Persons Unknown S1E2: The Edge
Just as we sat down to watch this last night, Lorenzo said “I’m actually excited for this episode.” Tom replied, “I’m not there yet. This could go sour at any second.” This type of show (mysteries upon mysteries, with pseudo sci-fi and possible mystical elements) doesn’t have a very good track record. For every Lost, there are a dozen FlashForwards and the fact that they’re airing this during the summer with little fanfare or promotion does tend to make one wary of its future success. Still, Tom turned to Lorenzo about ten minutes in and said “It’s still cooking.” So far, we’re still all in on this. In fact, after last night, we’re even more interested than before. With a show like this, that’s nothing but good news. You have to keep bringing the audience back, no matter how crazy the plot gets. It’s why Lost succeeded so well.
And speaking of Lost, in some ways it’s not fair to make the comparison but in other ways it’s all but inevitable. To the creators’ credit, they seem to be well aware of the similarities and willing to play with them, the best example of this is Joe’s “It could be worse. We could be surrounded by miles of water.” line. Absolutely a deliberate wink to the audience. If we tend to lapse too much into Lost comparisons, blame the creators because in some ways, they’re begging for them to be made.
The episode opened with the abductees having their drug implants cut out of them by the increasingly strange and secretive Moira. It was a harsh way to start the show (Lorenzo watched through his fingers) but absolutely essential to selling the intensity of the situation, as well as an anticipation of the inevitable “Why don’t they just do XYZ?” questions, the armchair adventuring done by the audience. We had that reaction last week when we asked (as we’re sure so many did) “Why don’t they just cut out the implants, then?” This bodes well for the show. It shows that the creators do have a plan and they do understand the implications of the plot.
Which isn’t to say that the characters always act in a perfectly sensible and consistent manner. It’s a full day later and they’re still introducing themselves to each other and learning their names. In real life, people wouldn’t act that way. In a story, you need pacing. If this was written exactly the way real people would react, then the first two episodes would have been nothing but random acts of violence as characters screamed at each other “WHO ARE YOU WHY AM I HERE WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?” Obviously, that wouldn’t be all that entertaining. Our point is, with a genre show like this, you have to put up with some conceits or the story won’t work. One of the most common complaints about Lost was that characters didn’t demand more information from each other and sure, there were times where that got a little ludicrous, but the show would have lasted a total of ten episodes if everyone was forthcoming with everyone else.
One MAJOR conceit that you have to accept is the abductees’ willingness to let
Ben Linus the Night Manager and the Chinese restaurant staff go about their business. It was a bit heavy-handed to have Sayid Graham, the Muslim soldier opine that “Torture never works.” Maybe not, but people in that situation would absolutely have no qualms about giving it a try. The reluctance of everyone but the two assholes in the group to force some information out of the Night Manager struck us as a little false. Especially since we’re supposed to believe that KateJanet would seriously consider killing JackJoe to get out of there.
And we do believe that. She absolutely would consider murder in a situation like that, especially if she thinks her daughter is in danger. But why does she think that? It doesn’t appear to us that she’s trying to keep her away from her mother. When she heard her mother’s voice on the phone, she didn’t seem particularly upset to learn that’s where her daughter wound up. It seems to us she’s more concerned about her mysterious ex-husband. We got a little bit of a confirmation that she’s on the right track because the PI she hired to find her ex is the same guy who assaulted that annoying reporter guy and told him to keep his nose out of this story. Just before she was abducted, Janet informed the PI that she suspected he was working for her husband instead of for her. And apparently, she’s been “through the wringer,” with some “ugly stuff” in her past, including locked juvenile offender files.
Kate Janet has more going on in her past than she’s willing to reveal yet.
Then again, they all do. What exactly is Joe’s deal and why is he so reluctant to tell any of them anything about himself? Graham keeps treating him like a superior officer and there was some indication that he had military or police training, but when Janet had the gun on him, he sure didn’t act like any soldier or cop we ever saw on TV. He looked desperate and scared. That’s a perfectly human reaction but it kind of belies the mysterious tough guy image he’s been selling. And why do the Persons Unknown want Janet to kill Joe specifically? They made a point of changing their orders from “Kill your neighbor” to the more explicit “Kill Joe.” We tend to think they’re all in a situation where the attempt will be made to turn them against each other, but why ask her to kill Joe specifically instead of any of the others? Either he’s important for some reason, or they know there’s a bit of a love connection going on between the two of them and killing him would be harder for her than, say, Bill, the asshole car salesman, whose inevitable (we hope) upcoming death scene will be a joy to watch.
