Monday, June 18, 2007

Standoff S0113: Backfire

Between now and the end of the series' run, I shall blog, once a week, about the episode of Standoff I just watched, courtesy of the trusty Bittorrent network; using, for those interested, either Azureus (Mac and Wintrash) or Transmission (Mac) as a client. I'm not sure I'll catch all of them, because I'll be going on a trip near the end of the projected run. However, I'll do my best. The main reason for this exercise is promotion—though little good it will do—of a series that, like Firefly, deserved better. And I shall perform this entirely quixotic task by a) sticking to my promise, and b) trying to make clear to those reading this blog why I spend time watching this show, though, to be honest, I have precious little time for TV these days, and I don't watch a lot of other shows that might appear just as time-and-attention deserving.

I will probably talk either about the contents, the respective episodes' strengths or interesting 'points' and whatever thoughts or notions it dislodged or created. Either one or a selection or all of those, just to be a pedant.

Will I be able to keep this up until the final ep? Good question. My faith in the series is such that I'll happily say 'yes' and do it on...well, 'faith'.

Starting then with Backfire, with inevitable SPOILERS!

Summary, from

While dealing with two bank robbers who are threatening to kill a trainload of subway passengers, Matt is called away to a psychiatry office, where a patient has taken two doctors—a husband and wife—hostage. The hostage taker is a schizophrenic who believes he's on the trail of a rogue CIA agent, and Matt has talked him down before, so he's confident he can do it again.

Again, an episode in which a theme, previously raised, in emphasized, at least in one thread, namely the one with the schizo taking hostages: that hostage-takers are, by and large, people whose lives have gone out of control and who by doing what they are doing are trying to resume the control they lost. Come to think about it, in some way this also applies to bank robbers, only in a different way.

Two episodes ago (0111 - SPOILER WARNING) it was Emily, who was played by a hostage taker, when he used her to get himself out of trouble and across the border into Mexico, all of which resulted in a shitload of trouble for the pair. This time it's Matt, who is played by someone—won't tell you who—and basically used as the puller-of-the-trigger. Very twisted; very neat. This time Emily has to give Matt the "it's not your fault" speech. In 0111 it was the other way around.

Background theme: don't ass-u-me anything. Just because something seems routine, doesn't mean it is. That's probably exactly when you screw up, and especially if people are involved, for they are never routine. And keep your focus, because multitasking on more than one critical task—well it doesn't work; not even for women, by the way, but that's a subject I'll leave for today.

Bottom line: Never whistle while you're pissing. If you do, bad stuff is likely to happen.

After the last episode (0112 - SPOILER WARNING)—with Matt's "don't go" and upping the stakes on Emily, who thought she was upping the stakes; and that was cool negotiating, by the way; same as at the very end in 0102 (yeah, yeah: SPOILER WARNING; last one)—...damn, this sentence is getting lost in the divagations! Anyway, after that last ep, the Matt-Emily relationship issue has settled a bit, for this episode anyway, with the two much more at ease; and that works nicely, too. I think so anyway. Thing is, you can't ignore the lead-in premise to the show, which is after all the thread that somehow connects the stories, if you will, and makes them into a continuity, rather than just a string of episodes. It'll be interesting to see what the writers do with this. TV series writers generally suck majorly at what you might call 'established relationships'. They seem to be under a dramatic compulsion—possibly driven by market forces/expectations—to screw them up and/or make them into 'soap'.

That's why this series is quite daring. Producers and writers seem to feel uncomfortable with relationships that 'work'. As if that meant they weren't interesting anymore. Which is, of course, much in line with the general way of fiction involving romantic elements, and that reflects what people at large consider to be of interest in relationships—which is how they get started, and if they must absolutely carry on beyond that, the screw-ups and how they break up and all the drama drama drama around that.

It's kind-of always been that way, I suppose. Remember good old King Arthur? The cuckolded soap-operatic version, with some twisted machinations, murder and incest thrown in. Ahh, the faithlessness of women and comrades-in-arms who think with their dicks. Well, I much preferred the Antoine Fuqua variation on the theme, and on the whole I find it even more interesting to see what happens when, as a result of such a connection, the stakes change in the context of whatever else happens to be going on, adventurous or not. It certainly makes it harder for the story-teller to think of novel variations on the 'high stakes' themes that'll keep an audience captivated and/or enthralled.

We'll see how that pans out here.

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