Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Plain Sight, "Don't Meth With Me": Letters, she gets letters

Finally got to see the "In Plain Sight" finale last night. Belated spoilers coming up just as soon as I get my blood type checked...

Well I'll give them this: for all the griping I did about Mary's family throughout this first season, they at least turned out an interesting family-centric episode at the end. I still don't care if I ever see Brandi or Jinx again, but there were three very strong performances there, and the reactions felt both surprising and real. I like that Jinx obviously cares more about Brandi than about Mary, that Brandi had no interest in anything her dad had to say about her, and that Mary could be so vicious to her mom and sister (albeit with some cause). I also thought it was a nice moment when Mary declined to burden the very drunk Raph with news of her kidnapping and having killed a guy (for the first time, I presume), and the revelation of what happened to the meth was a great capper. (Though I'd be very worried about what happens to the next guy who tries to take a wide-angled, head-first slide into home plate.)

But you know the same old song I've been singing for weeks: when the show comes back for its second season, I want the focus to be on Mary and Marshall and Stan, and on them working the sorts of cases that are unique to the Marshal's office. There are enough strong elements here that I want to like the show a lot more than I do, and if there aren't some tweaks for season two, I doubt I'll stick around long, even in the summer.

What did everybody else think?

21 comments:

elks said...

There was a lot of pay-off, but when cable shows have shortened seasons, they don't have the same emotional base for a first season closer that deals with the characters outside of the premise, which this mostly did. I cared, but only a little, and most because McCormack did such a good job of twisting the knife. I can't tell if this show wants to be dark or funny, but it hasn't quite hit the balance of (the brilliant) Burn Notice.

JasonR said...

I want to like the show a lot more than I do

I have been saying that all season. But I am cautiously optimistic about the next season. We finally got some insight into how their family dynamic developed And Mary's decision to become a WitSec marshal makes more sense on multiple levels - she gets to protect people and she has a built in excuse to not share anything about herself.

So, I can see how the family can prove useful to explore Mary's issues, but ultimately I agree that more focus on WitSec (more Marshall & Stan!!!) would be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Count me in on the "want to like it more than I do" list. These last two episodes felt...perfunctory? Can't quite put my finger on it. Something with the pacing or plotting was off I thought - we spend half our time watching Marshall & Stan figure out things the viewer already knew, and mostly with exposition. Plus the FBI guy was a paper-thin villian, and while the family scene was interesting, it slowed the episode down a lot. Still, McCormick and Hilz (sp?) were great, though Mary's mom's feelings seemed to be a little out of left field, at least until the letters revelation. Maybe Lesley Ann Warren just doesn't do it for me.

Overall for S2 I agree the focus should definitely be more on WitSec stuff, but I wouldn't mind seeing Hilz and de la Fuente (who made me laugh several times here) stick around in the background. Just less of Mom and generic murder mysteries.
-Lance

Bobman said...

I wasn't a huge fan of the finale - a little too much family strife and crying and screaming and fighting. I appreciate the performances, and I guess it was a necessary payoff to the season's arc, but I still thought it was a little over the top and dragged on a bit.

And boy did they make poor Mary look bad.

OnlyMe said...

They took the mother and sister from annoying, irresponsible, selfish, and stupid (with no entertainment value) to absolutely loathsome with no redeeming features whatsoever (and still no entertainment value). There wasn't enough payoff for going that far. I don't see how they can make those characters at all watchable next season. Maybe they'll die in a drunk driving accident if the series returns.

Kerry said...

The epic family meltdown was awesome in the amount of cruelty being slung around, but by the end of that episode, Mary should have thrown Mom & Sis out of the house and her life. Because hello, career in jeopardy, almost got raped & Mystery Dad no longer writing to me beats whatever she was getting emotionally from those whining asses.

Susan said...

I'm glad you blogged about this, Alan. I thought it was an excellent finale - tense and emotional. For once, I'm glad a cop/crime type show dealt with a more realistic fallout from what the cop figure went through - on a lot of shows, a cop who's drugged, kidnapped, nearly raped, and kills a guy would be fine the next day. I really liked that they let Mary deal with the grief and anger, and that her family had to deal with the aftermath as well.