And what of Moira? We figured out last week that she’s a psychiatric patient, so that didn’t come as a surprise. She’s also apparently a lesbian because she seemed mighty discombobulated when
Shannon Tori disrobed in front of her. She’s very observant (picked up on the J&J love connection thing) as well as knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, from drug implants to butterflies. She told Shannon Tori that she had “truth issues.” Well okay. How far do these issues go? After all, there is every reason to believe that at least one of the abductees is not actually an abductee. Shannon Tori knows why she’s there. Because she pissed off her father, the Ambassador to Italy and former head of the CIA. We got a very brief flashback that didn’t reveal much except that they didn’t get along. We were more interested by the fact that they were using flashbacks at all. On the one hand, you pretty much have to use them, otherwise you just have characters standing around talking about their past and that’s not very exciting. On the other hand, we were a bit (pleasantly) surprised to see them use it because it’s so associated with the Lost model of storytelling. We’d rather see them continue to use it, but it may turn viewers off, making them think “ripoff” as if the writers of Lost invented this quite old literary technique.
Anyway, Tori made an interesting point. She knows why she’s there. The rest of them have to figure out why they’re there. Rather than assume they all have something in common or some common enemy, could it be that they all have different reasons for being there and they’re not related at all? Maybe the town is a place where you get rid of inconvenient people, for a price.
And speaking of the town, we got some more information along with the show’s first real foray into Weird Science. Screw you DHARMA Initiative! We’ll see your so-called sonic fence and raise you with a PAIN FENCE. Works just fine for us, especially since we got to see some of the characters really suffer the effect, making it perfectly understandable why escape seems so impossible to them. In addition, they went from slightly believable science with the pain fence into full-on weirdness when they tried to escape the town in the Chinese restaurant workers’ van. Let’s break this down.
It was revealed at the end of last week’s show when the camera pulled way out into the atmosphere that this town is literally smack dab in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around for hundreds, if not thousands of miles. Okay, that’s pretty weird. Then, a lightning bolt takes out one of the pain guns. Okay, that’s too weird. Either it was some crazy fluke or it was something that the Persons Unknown wanted to happen, which means they can somehow control the weather.
We wouldn’t normally jump to such a crazy conclusion, but the end result was that the abductees once again had it demonstrated to them that it’s impossible to leave. They drive out of town, straight into a white light, and wind up back in town. Now how did that happen? Either they were knocked unconscious and taken back (although we saw no inkling of that), the white light somehow brought them back, or the craziest theory of all, there’s more than one mysterious town and they simply drove themselves straight into the next one.
Sure, the second and third explanation are pretty out there, but they’ve done a pretty good job of showing that this town was created exactly for this purpose, what with the metal blinds receding and the instantly replaceable security cameras. Who knows what kind of crazy shit is going on behind the scenes.
Okay, we’ve hashed this one out enough. There are plenty of points to still be made about this episode but that’s why god invented comments sections. Some final bullet points:
* We think the characters are all mostly doing things that make sense but we had to refrain ourselves from yelling at the TV “Stop openly talking about your plans when you know you’re being watched, dipshits!” Go out in the middle of the street and whisper them to each other if you have to.
* Speaking of security cameras, we saw one camera’s eye POV shot in the bar with the cop and the annoying reporter which implied they were being watched by Persons Unknown. We saw the same thing in Janet’s bitchy mother’s house last week. Rather than assume the Persons Unknown have some sort of worldwide network of surveillance devices, we tend to think they’re tapping into existing ones, like a security camera in a bar or a web cam in Janet’s mother’s house. Creepy.
* And speaking of creepy, Janet’s bitchy mother, everyone! She doesn’t appear to be involved. If she was, why would she be so surprised to see Megan on the phone? And how did that phone call work, anyway? How was that set up? Her line about not being able to solve a puzzle when there are pieces missing was just a skosh heavy-handed.
* That thing with Tori and the butterfly was very weird, but we were more interested in why the mirror in her room went all funhouse and no one commented on it. Check the screencap of Moira and Tori in front of the mirror. What the hell is THAT all about?
And if you missed last night’s episode, just ask yourself, who takes care of you, minions?
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