January 14th, 2010
Airing two nights before its American premiere (Sunday at 8pm ET) may seem like a big deal for Canadian viewers of FOX’s new series Human Target, but it’s not as if the show’s pilot has been an unknown quantity. The pilot was basically presented in a condensed form as the show’s trailer back when it debuted at last Spring’s upfronts, and since the show was held for midseason it’s been “out there” for long enough that every beat of the show’s first episode was predictable.
Of course, part of the show’s charm is that every part of it is predictable: even if you had never seen or heard of the show before, chances are you knew that the inaugural voyage of a futuristic bullet train was not going to go smoothly. It is a show that has no intention of being surprising, nor upending expectations based on its genre: this is a lightweight action thriller of a television show that creates weight through intense action sequences and strong production values as opposed to subtle character development. By building that show around three very likeable and talented actors, and by crafting a relationship between them that has just the right balance of mistrust and respect, the show creates the kind of “setup” that promises to be exactly what you expect it to be.
There’s something comforting about that, something that has proved to be an admirable quality with other series that I’ve grown to be quite a fan of – I’m hopeful the same happens here.
September 13th, 2009
“He’s never where you expect him to be.”
When it comes to Mad Men, titles are often a sign of a major theme in an episode, often the only real quality an episode has (with most remaining light on plot in favour of atmosphere or thematic importance). But I don’t think there’s been a title in a while that has seemed so expansive, so all-encompassing. “The Fog” could mean any multitude of things both in terms of what we already know about character relationships and in terms of new develops in the span of the episode, which leaves us critics fumbling to decide just what direction we’re going to take it in.
For me, I think the moment where the title really connected with me was when Don was chatting with his prison guard friend in the Solarium and tells him an anecdote that a nurse told him when Sally was being born. “Your wife’s on the boat, and you’re on the shore.” And while it was never explicitly stated, there’s a fog between those two locations, and Mad Men is essentially a show without a lighthouse. Betty, stranded out on that boat and struggling through a difficult birthing process, comments in her crazed state that Don isn’t where you expect him to be, that once the fog lifts he’s disappeared or gone off somewhere else. While she views this in some ways as an abandonment, for Don it’s about being restless.
Much of “The Fog” is about Don Draper’s own self-awareness or lack thereof, finally admitting to himself that for all of his problems in the past he is the one on solid ground while Betty, and Peggy, and Sally are out on boats struggling to maintain course in the midst of a growing storm. He’s the one who has everything and who can help guide them safely into the years ahead, but the problem is that he is distracted: by women, by his job, and by his own insecurities buried deep beneath the surface. If he is the one in charge of climbing up the lighthouse steps to break through the fog and win the day, the boats are going to crash on the rocks.