In the DVD commentary to the pilot episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon refers to Alysson Hannigan as “our queen of pain,” adding that he and the other writers on the show quickly learned that whenever they made anything bad happen to Willow, the audience would feel it like a kick to the gut. Bullet is this season’s queen of pain. Let’s keep things in perspective here. This is still a show about murdered children. At least three children whose faces and names have become familiar to the audience are missing for part or all of tonight’s episode. And the previous episode faded to black on a cliffhanger ending, with the heroine at the mercy of an armed and desperate man. The first half of “Try” is a tense, exciting thriller about a seasoned detective who’s been taken hostage by a fugitive who may be planning to commit suicide by cop, while the guys back at the station slowly catch onto what’s happening and then scramble to try to catch up.
But the big dramatic moment, the one with the biggest potential impact on the characters and long-term ramifications for how future events may play themselves out, comes when Bullet lies to Holder and tells him that Pastor Mike is with Lyric in the woods. Holder assures Skinner that Bullet’s word is golden, and urges him to throw all the manpower at his disposal into a search of the area, thus ensuring that resources will already be stretched too thin when everything turns on a dime and it turns out that Pastor Mike is, in fact, out on the road menacing Holder’s partner. Nobody knows where Lyric is, and at this point, no one could possibly care less about it than Holder does. He’d also be able to hold his grief pretty well in check if a crane were to fall on Bullet, the lying, treacherous little shit.
When we met Bullet at the start of the season, she had nothing, aside from the friendship of Kallie. Kallie has been missing for a while now, and while Bullet certainly cares about that, the apparent disappearance of Lyric drives that item straight off the top of her priorities list. The main thing she’s gained since the season started is the friendship of Holder, who, as a gainfully employed member of the Seattle Police Department, is in a position to do her a lot of good, if he were to be so inclined. When she lies to him, ultimately hindering the search for Linden and making him look ridiculous in the bargain, he yells at her that they’re not friends at all. He doesn’t look as if he’d be inclined to piss on her if she were on fire. It’s like seeing Butch tell Sundance that he never liked him, not even a little, and by the way, Ella has told him some hilarious stories about his bedroom technique.
Leaving aside the vexing question of what the hell Bullet thinks she’s doing, the first half of the episode is a nail-biter, with some good exchanges between Linden and Pastor Mike, who emerges from the back seat of her car, gun at the ready, while the cops have the area lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. He tells her to drive. She asks where he wants to go. “Away from the lights,” he hisses. (Later, after he’s told her the story of his life—he says that he got in trouble only for getting too involved with his work, taking an underage girl into his home and trying to “detox” her—she makes the mistake of thinking that things are softening up between them and asks, “Do you mind if I have a cigarette?” “Yes, I do,” comes the reply. “Your car already smells like an ashtray.” In the end, Pastor Mike is in custody and Linden is being plied with takeout food by Holder. But before that happens, Linden tells Pastor Mike that she lost her son in a custody battle with her ex-husband—“I ran out of money first.”—and then confesses that, in truth, “I let him go. I didn’t know how to tell him, this is all I’ve got. I can’t give you any more. This is what I am.” This is useful information for the viewer, and she’d probably eat her gun before she’d admit this to Holder.
At the end of the hour, Bullet has reached out to Holder, claiming to know the identity of the Pied Piper, and in the closing seconds, she appears to be in the killer’s cross-sights. Oddly enough, none of this is as upsetting as the scene in which Bullet finds Lyric, all safe and sound after a night spent working the street, and is told that they’re not a couple, they were never a couple, she’s with Twitch, and “I’m not gay, you know?” There are many plausible reasons for why things might have turned out this way, and maybe the show will expound on them later. For now, I’d probably rate this episode a notch or two higher if I were absolutely sure that the real reason is that the writers know what they’ve got in Bullet, and just couldn’t resist giving the viewers’ hearts one extra twist.
- One line between Pastor Mike and Linden sticks out, in the wrong way. She tells a story about how her son used to hide under the bedclothes to surprise her when she came home from work; The P.M. says, “Sometimes, the ones who hide are the ones who want to be found the most.” You can tell that when the writer came up with that, he could hear the words “And the Emmy goes to…” pealing in his ears.
- I don’t want to say that this show sure does love its overcast, rain-cloud, “Did you forget to pay the light bill?” look, if only because it’s been said a million times, but when Pastor Mike and Linden get out of the car and he forces her to kneel at the end of the pier, I was distracted by thinking about how pretty Mireille Enos looked, with her face in close-up in the clear, early-morning sunlight. Two and a half seasons of this show, and this might be the first time that the camera has gotten a really good look at her.