In my review of the last episode to air, two weeks ago, I wrote:
If, in a hypothetical world where the strike wasn't taking place and "Life" wasn't almost certainly destined to be canceled once it ends, I were the showrunner hiring prospective writers, I'd hand them a copy of this episode and say, "This is what our show is."
Based on the show's pleasantly surprising back nine (or whatever) pick-up earlier in the week, I was wrong on the first end of that run-on sentence. Based on last night's episode -- which followed the "Farthingale" template to a T, with a beautiful tableau of a dead body, a case with personal parallels for Crews, and more intensity on the frame-up job -- I would guess that the "Life" staff dug "Farthingale" as much as I did.
I liked how, as with last nights "Pushing Daisies," the Murder of the Week turned out to be, if not beside the point, than not the emotional center of the episode. The murder case had its interesting moments -- the aforementioned tableau, Crews and Reese busting in on the kitten farm, the killer (played by Michael Gladis from "Mad Men") swallowing the guitar pick and looking every bit the cat that ate the canary when he was finished -- but the heart was in Crews' reading of the kidnapped boy's situation and his recognition of how they both had large chunks of their lives stolen away. (Not sure who's worse off; Charlie was old enough to understand what was being done to him, but at least he remembers his pre-prison life, where the kid's real mom is going to be a stranger to him.)
And it can't be said enough how much I enjoy watching Damian Lewis work. He's so at ease with himself that you understand why those runaways might talk to Crews even without the offer of the fruit, or why Reese would agree to give him back the knife and side with Charlie against her father. But then there are those moments when he gets his back up -- either with the kidnapper dad in the apartment, or when he sees Jack Reese enter the station with the manila envelope -- and you understand perfectly what prison did to him. I almost don't care about the plots anymore -- even though they've gotten much better since the first few episodes when I was ready to punt the show -- because I just want to see what Lewis is going to do next.
It seems as if Crews' rogue investigation is nearing a point where he either has to uncover the conspiracy or get booted off the force. I'm agnostic about that story arc's value, but I know some of you have said that's the main reason you're watching. Based on the improvement on the episodic stuff over the last month or so, would you still be as engaged with "Life" if we quickly find out who framed Charlie and why?