Thursday, December 06, 2007

Life: He's not attached to any of these cars

Spoilers for the pre-strike finale of "Life" coming up just as soon as I give away my Accord...

Yes, this is three "Life" posts in three days, but I can't help it if NBC schedules two episodes over that span, or if Damian Lewis was so insanely good in this episode that I felt compelled to put some of my thoughts on the show into column form.

I don't know that a lot of the plot logic of "Fill It Up" holds under close inspection -- If Jack Reese's goons are cleaning up loose ends, why leave the girl alive? On what planet is any of Hollis' confession admissable in court? On what planet does Crews not lose both his job (for enough infractions to give TPTB license to boot an embarrassment) and his settlement money (for violating Hollis' civil rights in every way imaginable)? Why would Jack Reese want Hollis in charge of the Seybolts' daughter, except as a stunning plot twist for the last act? -- but damn if Lewis didn't hold this fragile enterprise together for an hour through sheer force of will.

In the moment, watching each scene, I believed Charlie Crews to be capable of anything, both emotionally (I would not have been the least bit shocked had he killed Hollis) and physically (I was not the least bit surprised that he was able to kill two men while trapped upside down in the second of his three cars in this episode). Lewis makes me believe in both the hard and soft parts of Crews' fragile psyche, the guy who can prepare himself for a suicide mission to find Hollis and the man who could lend the girl enough willpower to make it until the paramedics showed up.

There's a danger in this kind of show, as with "House," of the star being so much more magnetic than everyone else in the cast that scenes without him become dull, but I didn't mind Charlie's partners, past and present, on their snake hunt through the marijuana jungle. Part of that was the series' continued gift for oddball imagery, and part of that was the fact that they were talking about Crews the entire time, in the same way that any "House" scene without Hugh Laurie always involves the other doctors complaining about House.

(I do wonder, though, about what purpose Stark serves whenever the show comes back. In the early going, he was a red herring for the murder conspiracy story, but this episode pretty much cleared him of that; whatever shady attitude he displayed in the early episodes can be pinned to his discomfort and shame at having to see the partner he sold out. Aside from being the token uniform at every artistically-framed crime scene that Crews and Reese investigate, why does the show still need Stark?)

What did everybody else think? Was the resolution to the murder mystery (if not the larger conspiracy) satisfying? Are the ongoing freedom of Reese Sr. and the whereabouts of the girl enough to keep you interested in the arc stuff? Do you think the show even still needs an ongoing mystery arc?

14 comments:

M.A.Peel said...

I also find Lewis compelling, and believed him capable of killing an unarmed man, a la Sonny Crockett in "Deliver Us from Evil."

I don't understand the Seybolt daughter thing. She was left to die, AND try to frame Crews, under Reese's order? Why would she call out that Crewes had shot her to the paramedics?

BigTed said...

This episode was fantastic -- certainly as good as any action movie this year, minus the cars exploding into helicopters. Damian Lewis had a real cool-yet-dangerous Steve McQueen vibe the whole time. Especially if the show lasts into next season, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets an Emmy nomination. (And if it doesn't last, they really should make it into an action-movie franchise.)

It's true that Crews broke a million rules in this episode, but the round of applause when he brought in the real killer seemed to say "all is forgiven."

On the other hand, I think Stark's continued involvement in the show represents everyone who still resented and distrusted Crews even after he was exonerated. Like the prison guards when they saw him again, it seems like a lot of people will never stop thinking of him as a perp. I also thought it was interesting to learn the reason Stark didn't support his partner -- and we're left to wonder whether Reese would have been any different.

As to why the girl told the paramedics that Crews was the one who shot her -- she realized he was looking for her "father" with harmful intent, and wanted the police to stop him before he could.

drake leLane said...

There were three times where the combination of Lewis and the music chosen to back it gave me serious goosebumps.

Hearing X covering Richard Thompson's "Shoot Out the Lights" as Crews tosses the Zen tape out the window, and then peel away.

Then Leonard Cohen's "Who By Fire" during the interrogation / pluot / search for snake scene had my hair on end.

