Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life, "Hit Me Baby": Tech support

Quick spoilers for last night's "Life" coming up just as soon as I take inventory of objects around the house...

"Hit Me Baby" suffers from one problem that can't be helped and one that could have been.

In case you hadn't realized it by now from all the shots of Reese sitting at a desk, and/or wearing a bulky coat, Sarah Shahi is pregnant, and the show is trying to work around that fact with this storyline of Reese being assigned to this FBI task force. That's a better on-screen solution than some I've seen over the years, especially since it looks like the task force is investigating either Crews himself or the Jack/Mickey/Roman axis of evil, but a large part of this show's appeal is the chemistry between Shahi and Damian Lewis, and I'm disappointed that what would appear to be the show's final half-dozen or so episodes will keep the team largely separate.

Now, what fun there was to be had in "Hit Me Baby" came from the writers playing with Crews' increasing reliance on Reese, as we saw him trying and failing to make Tidwell, Stark and even the patient call center lady into his new sounding board. But that's a good gag once and then the show has to go forward for a while with Crews as a man without a real partner.(*)

(*) Was Stark always supposed to be this stupid? The way he acted in this episode can't simply be written off as him struggling to go from patrolman to detective, as he came off like Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel for most of the episode, even before the poisoned mushroom capsule literally made his jaw go slack.

The other problem is that the episode was far too self-consciously goofy and weird, piling on one bizarre, hyper-stylized character after another, from the identically-dressed, pigeon-loving identical twins to the hitman/woman herself, who seemed more like a character out of a comic book (or, at least, "Burn Notice") than someone who should be on "Life." I know the show operates on a frequency that's slightly off of reality, but they took it way too far last night. Instead of finding it all amusing, I started rolling my eyes.

Though, I should admit to continuing to enjoy one especially-stylized performance, as Helen McCrory (aka Mrs. Damian Lewis) returned as the rebel smoker, cleavage barer and all-around badass insurance investigator. Working in her native accent while her husband gets to show off his non-regional American diction, McCrory continues to be a blast to watch, and a nice counterpoint to Ted.

One other complaint: why bother re-introducing the season one muscle car with the new flower power paint job a few episodes back, only to have it repainted by the next time it appears? I had assumed we'd see Charlie driving the thing around as it was, answering questions about it the way he took all those queries about the car with the bullet holes. Seemed pointless.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I don't think Stark was supposed to come off as stupid. I would chalk it up to nerves/inexperience - nervous to be doing detective work and also nervous about letting Crews down. But I agree with you that it did not come off properly.

Shawn Anderson said...

I kind of liked this one... from the moment we saw Crews' reaction to the pigeon flying in the window, you just knew it was going to be one of those 'out there' episodes. Same goes for the "Martha Stewart of Contract Killing," and the futile attempts to define derivatives ("lay what?"). I do miss the back-and-forth banter from Crews and Reese, though.

Oh, and we can't forget the use of "...Baby One More Time," covered by Travis... sublime as it is obscure (b-side).

tabernacle said...

The dead guy ("man on a stick") could have had any cover profession, but financial analyst allowed the show to tie together Ted and the call girls ("Lay *what*?", as drake lelane quoted)--which is always nice, when they find an organic way to incorporate Ted. And I didn't know the noir dame was DL's RL wife. Awesome.

I don't disagree that the hitman-woman was cartoonish/BurnNotice-y, but I liked the actress as well as the easy suspense derived from common household objects.

I half-expected Tech Support Lady to somehow LoJack the hitwoman's car all the way from Bangalore or whatever. The soda thing was better, since, conceivably, Crews had asked for it, rather than something homemade, to avoid being poisoned.

I still don't get the car thing: why go to all that trouble setting up that last scene in the previous episode with the flower car. Shrug.

On the whole I think I enjoyed the ep a little more than Alan. I will, though, echo his usual lament: Where's Christina Hendricks, aka Saffron aka Our Mrs. Reynolds?

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but Helen McCrory looks about 20 years older than Damian Lewis. Maybe she is supposed to look weird (the words stark or avant garde come to mind - that weird haircut!). She is only 3 years older than him and she is 5 years older than me. Heaven help me if I look that old.
Oh, the show was fine. Definitely need Crews and Reese together. That is what makes the show.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mind Stark's stupidity as much as Ted's. He should be a smart guy, but he always seems to be letting others take advantage to him.

As for the hit woman, I didn't find her too quirky -- or maybe her incredible hotness kept me from finding fault in her character. Crews should have known from the get-go how dangerous she was underneath that cheery exterior, but it was easy to see how she would have everyone else, including her fellow hit-man boyfriend.

