the wall. Nat calls Mal who then cuts the wire. They remove the panel and find that the wire led to a pipe bomb. After bomb disposal removes it, they check what else is there and find a locked, digital safe. It would take days to crack open the safe, so Nat hopes they can guess the password.
Amy contacts Nat to let her know that when they zoomed in on the sister’s wrist in the photo, they found a bracelet that says “ebec.” Nat pieces it together with what she found earlier and enters “Rebecca” as the password, and it works! The safe contains a plastic mask sized for a child.
The scene flashes back to July 3rd, 1990. The mom is talking to a therapist in another room while the sister torments the boy. She says he’s not sick; he’s a stain, and the way to deal with a stain is to cover it up. She forces the mask on his face. She forces him to say he’s disgusting and that he wets the bed. The mother enters the room, missing the fact that the girl is tormenting her brother. She says they’re going to go on one last family vacation, and then the boy is going to go away to a place that can help him be better.
Further in the safe, Mal finds an old photo and a piece of paper. The photo appears to be of a crime scene – a young woman’s body is on a rocky shore and covered with a white sheet. In the background, they see a building with barred windows. The paper appears to be a map of the San Francisco bay with X’s where they think the Maskmaker made the kills. As they discuss the relationship between all the data, they realize that they all center around Alcatraz.
Mal and Nat call Amy and ask her to look into any murders of young women near Alcatraz in 1990. She does find a report of a woman who drowned along with suspicions of foul play. Her name was Rebecca Resler. Mal asks her to look her up, and Amy finds that her father, Michael Resler, died in 1998. Her mother died in 2000. Her brother, who’s still alive, is Brian Resler. He was institutionalized in 1991 when he was 12 and released in 2006, but there’s no other record of him. She suspects he changed his name. Mal tells her that he believes Brian is the Maskmaker. He asks if there’s a picture. Amy says no but that she can check the institution’s archives. She finds it and calls out in surprise. It’s a picture of Eric.
As Eric enters the lab, Amy quickly hangs up the phone and turns off her monitor. She acts nervous, and when Eric presses her, she gets it under control and plays it cool. Eric’s suspicions drop, and Amy goes to leave. As she does, Eric turns on her monitor, see’s his photograph, and jumps on her, injecting her with a syringe. Officer William Rye enters to talk to Amy and finds her on the ground. Eric says that she simply collapsed. Officer Rye tells Amy to focus on her breathing and tells Eric to call an ambulance. He agrees but hits Officer Rye with a chair before pulling the fire alarm. He picks up Amy and walks out, telling Captain Yeong that there was a fire and that Amy inhaled smoke. He walks out with Amy. A couple minutes later, Officer Rye comes running, explaining what really happened, but Eric and Amy are gone.
Amy concentrates on her breathing. Eric drives toward an old boat on the docks. He tells her that he thought she was different and that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. He tells her not to worry and that he won’t hurt her. He’s just going to reveal her true face.
Chapter Six: The Devil’s Island
At the station, Mal and Nat talk about what’s happened. They realize that Eric had excluded himself from the evidence (just as all investigators’ DNA isn’t considered). They also believe that Eric must have tailed them to the warehouse for the confrontation of Dr. Rose, drugged Dr. Rose, and then took his body, improvising when Mal and Nat showed up at his house. They believe Eric would be heading to Alcatraz. The Captain wants to send the Coast Guard, but Mal convinces her to let him and Nat go instead because they understand Eric. She gives them an hour and also gives Mal a flare gun he can use to call for backup. Mal and Nat strap on body armor and their guns before setting out.
On the island, Eric kills the two guards and takes Amy to the roof. Amy tries to keep Eric talking to stall him from killing her. She asks what happened to him, and he explained.
The scene flashes back to August 8th, 1990 at Alcatraz. A tour guide shows them the Hole, a sensory deprivation chamber used as punishment for inmates. To the young Brian, she says that he probably wouldn’t like to spend time in there. He says that he belongs there so no one has to see his face. The conversation gets strained, and the tour guide hurries the group forward. Later, Rebecca scolds him for saying that. He says that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong. She continues to berate him, and he throws a rock at her, hitting her in the head, drawing blood, and knocking her down in the sand at the water’s edge. He holds her head down yelling that she’s the one that’s disgusting and a stain. He eventually pulls her head out of the sand, realizing what he’s done. Sand covers her face, making a white mask.
Eric tells Amy that he knew what he had done. He says that he took away her darkness and sickness, exposing her true face. He then sees a boat docking and realizes that Amy was stalling, so he hits her. He then proceeds down the stairs into the compound.
