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Human Target: "Dead Head"

Illustration for article titled Human Target: "Dead Head"
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Last week, we got to spend some time with Chance's past; this week, it's Winston's turn, as an old nemesis returns to wreck havoc and be annoying and so forth. Plus, we find out Winston has an ex-wife, and we even get to meet the lady—twice. Also, Winston's first name is "Laverne," apparently, which is either new information, or something I chose to block out of my mind. Ames is back, with all the frustrations that brings, and Ilsa is once again called on to be pretty and act utterly shocked at roughly 90 percent of the mischief her employees get up to. There are a couple of swell action set-pieces (although the one at John Doe's apartment house felt frustratingly short, probably by design), dialogue that was a mixture of the charming and the obtuse, and a lack of personality, which all adds up to what's become the standard for Human Target this season. It's starting to look like a show that sold its personality to stay on the air. Understandable, but more than a little sad.

What gets me the most is that I don't understand who the changes were supposed to appeal to. Alright, so the globe-trotting adventures had to go, because the budget is smaller—I get that. But Ames? The show has never been lacking in sex appeal; one of the frustrating aspects of the first season was how each week seemed to bring in some new hottie for Chance to make eyes at. It was too predictable, but it also followed the adventure show model, and at least there was a chance that Amy Acker might show up. The last thing we needed was a generic young actress who never leaves. Nothing Ames does in tonight's episode is particularly distinctive. There's still no reason she's on the team. Mostly, she seems to be around to provide awful, awful comic relief. And on a series with Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley, you've got your comedy needs sown up quite nicely. Why lower the bar?

Ilsa at least makes sense as a character, but she's the archetype that automatically engenders loathing in genre fans: the Disapprover. She exists to hold our heroes back, to stand in the way of them doing all the fun stuff that we started watching the show to see, and while so far she hasn't been particularly effective in getting her way, her perpetual amazement that the rag-tag, soldier of fortune types she funds often do rag-tag, soldier of fortune type things is getting more and more difficult to sustain. Tonight's episode managed to make her at least somewhat relevant to the action (mostly because of her bank account), but it ruined a decent sequence (her escape from the offices was short but sweet) with a stupid "Oh my god, the real world is full of homeless people and faux punk lesbians!" joke. I can't imagine a fan enjoying her presence, and I can't imagine a newcomer being drawn in by her naysaying, so … why?

Anyway, "Dead Head"'s plot had some good ideas going, although it was overloaded, mixing Roger Bart's retrograde amnesia with Winston's corrupt cop nemesis really didn't make a whole lot of thematic sense and ended up short-changing both concepts. While "John Doe" tried to pull a Regarding Henry, Winston revealed an overriding obsession to take down this one bad guy, despite never having (so far as I can remember) mentioned Lt. Broward before. It's doubtful he'll ever mention the guy again, come to think of it. Winston's presence on the team has always been something of a mystery, but it was a good mystery, the sort that implied hidden depths. Before Ilsa came along, it was Winston's job to be the uncomfortable one whenever Guerrero suggested something a little less legal than usual, and there was always a question as to what drove him to get involved with these guys in the first place. It wasn't a pressing question (Winston's obvious passion for justice was enough to explain it.), but there was a sense of some back-story we weren't getting.

Well, now it seems like we've pretty much got it. "Dead" was watchable as always, although the Ames segments continue to grate. And while it makes sense that Winston would get more focus, it was odd that Chance seemed to disappear for so much of the running time, even when he was on screen. (I like Valley, but he works best when he's driving the action, not just hanging around in the background occasionally punching people.) So, not bad, just hard to get all that excited about, which is always a risk when you try to make everyone happy.

Stray Observations:

  • I love the crooked cop who picks up Ilsa's discarded shoe with his pen. What, are you planning on getting fingerprints off that?
  • The Witness Relocation Program seems like a very good fit for someone who no memory of his past.