I thought the result of what happened to the drugs was a little too easy and a little confusing (when did Raf get the drugs - when he was in the house, drunk?), but I was so damned glad to get rid of that storyline and that suitcase that I didn't care. I thought the revelation that Mary's dad had been writing to her - but not the others - was very powerful, and led to some really nice acting from Lesley Ann Warren, when she first saw the letters and then when she asked to be alone with them for a while.

But I agree on two major points made here - I want to like this show more than I do, mainly because of how much I enjoy Mary McCormack and whathisname who plays Marshall, and I'd like it a lot better if there were less focus on the family next season. (Or if the family were less one-note screwups.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

(when did Raf get the drugs - when he was in the house, drunk?)

I'm assuming he took them when Brandi came to stay with him immediately after setting up the bust at the motel. (Even drunk, he made it clear to Mary that he knew what the deal with the suitcase was.)

Mary Ann said...

In order for that kind of family showdown to work, the audience has to have some sympathy with both sides. That wasn't the case here. Jinx and Brandi are serial screw-ups, and for many years Mary has had to devote a considerable amount of her time and resources to bailing them out. Instead of being grateful, Jinx and Brandi resent Mary. Mary understandably is tired of being both the fixer and the bad guy. While I appreciated the performances, I was 100% on Mary's side. A little of this family dynamic would be okay as background for why Mary is the way she is, but the show has devoted way too much time to an essentially uninteresting situation. The show needs to focus more on Mary's work life, and to the extent it addresses her personal life, it needs to come up with something more interesting.

pgillan said...

Maybe the final fate of the meth can act as an analogy for the whole show: it was vaguely clever, but also more than a little stupid. I like what they were trying to do, but it would have been better if they had tightened it up a lot. I mean... come on! Meth is a crystal, it dissolves in water. They could have easily destroyed the evidence in any river, pool, or toilet.

Iffer said...

I wanted to like this show as well as I love McCormack. But frankly Mary is very unlikable. Being a bitch may help her with her job but I understand why her family feels the way they do. I can't understand why her boyfriend would stick with her. You can put up with leaps of logic in a Tv show but then I need to be invested in the main character. I just never got invested.

dez said...

And boy did they make poor Mary look bad.

And how! That whole family showdown was so ugly that I don't know if I can stand to watch Mary's sister and mother at all next season. I pretty much hated the finale (except for the random Marshall or drunk Raph scene). Mary should have arrested her sister and thrown her mom out on her sweet charity a$$. Plus the resolution of the meth's whereabouts was stupid. Hide it in plain sight--I get it [eye roll].

They need to jettison the mom & sis and focus on the marshal aspect (with a healthy dose of "Monk"-style lightness thrown in). When they try to get emotionally heavy on this show, they pretty much blow it.

pgillan said...

the resolution of the meth's whereabouts was stupid. Hide it in plain sight--I get it [eye roll].

In retrospect, since they introduced the drugs and the baseball player all the way back in episode one, do you think that punchline was planned from the very beginning? Like, during the very first brainstorming session?

Karen said...

I understand and agree with all the comments so far--I was sick of the family drama, and Jinx's outburst at the audition seemed so utterly out of character that it was jarring--but I have to say I still liked the finale. A lot.

Much has to do with what a righteously kick-ass Mary McCormack gives in what is a profoundly unsympathetic part. (Geez, I'd love to see her come up against Gregory House.) That explosion when she brought out the letters? Amazing. And it all explains a lot about the entire family dynamic (if anyone still cared about it): Mary knows that she's the secret favorite of the absent dad, which gives her insufferable smugness depth; Jinx is at some level aware that Mary meant more to absent Mr Shannon than his own wife did, and knows that well enough to use it as a weapon against Mary, albeit one that backfired; Brandi grows in a family with a deadbeat and disappeared father, an utterly self-involved mother, and a self-righteous sister--where was she likely to turn?