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Natara and Mal search the island. They find a claymore in the security room that Nat almost triggers. Mal pushes her clear, and they both survive. Eric confronts them, and there’s a struggle. Eric’s grazed by a bullet and runs away, ascending the stairs. Mal and Nat chase after him.
On the roof, he holds a syringe to Amy. He tells them to put their guns down or he’ll give her a lethal dosage. After they put their guns down and kick them over the side, Eric shoots Mal in the chest, drawing blood. He points out that body armor won’t save you at this distance. He tells Nat to get on her knees before he kills her, seeming to take pleasure in killing her. Nat says that he understands him. She believes he felt a thrill at killing Rebecca and just wants to recreate that thrill. Nat proceeds to act like Rebecca, telling him that he’s disgusting and a stain. This unhinges Eric, causing him to yell and even hit himself in the head. Eventually she tells him that Rebecca was perfect. He lets go of Amy and lunges at Nat. Mal manages to get his flare gun out of his pocket and slides it to Nat. She grabs it and fires it right at Eric’s chest. As it explodes, engulfing his chest in flames, he’s blasted back. His mask is fused to his face as he falls off the building, landing in the surf below.
Three days later, Mal wakes up in the hospital. Nat sits with him. She explains that the armor softened the blow, and that he’s going to be okay. Amy also survived just fine. The flare fused the mask to his face and knocked him into the ocean. His cause of death was drowning. He asks if Nat’s still in trouble with her District Chief, and she says she’s his star now. Mal asks why Nat’s still here and not on another case, and she explains. Brian Resler was institutionalized from ages 12 to 24. There’s no other information on him. She wants to know how he got a job with the SFPD, how he passed a background check, how got his forensics training, and how he paid for his super nice house. Mal says he must have had an accomplice, but Nat says it was a benefactor of some sort. She wants Mal to help her find the answers to those questions.
In the struggle inside with Eric, Nat is killed. Mal follows Eric to the roof. He refuses to put his gun down, choosing instead to shoot Eric in the head. While he does kill him, Eric’s able to give the lethal dosage to Amy before getting shot. Two months later, Mal still hasn’t gone back to work. Detective Ken Greene brings take out to Mal, hoping to talk with him. He helps clean up the dirty apartment for a few minutes before leaving.
During the fighting, Eric and Nat are both killed. The police look for Eric, but Office Anna Willis says she can’t find him. They doubt he could survive the swim and assume he drowned. On the mainland, a young woman finds him washed up on shore.
Neha Mansingh wakes up on concrete. It’s pitch black, and she feels that her hands are bound and hears two voices talking. She finds a door handle, opens the door, and falls onto the marble floor, able to see. She finds herself in a trophy room of sorts. The room contains a female mask made of plaster, human teeth, scalps, and more. A man tazes Neha. She can see graying hair and a long burn on the side of his face. He mentions that the dosage didn’t seem quite right, but that that was Eric’s strength. He turns her over, calling her pretty. From another room, someone calls out, asking if everything is under control. The first man replies in the affirmative. He removes a long, rusty blade from his jacket, presses it under Neha’s eye, and says “Tell me about your sister… Tell me about Natara Williams.”
Mal, Ken, and Diego play cards at McGinty’s Irish Pub in the Mission District. Ken asks how Mal and Diego know each other. Mal says that Diego was a C.I. who helped him with some gang-related murders. When Diego makes a big bet, Ken folds, but Mal thinks he’s bluffing and calls. Ken asks Mal if Sandra’s okay with him spending her money like that, and Mal finally admits to his friends that Sandra left him. He says he’s starting to be okay with it and that telling them makes him feel better.
At a nice restaurant, Amy eats with Captain Yeong. The Captain is treating Amy to her first sourdough bread bowl (despite living in the city for three years). Captain Yeong asks if there’s anything else she can do for Amy. Amy just wants out of her psychiatric sessions, but Captain Yeong says she can’t do that because it’s mandatory for anyone who goes through a traumatic event. Amy assures Captain Yeong that she’s fine.
On a street nearby, Natara talks to her District Chief on the phone. Chief Blaire is very impressed with her. He agrees that something’s weird about Eric’s life after getting out of the institution but finds Nat’s theory hard to believe. She says she needs some time, and Chief Blaire acquiesces. After hanging up, she enters Lance Bogg’s store, Italia Imports and Exports. She tells Lance that she’s finding herself in the city longer than expected and thinks her hotel room could use some new decor.
A few miles outside of the city, a large funeral takes place for Miguel Flores. Carlito Flores, Miguel’s brother, gives names and addresses to his father, Esteban Flores. Carlito wants to go after his brother’s killers, but Esteban says he’ll handle it and make his son’s killers pay.