Finally, hearing The Frames' "Finally" at the end was pretty cool, as the lyrics lined up perfectly with this whole first half story line.

And I didn't even mention The Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Down Boy" building to climax as Crews stands up in the street looking over the two men he shot. Wow.

tiff said...

Just a quick comment about the music choices, as drake pointed out...the music has been perfect the last few episodes. Spot on lyrics, perfect start/stop timing. I'm truly impressed.

I figured that was probably Rachel who was shot, but I don't really understand her involvement. She saw Hollis' do the killing, got kidnapped, tricked into believing that was her father, and doesn't know that he had any involvement with her family/Crews?

Can't wait til January, either way.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can't wait til January, either way.

You're gonna have to wait longer than that. This was the last episode they finished before the strike. The show will be back at some point, but not until after the strike ends.

Figgsrock2 said...

Alan,

I missed about 5 eps during the baseball playoffs--do you think NBC will replay them during this strike time? Or do I have to go to NBC.com or Hulu.com (which has to be the worse video site ever) to catch up?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I missed about 5 eps during the baseball playoffs--do you think NBC will replay them during this strike time? Or do I have to go to NBC.com or Hulu.com (which has to be the worse video site ever) to catch up?

Given that Law & Order the mothership is taking over the timeslot, my guess is you'll have to do the online thing.

And what's your issue with Hulu? I've actually found it to be a lot better (and certainly less glitchy) than the NBC.com player.

Figgsrock2 said...

Nuts. I was hoping maybe they'd slide it into the Journeyman slot or something.

The three things I've watched on Hulu (Simpsons, Chuck and some old SNL clips) have had audio synch problems. And the video doesn't look as crisp as it does on CBS.com or even NBC.com. And the search function seems unwieldy.

Wow, that was a lot of complaing about a website. Guess I need more caffine today.

Jennifer said...

I thought it was a compelling hour of television. Wowee.

I loved Crews throwing the Zen tape out of the window when it got to the part about revenge. (Alas, he went back for it.) And not being attached to the car. Heh.

Anthony Foglia said...

I enjoyed this much more than the last two, because it was the least procedural. But I realize they can't all be like that.

Two questions, from someone who's only seen a few episodes:

1. How did Charlie become a detective? It sounds like he was a uni/beat cop when he was put away, but came out as a detective? How did he get promoted over his partner while in the prison?

2. Am I the only one who keeps mistakenly thinking Crews's first name is Xander? :-)

Ben S said...

Q: How did Charlie become a detective? It sounds like he was a uni/beat cop when he was put away, but came out as a detective? How did he get promoted over his partner while in the prison?

A: It was part of his settlement on release from jail, a hefty sum of money and reinstatement to the force as a detective.

This was one of the best hours of TV I've seen in years, I genuinely pumped my fist with glee when Crews hauled the killer into the station. It's a sign of how great Lewis is that I've become so invested in Crews.

jen said...

re: Seybolt's daughter

I'm going with the idea that Rachel was so young when her family was killed its completely plausible that her recognition of Hollis doing the crime was blocked. Not to mention his change in appearance. Also the drawings that she did when in therapy are from the subconscious of a child....the monster she saw in her dreams.

Perhaps I watch to many crime dramas...

As for why did Reese senior have Hollis take care of Rachel? Well, who better to keep your secret than the guy you kept of jail for doing the deed. I'm sure on some level Hollis felt he was doing some sort of penance being "saved" and all.

Anonymous said...

Like you, Alan, I did my best to overlook the plot holes and enjoy the ride. I forget if they said how old Rachel was when her family was killed, but I'm assuming about 6. How is it she came to see the killer as her father? The timeline there just baffled me, especially since he also spent some of that time in prison, enough at least that he became saved.

The Red Queen said...

Yeah. I would've believed Crews capable of anything myself. Damian Lewis is terrific and allows you to breeze over the plot holes with his brilliant potrayal of the knife edge walking Charlie Crews!
And he's british :D (always a plus).
I have a quick question, when is the second season of Life, and third season of Dexter coming out?