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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Frequency smartly plays up its dualities in “Break, Break, Break”

Illustration for article titled Frequency smartly plays up its dualities in “Break, Break, Break”
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The whole premise of Frequency is cloaked in duality: the parallel lives of Raimy and Frank and how those two lives affect each other, 20 years apart. This oddly titled episode deftly piles on pair after pair, so that the differences across decades, or just across town, are even more pronounced.

It starts with Mekhi Phifer, who really does look like he’s jumped into a time machine, as he cheers in a bright and vibrant bar in 1996 when Frank prevents Amanda’s abduction, then leaps to a dusty, depressing bar 20 years later, after her murder. For Satch, 30 years of tracking the same serial killer has definitely taken its toll, as he goes back to his house that no longer holds the happy family it once did. Like Frank, like Raimy, he chose the job over his family.

It’s such an interesting premise, that life/work balance and how it relates to our leads. I’m so bad at it that my kids sit down and watch this show with me every week, which is probably not the greatest thing for kids their age (said my son this week, “I hate haunted camps”). And as fun as writing these reviews is, it’s not exactly life or death in the face of the greater good, like Frank and Satch’s jobs are. Being a good guy who wants to fight all the evil and corruption in the world, of course Frank’s going to want to stay on the undercover job longer than the few months he initially thinks it will go, stretching on into years. Satch, of course, is going to miss his son’s junior high graduation for the job.

In likely the most effective bit of acting on this show yet, Mekhi Phifer’s monologue in the car perfectly summarizes his lifelong frustration. Why he wanted so badly to fit into the “tribe” of the P.D. The people he lost throughout his lifelong, so-far fruitless quest. It’s an interesting conversation that Raimy even repeats to Frank later, about “becoming” the job. But as she wisely points out beyond her years, they’re all in this job for a reason. It takes a special kind of person to thumb through old files in a Catskills camp in the dark, and she and her father and her father’s partner are exactly the kind of people that job was made for.

This Frequency episode lacked the flash we’ve seen in some others: the changing events in the past, leading to instant ramifications in the future. There’s some valuable information passed about the Catskills, but basically, it’s just a step further in our quest (we know we’ll get there eventually, but not this soon), but it’s giving us time to evaluate what this job has meant. Raimy, at this point, clearly has no other life but the job. Satch turns in his papers, falls apart almost immediately afterwards. That makes sense when we see how thrilled he is when his name comes out on a dot-matrix printer two decades before: He’s always loved the job, and, he had a supportive wife who held down the fort while he went off and did it. There’s some wonderful wordless work in the scene with the speeches by Satch and his wife about how they deal with that job, and each other, while Julie and Frank don’t even say anything, but you can tell exactly what they’re thinking. Another parallel gets thrown into play, as we compare and contrast the two married couples. Frank wonders why his wife can’t be that supportive, while Julie clearly is not cut out for the cop wife position.

She’s also likely still smarting after the revelation about Frank and Mariella (and another comparison between the two women). Frank’s insights on what it’s like to go undercover—to totally lose yourself in another life—are helpful here, as his affair does not appear to be as heinous as it would be otherwise. Julie’s such a nice person that she even helps Mariella, but her run to Coach Ted, judging by the look on her face afterward, is ill-advised. Still, Mariella provides this helpful link between Frank, nursing, the camp, and the Nightingale, as Raimy and Satch head north.


Frank tried to caution Raimy a bit, but that whole setup smacked of a horror movie: Creeping through an abandoned camp, in the dark, where the Nightingale had obviously been, because of the rosary beads. It was a bit cheap, as we were pretty sure that Raimy wasn’t going to get attacked straightway. Still, the revelations of the creepy religious camp were significant, as the Nightingale prepares these women for death. Maybe because they’re nurses, he feels like they’re angels on earth or something. That much closer to heaven? Anyway, he leaves us with our final duplicity of the episode: Ironically, through these horrible deaths, the Nightingale thinks he’s bringing life. But really, it’s Raimy who’s brought life back to Satch, as this discovery has bolstered him and finally made him excited about his job again.

Like Frank was at the beginning, in a nice before-and-after parallel. The picture the Nightingale stole was also stealing the last nice memory the family had. So he’s still a step ahead, and Raimy and Frank scramble to catch up. This episode didn’t giant leap-frog ahead or anything, but these effective, measured performances remind us why Frequency is such a successful creation to begin with.


Stray observations

  • Really, Raimy, with a serial killer still on the loose, now is not the time to traipse through old camps by yourself in the dark.
  • Would like to think that butcher guy is a suspect, but that giant knife was a bit too on the nose.
  • Next week the show is off for Thanksgiving, so we’ll see you on November 30. Hope you have a wonderful holiday with very limited family political discourse.