Thursday, October 18, 2007

"What They Saw" - Life, episode 1.4

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"What They Saw" gets to a central issue in the revived police career of Det. Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis). How will Charlie's objectivity as a cop be affected by his 12 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit? Crews and his partner Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi) are called to the scene of a murder at a house overlooking L.A.. A wealthy gay man is dead of a gunshot wound and his wedding ring has gone missing. In the woods behind the house Crews catches a homeless man named Holt Easley (William Sanderson of Deadwood) with the ring in his pocket. Open and shut, right?

Of course not. Easley claims to have seen the dead man's husband James (Anil Kumar) commit the murder and toss the ring into the woods. Reese doesn't buy it, but Crews doesn't think the gabby, boozy, Easley is capable of murder. And it's not as if there aren't any other suspects. There's a neighbor named Drew (John Livingston) who might be a closeted homosexual and is alleged to have been sleeping with the victim. For his part, Drew claims to have heard the lazy rent-a-cop who ignored an alarm on the night of the murder make homophobic slurs. But then Easley's DNA turns up in the victim's house...

If "What They Saw" has a flaw it's that William Sanderson gets too much screen time. Since Charlie doesn't want to put Easley in the system he brings him home to his unfurnished mansion. In a not particularly interesting subplot, Charlie's boarder Ted (Adam Arkin) doesn't take to the new guest. (There are repeated jokes about Easley's personal hygiene) Charlie was sent to prison for the murder of a partner with whom he owned a bar and his family; when the now cleared Charlie gets his liquor license back Ted tries to persuade him to open a new place, but Easley disrupts Ted's (very quickly put together) presentation.

In my first post on Life last week I didn't get to the character of Constance Griffiths. Played by Brooke Langton, Constance is the lawyer who won Charlie's release from prison. This week Constance is developed considerably. We learn that she seems to have a savior complex in a scene where Charlie meets her new client Neil(Rodney Rowland). Charlie's prison smarts enable him to size the guy up instantly, and his judgment is proven right when he gets a look at Neil's files. When Charlie tries to get Constance to drop Neil as a client we learn two more things about her. She's married, and her advocacy for Charlie is motivated by the fact she's in love with him. This revelation puts into context some hints that had been dropped in the first three episodes.

Finally, the continuing mystery of who set Charlie up and why. The cops working Charlie's case twelve years ago hid the fact the victim's young daughter was in the house during the murders. That girl, Rachel, disappeared into the foster system. Her whereabouts are unknown; when Charlie gets her files (he seems to have no trouble finding the info he needs) he discovers that she never spoke about what she saw that night but (in a folder labeled "art therapy") drew graphic and violent images of the crime.

I've barely mentioned Sarah Shahi as Det. Reese, but she's turning into an irresistible straight woman for Lewis' eccentricity.

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