I thought that showing Mary breaking under the stress of both her abduction experience, her killing a man, and the knowledge that both she and her sister might be prison-bound (or, at least, she might lose her job) was important. She tends to come off as glib and dismissive, and it was good to see what can get to her. And having Jinx step up and show some depth (by displaying her actual shallowness--that swipe at Mary about her father was some low blow) was also well done.

I'm happy to fanwank when Raph took the drugs--and yes, I think it was when Brandi showed up at his door--and while I acknowledge the foolishness of mixing meth with the groundmen's chalk, I loved the Purloined Letter-edness of it.

Basically, I like McCormack, I like Frederick Weller (Peter Weller's cousin! I knew those sharp features rang a bell), and that's enough to make me keep watching in season 2. I'd like the plots to be stronger, sure, but I can live with it.

Anonymous said...

I agreed almost completely. The family meltdown almost made everything we had to deal with in terms of Brandi and Jinx, but only almost. I hope they're gone next season (actually, Brandi grew on me a little).

And I actually laughed out loud at Raph's solution for what to do with the heroin.

dez said...

In retrospect, since they introduced the drugs and the baseball player all the way back in episode one, do you think that punchline was planned from the very beginning? Like, during the very first brainstorming session?

Given how haphazard some of the writing's been, I doubt it. It wouldn't surprise me, though, to find out that they thought they had a cool idea and built the season on how to get to that ending.

Brandon said...

Um, so was it meth or heroin? Are they the same thing, or something?

pgillan said...

Um, so was it meth or heroin? Are they the same thing, or something?

They stated it was meth, and they are not the same thing.

georgeb said...

I thought it was was very honest payoff for the family annoyance we had to suffer through all year. It's also dead-bang realistic. [I've seen such in friend's oh-so-dysfunctional families.] It's not too late to jail Jinx for child abuse. Brandi is so stupid she still has not grokked that four people, including her squeeze, are dead because of her. [Much less that Mary had to witness Chuck's execution and shoot another herself.] But best, we get a real handle on why Mary is so driven, so rigid, so unable to do more than jump Ralf and write herself notes on her pad on the way home. If she wants to grow, she needs to dump both of them at the bus station. But alas, she will not.....

Further realism is seen in the behaviour of the FeeBees. At the best of times, the interagency battles between the various federal LEA's is just barely below the surface. With two dead special agents, they'll put the rap on *anyone* they can: Marshal, DEA, ATFE, you name it.

Ginny said...

I still don't get what Jinx and Brandi think Mary does for a living. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Finally watched the finale so I'll comment even if nobody's reading anymore!
first--I did not at all get that Raph took the drugs when Brandi first came to his apt. Mary didn't, presumably know that, right? So it would make No. Sense. for her to drive off like that into the trap (which she 100% knew would be there, she's not an idiot, even if tired and tipsy, and she told Brandi they'd get her before she reached the corner). So it only makes sense if she was doing that to draw the cops to her, while Raph rode his bike (but not his bike, remember, so they couldn't trace it back to him) out the back door.

Now, why the cops wouldn't have been tailing Raph is another story but maybe it was so on the down-low that nobody coughed him up as her boyfriend (Marshall & Stan wouldn't have).

Anyway so I don't think Raph had the drugs before, I think he took them out of the suitcase that night (mary went into the room w/ mom & sis, talked to them, Brandi fell asleep, Mary took the suitcase out, gave the drugs to Raph, he left out the back on the bike, she careened out the front and drew the cops).

I loved the finale, I thought it was fantastic payoff for the emphasis on the family during the season.
I thought the scene where she dug the knife into her mom and Sis (anybody here who hasn't slept with somebody else's husband? anyone?) was so beautifully Veronica. Yes she's stubborn and can be cruel and doesnt' open up like she should. So totally Veronica Mars and it's like she was kind of reincarnated. I thought it was a great performance by McCormack. (the whole season, actually). And, I LOVE Marshall, his dry humor is perfect.

and btw Jinx, she DOES have friends, so there.

anyway, loved it.