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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iThe Wrong Mans/i: “Wanted Mans”
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The Wrong Mans might have functioned better as a movie. A 90-minute caper, a romp through Berkshire County, the two heroes blindly staggering through to the end, setting off international crises along the way, but coming out unscathed. I don’t mind the tone of the show, but it’s a lot more fun as a binge-watch than a week-to-week sitcom. It lacks a freshness with every new episode, because it’s too happy banging the same drum it’s been banging.

I like where Wrong Mans is going, honestly. I like that it’s sneaking towards a resolution that makes Sam a guy who can respect Lizzie’s autonomy; I like also that Sam gets to save the day a little bit, after being the hapless victim for five or so episodes. I like that the whole plot comes back around to the “barkshurr county counsull,” where Sam spends his life toiling. I like that Phil always has one more element of crazy up his sleeve without any prudence or temperance whatsoever.


But right now, the show lacks stakes that it’s taking seriously. Sam’s relationship with Lizzie is the only story element that is taken seriously, and it’s kind of cracking under the weight of the entire production. Erik Adams pointed out in the premiere that Lizzie looked a bit like an empty love interest, and that has largely borne out—even if she’s fleshed out a bit, she’s never been a character with a life outside of Sam’s love for her, and there’s almost no doubt in my mind that the finale will end with them kissing. I’ll be happy about it, but it’s a bit too rote for excellence.

The thing about television is that it needs to invest in character in order to continue being interesting, after the glitter of the premise peters out. And unfortunately, five episodes in, The Wrong Mans doesn’t have any unique characters. Rather than try to flesh anyone out, it disposes them and quickly creates new ones. Even Sam and Phil are more vectors for action than characters. Nothing they do feels moved by the spirit of who they are. Sam’s presented to us as the more fully realized character, and in many ways, he is. But even if he is a real character, he’s a very clichéd one.


“Wanted Mans” introduces a double-agent into the mix and offs Marat (which is too bad, because he was a fun introduction last week). Now, the main plot is that there’s a corrupt minister who’s going to frame Lizzie for his misdeeds, and in the meantime, a lot of people have died along the way to next week’s finale. I know that part of the joke of the show is that these two guys are idiots who have accidentally gotten into this mess, but somehow, with the joke wearing thin, it’s harder to see them as grinning fools. The mess keeps getting bigger, and it’s making me a little sad.

Stray observations:

  • I admit that the coffee scene was quite funny.
  • Glad that Marat got a good kiss with Sam before he went out.
  • Phil’s mother: Still the best character, right?
  • Next week, Erik and I will crosstalk the finale (which is already available on Hulu Plus).

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