Walter Wilborn said...

Loved the hitwoman. She was gorgeous... and her "slippery" personality played in with who she was. She was pretending to be this domesticated cookie-making beach bum.

Also, Gabrielle Union will be Crews' partner for a few episodes, filling in for Sarah Shahi.

Anonymous said...

this show has what? a 2% chance of a renewal?

Anonymous said...

I miss Sarah Shahi, and she definitely did look pregnant in her brief moments on the show. However, I will go against the tide, as I found this the best episode since "trapdoor", even though I knew something terrible would happen to Bobby when he went inside,after Crews warned him to stay put. Yes, Damian's wife does look much older than he does, but I try not to quibble over any episode of any show I enjoy.

If only the suits weren't behind a "let's throw this against the wall this week to see if it sticks!"; Story arcs need time to play out, and the return in 2009 of Life to prime time only seems to be in a hurry to fix (in my opinion) what wasn't broken.

I will relish next week's repeat episode, and be very sorry when NBC doesn't renew this show, and utter dreck, like Psych, will continue onward on USA Network.

Anonymous said...

..."I am sorry, but Helen McCrory looks about 20 years older than Damian Lewis. Maybe she is supposed to look weird (the words stark or avant garde come to mind - that weird haircut!)."

Thank you--I was going to say something similar, but thought it was just my meds turning me mean. What is that lop-sided haircut supposed to signify? It isn't lop-sided enough to be an intentional style, so it just came across as accidental and completely distracting. All I can think when she's onscreen is "she must've fallen asleep on that side of her head."

This is my #1 favorite show on TV right now, but they've dropped a lot of plot balls. What happened when Ted told Charlie's dad he loved Olivia? How did (Damian's wife) get into his secret blame room? Where is Rachel? Didn't Charlie promise her he'd buy a dining room table? What happened to the guy who wrote the tell-all book about Ted? If Olivia called off the wedding, why hasn't she shown up to visit Ted? Didn't Ted make Charlie a Powerpoint presentation about opening a new bar/restaurant? (Or was that S1?) What happened to the mayor of San Francisco's wife ("Jennifer") after Charlie got down with her in the motel room?

And yeah...Was painting over the flowers more important than trying to figure out what happened to the "dead" guy on the yacht, esp. with kooky one-sided hair lady following him around?

But damn, this is my favorite show. I'm going to have to go back to doing real work when they cancel it.

afoglia said...

Can someone explain to me why it matters that Lewis's wife looks older than he does? There's no in-story reason for them to be the same age. In fact, the apparent age makes her character seem a more credible threat, like she has the skill that comes from years and years of experience.

She needs a new haircut though.

Otherwise, I liked this episode a lot. Maybe I too was blinded by the beauty of the killer, but she did a really good job switching from innocent, to suicidal, to cold-blooded in mere minutes.

Except for the question to madam, Stark didn't seem that stupid. Remember, there might be a good reason he never became a detective. He's not an idiot, he's just simple.

Unknown said...

Actually really enjoyed this episode. Only criticism is that there should have been more time devoted to finding out that Mr. Derivatives was actually a hitman. It was disappointing that 30 seconds of staring at birdseed answered the most puzzling question.
Also would have loved to see Crews drive around in a flower-mobile.

Will Reese's participation in the FBI task force end up playing a part in the Conspiracy? They started with questions about Jack Reese followed by questions about's like they know.

Unknown said...

I think they did the best they could, given the lack of SS. I did like that they tied it back into the case. Also appreciated them trying to tie Ted back into the main storyline. And I can't help it- I liked the Martha Stewart killer. And how Crews stopped her. Heh.

I have been dreading the loss of Reese, but I think they did the best they could under the circumstances.

Christy said...

I thought the episode was a hoot! But then, I didn't get half the plot. I was multitasking and thought the noir dame was our killer. That hair was obviously a wig and she played Ted just as a "trained companion" would. Oh, well.

Am I the only one who doesn't mind just pretending an actress isn't pregnant? Sheesh! Were we all just more imaginative when men played all the women's roles? When all the actors used masks?

Anonymous said...

Another just ok episode for me. I guess it's good that I have no idea how the series will end. Just hope the producers do. Is the documentary over? Will it ever be explained?

Unknown said...

I really like this show. It's too bad that more TV viewers aren't watching. NBC will cancel this quick and put more terrible stuff on next season at 10. It's really too bad.