Life On Mars: "Tuesday's Dead"
B

Life On Mars: "Tuesday's Dead"

B

Life On Mars

"Tuesday's Dead"

Season 1, Episode 6

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I was crazy once. It was during college, so nobody really noticed, but it happens. You get to a place, and you want something so bad, you start thinking–wrong. I don't know how it works, exactly. They gave me all sorts of little green pills so that I'd never have to understand any of it, and also so that every other Tuesday, I don't have to talk to the elf in my closet. It's nice.

But wrong thinking, it's a tough habit to break. For me it was about this girl, but for Sam Tyler, it's about, well, everything. A crazy man has taken over Memorial Hospital. He's making demands, and if those demands aren't met by 2 pm, he's going to start killing people. The weird thing is, Sam just got a phone call from his future-mom. She's telling him they're going to pull the plug on his life support if he doesn't show some sign before 2. Maybe it's all connected somehow.

"Tuesday's Dead" is pretty good. At the very least, it's consistent. It deals a little with the treatment of psychiatric patients in the seventies, but it's mostly about the stand-off at the hospital, and Sam's increasing self-doubts and paranoia. For once, the plot wasn't rushed, and the final resolution was probably the best out of any of the crime stories we've had so far. It's still not perfect, and I'm still not getting my hopes up, but when it doesn't waste it's time on painfully flat period clichés, this show is actually not half bad.

Things started off shaky, though. It's Ray's birthday, and everybody at the 1-2-5 is celebrating, even the hookers. Especially the hookers. Sam and Annie get sucked in against their better judgment, and in time honored sitcom fashion, they end up the drunken life of the party. Sam does some Moonwalking, to everybody's delight. I expect I'll get called on this, after liking the "Ice, Ice, Baby" last week, but this was just dumb. Sam's rap worked to me because I honestly didn't see it coming, but him doing Michael Jackson moves was predictable and lame. This sort of thing worked in Back to the Future, guys. Let's leave it there.

Anyway, the story picks up with the hospital take-over. The whole team goes over, but once on the scene, Gene and Ray quickly push Sam to the side; Gene has his own ideas about how to handle a hostage situation, and he doesn't want Tyler confusing the issue. So Sam gets Annie and Chris to work with him. Annie has her doubts, though. Sam tells her about the call from Mom, and his conviction that everything going on connects back to him, and she accuses him of narcissism. Not without good cause, either.

Mars isn't exactly a subtle show, but there was some decent thematic flow this week, about mental problems and how dangerous it can be for everyone when a person is trapped inside their own head. It's a concept with some definite implications for Sam. Once he gets inside the hospital, he finds that the hostage-taker, Mike, is trying to get treatment for his brother, Johnny. The resident psych doctor, Dr. Schwann, lobotomized Johnny a while back, and Mike can't deal with the end result. Schwann has no regrets, though. He and Sam have a chat that strikes unsettlingly close to home, and as the minutes pass, and two o'clock gets closer and closer, our hero has to be wondering: is there anything left he can depend on?

Annie thinks so. She and Gene get into the building posing as a nurse and an E.E.G. tech. Mike sees through their ruse and chains the three of them up while he gets Johnny ready for an operation that can't possibly help him. Sam apologies, and tries to explain to Annie what's happening to him. She tells him she used to know a paranoid schizophrenic who went of his medication; when things got bad, he would think back to his happiest memory, because at least he knew that was real.

So Sam tells us his happiest memory; unsurprisingly, it's about Maya, but there's also some Tom Waits involved, which is cool. In the end, it all comes down to a stand-off in the basement tunnels. Mike, realizing he'll never get his brother back, has attached enough dynamite to Johnny and the walls to blow the entire building. Sam finds him, but the guy isn't listening to reason; and Sam can hear them talking over his presumably comatose body. Things are breaking apart. So he does what Annie said, and he flashes on his happiest memory. It's annoyingly redundant–we get to watch exactly what Sam had described only a few minutes earlier, only there's no Tom Waits playing–but the end result was cool: Sam smiles, which makes the 2008 Sam smile, so they keep him on life support. The smile also gets a response from Johnny, convincing his brother that there's still some hope left, and keeping him from setting off the bomb until the rest of the cops show up.

There were the usual good touches mixed in with all the mediocre dialogue; Gene's coat of many flasks was funny (although it took him forever to get the second flask out; I'm guessing that was a first take), and his speech at the end to Sam about cops being "broken toys" was familiar but well-handled. At a couple points in "Tuesday," Sam sees part of a soap opera that seems to be mirroring his life. It was a nice gag, especially the period costumes, and I definitely liked the way all the crazy people in the ward started laughing when Sam talked to the TV. And in the end, the soap even manages to give us a decent twist; Maya, the source of all Sam's happiness, is letting him go. So maybe it's time to start putting the moves on Annie, splinter of the mind's eye or not.

Grade: B

--Erica Filipi, the woman in the Psych Ward who claimed to be a reporter–Schwann said she was crazy, but could've sworn that was her voice on the radio at the end.

--Loved Gene muttering about crushing Mike like a "big, fat bug."

--Why are people's happiest memories always so lame?

Filed Under: TV, Life On Mars

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