All right, time for the last episode of the second season of Human Target. Possibly the last episode ever, although there's no official word on that yet; while I certainly wouldn't want to put anyone out of a job, I hope the show doesn't come back. They've had a whole season (shorter than usual or not) to make the retooling work, and it just ain't happening. Ames is the same shrieky, pointless bit of eye candy she was in the premiere, and Ilsa is, despite the heroic soulfulness of Indira Varma, as pointless a distraction as ever. Despite the oft-promised possibility of either character leaving the show, the season ends with the new status quo still firmly intact. Of course it does, because that's how a show likes this works; it dangles emotional resolution in front of our eyes, only to snatch it back at the last second via contrivance and formula, to repeat the same hollow, tedious beat until cancellation abruptly forces some kind of awkward end game.
Maybe we won't have to sit through that, those few of us still foolish enough to hang on for the occasional Guerrero heavy plotlines or the action setpieces which still manage to provide a fleeting thrill. Maybe Target will be unceremoniously dumped after its mediocre ratings performance this season, and all we'll have left is the final moments of tonight's episode, "Marshall Pucci." Ilsa is leaving for London! Chance loves her, but he's too frightened to tell her his feelings until Winston goads him into chasing after her! But wait, there's a plane taking off. He missed his chance. Except she changed her mind, and she's standing right there! They almost kiss, but circumstances intervene. Oh what glorious pageant it is, this Beckettian dance of meaningless, ceaseless repetition. It's so romantic, if by romance, you mean fake emotions choked back to the strains of instantly forgettable pop music. And what a fitting note for the second season to conclude on: all open mouths, no visible teeth.
Really, Human Target is already dead, whatever the ratings and studio execs decide. It died when someone had the bright idea that the way to fix the first season was to break the show's spine and turn into a bland copy of a dozen other bland shows. Let's not overpraise here, as easy as it would be to do so. That first season was often clumsy or trite or cliched. But it had a soul. It was its own creation, a distillation of action dramas that tried to improve on the formula, that did its level best to deliver, week in and week out, a fun, exciting, intense mini-action movie. Then the execs came in with their notes, and we got whatever the hell this second season was supposed to be. So the real Human Target is dead. Ilsa and Ames and this bizarre, kind of stupid version of Christopher Chance killed it. I hear there are people who enjoyed this season. More power to 'em. To me, it's too much like watching the Body Snatchers take over.
So, this episode, we found out that GASP, Ilsa's dead husband wasn't having an affair after all. (Of course he wasn't. That would be dramatically risky, and it would also be too convenient in bringing Chance and Ilsa together.) He was targeted by a rogue CIA agent running guns, and Julia, the woman in the picture that Guerrero and everybody else assumed was Marshall's mistress, was actually a spy who pretended to be working with him and eventually brought about his demise. So Ilsa finally gets a chance for revenge, and Chance Industries is pitted against a supposedly terrifying force of evil that it takes them two days, and no loss of life, to destroy. We see a picture of Guerroro's son, which inspires him to go full hardcore and eventually blow a guy up in a car. Winston makes some pointed comments about feelings. Ames is annoying. Chance and Ilsa kiss, and then they dodge each other, and then they almost but not quite kiss again.
You could argue that the above grade is too harsh. It's possible for me to imagine someone getting some entertainment out of this episode. But it's just such a patchwork of stolen ideas and cheap shots, striving to hit our pleasure centers without bothering to connect its half-baked conceptions of ensemble and infatuation into anything dramatically satisfying. It's the sort of show where you can watch five minutes, leave the room, and then watch another five minutes down the line, and not really feel like you missed anything; not because nothing happens, but because nothing that happens has any real consequence on anything else that happens. I guess Ilsa's confrontation with Julia on the roof had something to do with her shooting that guy earlier, but it certainly didn't feel connected. So Guerrero is still fun, and Chance and Winston have had moments throughout the season where I remembered why I liked their chemistry so much. But that's not enough. All the lipstick and longing looks can't hide the fact that this is a dead show walking. Somebody please shoot it in the head, and put us out of our misery.
- Ilsa apparently has flashbacks to old Folgers Coffee commercials.
- Y'know, Chance's foolproof plan to dive off the building wouldn't have worked so well if any of the bad guys had remembered they were carrying guns.