“The Duchess of George”
January 20th, 2010
Shows like Republic of Doyle may present themselves as fairly straightforward, but in reality there is a lot of nuance to how they portray their characters and their stories. The exact same story could be told in very different ways, and the same characters could interact with that story in completely different ways. The characters could remain detached from the story, largely observing the behaviour of others, or they could become wrapped up in the story to the point of being placed in harm’s way.
There is no “right” way to make a show like Republic of Doyle, but “The Duchess of George” has the show the closest it has come so far. The show still has some problems in terms of its characterization, but there is a sense of clarity and direction this week that was lacking in weeks previous. It may not initially seem to be a different show, but the show has replaced narrative burdens with character burdens, simplifying its storytelling while complicating its characters to counterbalance.
The show still has some room to grow, but I think it actually delivered something of substance in its third week out, which is at least one step in the right direction.
I’m really curious to know how viewers are going to respond to the opening scene, as Jake Doyle is quite plainly in the process of banging a client’s wife who he was hired to surveil. There’s no attempt by the show to argue that this was an innocent mistake, or that he was in any way seduced unwillingly: he was, based on the evidence provided, very much an active participant in that event, and any regret was the result of the proximity of the heavy projectiles to his head as opposed to a moral consideration of his actions. Joining the characters in media res like that seems kind of sudden when for two episodes his philandering has been with his estranged wife (which isn’t exactly what we’d call all that morally corrupt), but it sets a nice tone for the episode.
Personally, I think it’s a good move forward for the character, primarily because he’s now actually someone I would buy as a deadbeat son who his father thinks is incompetent. The episode gets across that he isn’t a terrible person: after all, when the Constable is drunk and coming onto him, he holds back, plus in the context of the investigation he takes the charges at hand very seriously. However, you realize that for all of his good intentions he is someone who makes mistakes, and someone whose mistakes have cost him his marriage. And because we were able to see examples of that behaviour, and not just evidence of its consequences (the divorce), we can actually understand what makes the character tick. Instead of the disconnect between Doyle’s divorce and his relative competence seeming like a narrative leap, the disconnect is a form of character development, and it heightened both Doyle’s interactions with his ex-wife (who was nicely weaved into the episode through the doctor’s visits) and his father (where their banter seemed to pack an extra punch, even if I’m still waiting for them to explain how they ended up working together). While some could argue it makes him unlikeable, I think the episode did enough to show that Jake is someone we root for, but also someone who has some pretty significant character flaws – that’s a far more interesting protagonist than he was a week ago, in my eyes.
As for the episode as a whole, it did a better job than the pilot of making the Doyles part of the case they were investigating, and more importantly took the time to create a history and back story for the environment they were entering. Sure, their investigation of George Street culture was technically no deeper on a cultural level than previous mentions of geographic locations, but within the show itself we came to understand the history between Mary Walsh’s bar owner and her arch nemesis, and it felt like the Doyles were getting caught up in this world as opposed to chasing it around. It felt a little bit less like your traditional crime procedural, a bit looser in terms of their investigative methods and as a result more natural to watch. The case still became a more overcomplicated by the end, but it felt like Jake and Malachy were trapped in that complication as much as the people involved, and the resolution was well-sold on a performance level. And there was also some nice work in terms of weaving the angry client with a grudge throughout the story, similar to Nikki’s involvement through the hospital visits, to make things more hectic without necessarily overcomplicating the actual story – in other words, the episode’s narrative wasn’t dependent on twists and turns in the main case to keep moving.
The show is still doing too little with Tinny’s living situation to make it work our time, and while the “Des as Spy” scene was a nice sign of what the show might do in the future refusing to allow the kid to speak seems counterintuitive, but there appears to be a direction here. Jake’s life seems more complicated than contrived, to the point where the pregnancy test feels dramatic less because of the plot ramifications and more because of what it does to this character who clearly does not have his life together.
In short, the show started resembling an underdeveloped (the show is still young, after all) version of Burn Notice instead of a directionless version of a generic P.I. show, which is enough of a step up that I’ll stick with it beyond the fact that people are clearly reading these reviews and offering some fun feedback.
- I think they made the husband’s tattoo a little bit too bright, as my mother (who admittedly loves trying to figure out plot twists) spotted it right away. The husband, the eventual “guilty party” was actually a bit underdeveloped, but with Mary Walsh present that made sense.
- Of the show’s efforts to establish an environment, I liked the addition of the wacky ambulance thief – a fun character that could recur in some capacity.
- The integration of the Church into the story is definitely something that defines the show as being located in Newfoundland, but I feel like we need to actually meet more recurring characters within City Hall or the Church before those kinds of issues really come into the forefront (and I doubt that’s on the show’s agenda).
- I am going to throw something at the screen the next time one of those “Oh yeah!” bumpers comes up. So much hate.