This episode was the police show; the sitcom and the soap opera all rolled into one. That’s not an indictment but not a complement, either. These three genre story lines contained all that was just right and just plain wrong.
Just Right – The Police Show
The police show plot was interesting from a writer’s point of view. A mystery writer once classified “method testing” as a motive for murder; that is – you’re not sure X method will kill someone so you try it out first. This writer also defined the unintended victim – someone who wanders into the action and is accidentally killed. This NA episode leaves us with another “reason” for murder … a dramatic device to engineer a set of circumstances. In this episode, the nun died purely to serve the story line. Her death set up the social and moral pressures of the second victim. This first unsolved murder provided Amartya enough compelling reason to overcome her and her family’s rigid insistence to keep quiet about her attack. Without the first murder, Amartya’s circumstances would have prevailed and she would not have cooperated with police to find her attacker. Watching the episode, I gave a silent nod to the writers as I finally figured out WHY they fast forwarded over the nun’s death.
The crime is resolved – not by evidence-based procedures – but by using human nature to get at the truth. John’s visit to Amartya’s sister is threatening in an understated way. When she is unwilling to tell the truth to John, he simply reminds her of her sister’s love and all she had done to support her family. That sets in motion a chain of events that eventually see Amartya’s father questionned. There – John does not accuse him of any crime at all but presents the one fundamental outcome that Samar cannot bear. It was not enough that the father committed the crime. It was very important that OTHERS know that he committed the crime since honor was the primary motivation.
The three story lines were well-braided – each of the three stories informed another at some point. Amartya speaks about the notion of reincarnation which is a complete reflection of John’s experiences as an immortal. He is – in some ways – experiencing “reincarnation” since he lives long enough to face same dilemmas as in the past and yet be able to make a different choice. The history storyline is an echo of the current crime and John takes this opportunity to atone for his poor choices in the past.
Just Not Right – The Sitcom and the Soap Opera
There is tremendous scope for comedy when the central character is over three hundred years old. He can say lines that the audience hears as truth and watch the other characters assume he is just being funny. Judiciously used, this is a lovely comedic thread that can balance the seriousness of homicide.
Such an old character is bound to have an encyclopaedic wealth of knowledge. As my eighty-five year old mother says having blistering through another Jeopardy history category, “It’s easy to remember if you lived through it”. And so our hero, John has lived through much. He can comment on the world and it is amusing. That he has something to say on every topic can get tedious quickly. It’s like hanging around that one Party Geek who is a little strange, a little off centre and the only foray he makes into conversation is to expound irrelevant, uninteresting minutiae because that’s all he knows. It is irritating at a party and last night, I found myself wishing John would just stop being a know-it-all. Yes – he’s old. Seen and done everything. We get it. Move on. Episode Four is too early to be cliché.
As for the soap opera, I did not expect to develop such strong opinions so early. Sara Dillane is a pain. It’s not her fault. She was written that way. One minute she is rigorously refusing John’s invitation to dinner because she never mixes her personal and professional life. The next minute, she and John are having sex. I was hoping for at least a couple more episodes before dwindling into stupidity. There was absolutely no rational given for her sudden change of world view and there reasonably could have been at least one: that – being separated from her husband – she was lonely and just wanted sex. This is the twenty first century. Some people sleep around for no particular reason. Being separated is almost like being single, isn’t it? This character development did not ring true, had almost no explanation and ruined all the suspense.
This “screw’em early” development also flies in the face of an established form with romantic story arcs – and that is – keeping the lovers apart is infinitely more interesting than watching them boink in Episode Four.
Sara’s primary interest as a character revolves around the question is she The One. For my part, I certainly hope not and I am rooting for an early, catastrophic end to her. John has correlated his almost-fatal heart attack with her as The Sign that she is his true love. There are plenty of other explanations (and choices for The One since it happened in a busy subway) and we can only hope he leapt to this conclusion because of his desperation at finding his true love. With any luck, the writers have someone much better in store for John!
See this TV Guide Update on the show. They only made 8 episodes before putting the show on hold. So all this investment? It may be for naught. This update is as at Oct 16 2007. My local TV guide didn’t mention a THING about this on March 8 2008 when “launching” the new show.If you are interested in saving the show, check out this site for details.