"Face Off" S1 / E4
It came as a great shock to me that this episode wasn't simply named "Trust," considering the number of times we heard that word coming out of various characters' mouths. I suppose I get it: There were a number of "face-offs" tonight, including one that doesn't exactly bode well for inter-office relations between Jaime and Antonio, and I guess you could argue that by discovering the big secret about her limited lifespan, Jaime "tore the face off" all of that bluster about her being nigh-indestructible. Actually, as we found out, she's really pretty fragile. Seriously–they keep reminding us that Jaime is a $50 million killing machine, but thanks to those very same anthrocites she can be felled by a single bullet? The net worth of my own body (if we're talking black market organs) is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000 (and that's not counting the $5 latte I just drank) and even I'm pretty sure I could survive being shot in the shoulder by a disgruntled Bionic Woman fan, at least for a few hours.
But I'm not here to rip on the show's internal logic anymore–not even the scene where they manage to disable the alarm on the first try by going with the "highest probability" of the numbers being reversed, or the scene where Jaime bends the industrial fan back into place and it magically starts up again, good as new. As someone pointed out in the comments last week, this is, after all, a science-fiction series that requires a suspension of both disbelief and grumpy intellectualism–in other words, groaning "That wouldn't happen!" is strictly verboten. Thankfully, besides the Magic Bullet, the unexplained poker game/sting operation that Sarah somehow wandered into, and the laser that repaired Jaime's broken $27,000 toe, there weren't too many other leaps of faith required in this episode. And in fact, the night's biggest revelation–that Jaime only has five years to live–actually raised the stakes for Jaime (and the show) in a relatively plausible way. Now finding the upgrades that Will designed before he was killed isn't just about saving Sarah's life, it's also about saving her own, which should hopefully give the show some much-needed dramatic heft.
But I will continue to complain about this show's tin-eared dialogue week after week–and really, how can I not when the writers insist on rehashing the plot every five minutes? This is the fourth episode, for God's sake. Can the viewer not be trusted by now to remember that Jaime is a "$50 million weapon leading a double life" without someone being forced to awkwardly wedge it into the conversation? Even people just now stumbling in should be able to infer all of that from the show's title sequence. And could we please put a moratorium on sardonic, "hardboiled" exchanges like this one between Ruth and Sarah?:
Sarah: "I'm messed up, honey!"
Ruth: "See? Now we're getting somewhere."
Sarah: "Does that make you all warm and cuddly inside?"
Ruth: "You should know I don't do warm and cuddly."
But as I've already alluded to, what irritated me the most about tonight's episode was the constant play on the idea of "trust"–which might have been an interesting subtext had the writers not felt the need to, you know, have the characters come right out and say some variation on "Do you trust me?" in every scene. And yet despite all of the rampant accusations of lying, I don't really get the feeling that there's much left to hide. We've known that no one "knew Will as well as we thought" since the second episode when Jaime found her dossier. We also know that Becca's going to find out about Jaime's secret life any day now–probably around February sweeps–and we can already guess that she'll probably feel betrayed for about 10 minutes of screen time before quickly progressing into eager "That's so cool!" acceptance, followed by begging Jaime to let her get involved. Even the hinted-at "He's not what he seems" betrayal from Antonio in the previews for this week's episode turned out to be something utterly predictable: Of course he's willing to kill a civilian caught in the crossfire in order to protect the mission. It means he gets results, you stupid chief!
Of course, the one character we still don't know everything about is the elder Dr. Anthros, and until he finally gets in the game we're faced with the prospect of more wheel-spinning, Enemy Of The Week subplots featuring generic foreign baddies like tonight's Paraguayan terrorists. Knowing that Jaime needs to find that flash drive with the upgrades in order to save her life is somewhat promising for longer-arc storytelling, but what do you want to bet the whole thing is resolved by season's end, if not well before? And is anyone else already really, really tired of Sarah Corvus? Her whole "hostility masking extreme vulnerability" persona isn't nearly as deep as this show thinks it is, and I for one am getting sick of Sackhoff–an actor I came into this show respecting a great deal–and her one-note performance, which is all psychotic Jack Nicholson smiles and arched-eyebrow line readings. The Battlestar Galactica premiere simply can't get here fast enough.
Last week, some commenter pointed out that the writing staff was given its own bionic upgrade after the first five episodes were in the can, so it's still entirely possible that all of these problems will go away the week after next. And who knows? Bionic Woman could evolve into a richer show with a single brilliant episode–it's happened before (see again: Buffy, Heroes, BSG, etc.) so I won't rule it out. As of "Face Off," though, it's still on the borderline between mildly diverting and totally grating. As Becca points out in one of the episode's many on-the-nose exchanges, "Trust is supposed to be a two-way street," and right now this show and I just don't have it.
-- I've just noticed that the smart-aleck tech guy also plays "Herc," the quad rugby player on Friday Night Lights. No wonder I like him.
-- Those jeans that Jaime bought for Becca cost $1000?! How does she afford that? And have we established yet whether she's getting paid for "this saving the world thing"? Obviously she's not bartending anymore.
-- "You're a liar, Jonas! A liar playing God!"
-- One of the things I hate most about this show is the generic Propellerheads-esque techno-rock that soundtracks every fight scene. Has there ever been a more poisonous influence on popular culture than The Matrix?
-- Speaking of music, was the inclusion of the Eels' cover of Daniel Johnston's "Living Life" supposed to be ironic? The lyric "I'm learning to cope with the emotion-less mediocrity" pretty much describes the way I feel when watching this show.