Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Farthingale" - Life, episode 1.8

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Charlie Crews sits in his car, taking pictures of two men arguing. One is retired Det. Carl Ames, the cop who put Crews away 12 years earlier for the murders he was later cleared of. Ames, who has spent most of his retirement drinking, is exchanging angry words with a middle-aged, silver-haired man we haven't seen yet. As Charlie conducts his illicit surveillance, the meditation tape in his car reminds him and us of the interconnectedness of all things. By the end of "Farthingale," Charlie will learn how the forces arrayed against him may affect parts of his life that he hadn't even imagined.

This week's murder case takes up the now-cliched idea of a man leading two lives. When the Crews and Reese arrive at a nondescript empty house they discover a body that thanks to a deliberately set gas explosion has been turned into merely a torso; everything below the waist was vaporized. Do people who leads two lives always have two ID's in their wallet? It doesn't take Crews and Reese long to figure out that the victim, a Rudolph Farthingale, had two wives who were ignorant of each other's existence. Each wife thought that her husband (who went by Farthing with one wife and Gale with another) was a government agent, thus accounting for his long absences. I had the same problem with "Farthingale" that I had with "A Civil War" last week. Each episodes murder case turned on an improbable and underexplained fact. In this case it's revealed that in his real work as an IRS analyst, Farthingale had (apparently by examining thousands of individual tax records) discovered the identity of the next Unabomber.

If the stand-alone plot felt rushed it's because there were big doings in the puzzle of the now unsolved murder Crews went away for. Not long after Crews takes his picture, Ames turns up shot dead in the LAPD parking garage. Crews has an alibi, he was with Reese in the lieutenant's office when it happened. But as Lt. Davis points out, that doesn't mean Crews wasn't involved. When Crews's police union rep shows up, two things become clear. First, someone at Life must have worked at Deadwood because actors from that show keep popping up. (The union rep is played by Michael Harney, who played the loudmouthed drunk Steve) Second, the rep tells Crews "off the record" that if someone had put him away for twelve years he would have killed him too. Charlie is presumed guilty, at least by the other cops. This point is underscored by a private conversation between Davis and Reese in which the lieutenant tells Dani that Crews now has "nothing to lose," meaning she thinks his vengeance has only just begun.

A few episodes ago we said goodbye to Charlie's smitten lawyer Constance; she was leaving for an extended business trip to New York. Back she comes this week, since Charlie has called her after the shooting. But wait! Constance has taken a job with the DA's office, who apparently would love to see Crews go down for the Ames murder. It's not lost on Crews that Constance was offered a job a week before the murder, but after he Zens out in front of Internal Affairs it looks like he should have gotten another lawyer. Constance's inside knowledge of the DA's office proves useful though when, loyalties still conflicted, she tips off Crews about a police search of his house. The huge flow chart on the wall that Charlie was using to unravel his case goes away just ahead of the cops, with an assist from Ted.

The big reveal at the end of the episode is that the man Ames was arguing with at the top was Dani Reese's ex-cop father Jack, who was intimately involved in the Bank of L.A. shootout we've heard so much about. I've written in other posts about the pace at which information is revealed on this show, and I liked the balance between the stand-alone and mythology arcs this week. Crews may not even completely understand the reasons he was set up for murder 12 years ago, but he now has a potential ally in the D.A.'s office and a potential enemy (Reese's father) closer than he ever imagined.

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