Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"A Civil War" - Life, episode 1.7

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In this week's Life we heard the satisfying click of pieces falling into place. The relationship between Detectives Crews and Reese deepened last week after Reese fended off a serial rapist intent on preying on her alcoholism. Tonight the episode's central revelation was also Dani-centric and maybe relevant to Crews' bogus murder conviction. After Reese reacts to an offhand remark by Charlie's old partner Stark, Crews (in an illicit search of a secure LAPD server) learns that Dani's father Jack was the SWAT captain at the much discussed Bank of Los Angeles shootout. This of course means that the comment two episodes ago by the Russian mobster Roman that Crews should "ask his partner" about the shootout was misunderstood. Crews naturally thought Roman was referring to Stark, since Dani was only twelve years old when the shooting occurred. I have a guess about where this is going, but for now I'll just say that if you recall the 1st season of NYPD Blue you might be able to figure out a plausible explanation for Dani's behavior. (Remember, Roman seemed to have an unusual amount of personal information about Dani when they met)

The stand-alone plot clipped along well enough, but turned on a last-minute and somewhat improbable connection between two characters. Two young Persians are found shot and stuffed in a convenience store cooler with the words "Go Home" written in oil on the glass. Since the cops have to diffuse a riot outside the crime scene, anti-immigrant sentiment is almost immediately settled on as a motive for the murders. The two victims were drug dealers; a third Persian, Amir, who has gone missing is believed to be in league with them. Amir's mother and sister hover around the cops and declare that he couldn't possibly be involved, but after a spreadsheet is discovered on Amir's video game console it's clear he was the dealer's accountant. Computers played a major role this week. There's a funny LAPD computer geek character that I could see coming back in future episodes. and the unlocking of the spreadsheet only happens after a slightly overlong montage in which everyone stands around and watches Amir's sister get to a certain level on a video game.

The case turns on the fact that the mother of the kidnapper (Sarah Clarke of 24) is apparently in love with Amir. I say "apparently" because we don't know until Crews explained it to us. This plot twist felt very forced, as if a writer was just trying to do what wasn't expected for its own sake.

Last week I complained that Adam Arkin's Ted had too little to do, and my cries were heard. Crews decides (after a dream) to buy a "solar farm." On a trip to check one out Ted winds up in the company of Olivia (whom I didn't realize in her first appearance is played by Christina Hendricks of Mad Men), the bride-to-be of Crews's as-yet-unseen father. The trip goes comically awry, and Arkin sweetly reveals his attraction to Olivia and his awkwardness around women. This week Ted worked as a nice counterpoint to the serious main plot.

Although the Persian murder/drug plot left me a little cold, this was a very strong episode of Life. It was good to see the nutty side of Crews come back out, and great to see Reese's character get more complicated (Oh, she's half-Persian and speaks fluent Farsi). I hope the show goes further with the idea that Charlie's eccentricity heps him figure out all crimes aren't as simple as they first appear - Lt. Davis tells him most crimes are about "drugs and money." Charlie is still working on that flow chart, trying to figure out who set him up. As Reese's history and the connection to her father came out the chart went in some new and unexpected directions. We'll see whether Reese's place on the Wall of Shame is justified, but for now trust no one.

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