Tag Archive | detective shows

Jack Taylor: The Drunken Detective

Having watched the first six episodes of the Jack Taylor series that started in 2010, I’m sorry I didn’t watch it earlier and also surprised that I like it. First off, having only seen Iain Glen in the miniseries Wives and Daughters where he plays a rather unlikeable character, I was surprised how likable I found him as Jack Taylor. Second of all, were he a real person, Jack Taylor, too, would be surprised that anyone likes him, so constant is his drinking, smoking, acerbic attitude, and downright contrariness. He gets in fights and often beat up. His only possessions that he owns are books, and he is well read and smart, but stupidly gives into baser impulses and vices. He is plagued by guilt, both deserved and undeserved. The first episode of the show makes Galway, Ireland, appear way more dangerous and seedy than it hopefully actually is.

Men watching the show might be a bit baffled that Jack has any love interests at all, for he is exactly what many women profess they don’t want at all in a man. However, being a woman, I get it. There’s a certain manly quality to all of Jack’s actions. He’s his own man, even if that means he’s not really nice more than half the time. He may not be there to help you heal from your wounds, but he’s there to save your life. In a show such as this, where one can be attacked at any time, someone who’s willing to protect women and children to the death is powerfully attractive, no matter how unhygienic they might be. Aside from the recurring character Kate Noonan (Nora-Jane Noone), none of the other women want a relationship with him. Why Kate does is mostly due to shared interests and simple chemistry. Sometimes it really just does come down to chemistry, and despite the characters’ age differences, they have it in spades.

Jack Taylor isn’t really a series of mysteries so much as it is following the private detective around in his crazy life. The first episode leaves one considering how this person functions at all, let alone solves crimes. As Jack becomes more sober in episodes two and three, the mysteries become a bit clearer, if rather unlikely. Based on actual events, The Magdalen Martyrs is a standout episode and the most chilling tale out of all of them. The Dramatist reminded me of something from Criminal Minds, and while predictable, was still a good watch. After that, Jack goes back to drinking, but appears to be keeping everything on even keel somehow.

The three main leads in the series are great, more than one realizes while watching, and really only becomes clear upon trying to watch episode seven in which they totally changed the show, getting rid of Taylor’s young sidekick, Cody Farraher (Killian Scott), and replaced the actress for Kate Noonan. After what Cody has been through, it’s not so surprising that he’d move away from Ireland for a better life, but to continue the show without Noone playing Jack’s longterm love interest was a mistake, compounded by the fact that the writers don’t give the audience time to adjust to the new actress, nor do they give the actors room to build some sense of chemistry at all. I did not try any of the remaining episodes, for whatever magic the show had was gone with the changes. Sometimes actors have such good onscreen chemistry with their colleagues that it’s impossible to replace.

Although set in Ireland, the show doesn’t give one much sense of the country, or really of Galway. But it is limited in following Jack, who mostly stays in the seedy, familiar places to him. Even episode six, Shot Down, only gives us a very limited view of the Traveler or Tinker community in Ireland. But there’s also the neighborhood pub Jack hangs out in, the characters who are also musicians, and the drama that Jack exudes, that all connect to a different view of Ireland, a place where people get together in music and story instead of going at each other’s throats all the time.

A key element in the show is Jack’s old regulation Guards coat (the Guards are Ireland’s police force), a dark blue wool pea coat, that looks pretty good considering it’s been in the gutter a time or two. The coat is an instant icon–Jack doesn’t look himself in any other coat–and is the reason I would like to try reading the book series the show is based on. I will be really disappointed if the coat isn’t in the book series, so hope it’s not something the show just added on its own.

The most likable thing about the whole series is simply Iain Glen’s great performance. I wasn’t looking to be impressed, so maybe that’s why it was easy for him to impress me, but I’d never really thought of Glen as ever being a leading man, and he really shines in the role. Some people look better with a bit of age on them, and Glen does. Not sure his accent is truly Irish in this, though the gravely voice is appropriate for the character. Glen also does a great job of connecting with the audience. He plays Jack as always one step away from becoming a saint, and portrays the grizzly alcoholic with his softie, emotional insides often exposed. It’s easy to see why Kate and Cody not only stay friends with him, but explains why they rarely, if ever, chastise him for his lifestyle. They know without question that Jack Taylor would die to save them. There have been many drunken detectives with damaged pasts, but Jack Taylor is different. Maybe it’s the coat, maybe it’s just how much he gets beat up and somehow manages to keep going. I think, though, it’s just that both Glen and the writers manage to portray him as simultaneously irritating as a person and genuine in his affection for others.

It helps that there are only a few episodes, and not a litany of crimes we follow Taylor investigating. In fact, the only episode in which the series becomes humdrum crime of the week type of thing is with episode seven, in which the show was entirely revamped. The series also was inconsistent in Glen’s first person narration. It would often pop in out of nowhere. This a show in which to enjoy mostly the main character, and a few of the others, the setting, and perhaps some elements of the mysteries and crimes, but not a show to be watched purely for the mysteries, which tend to disappoint. Still, it would be fun to see the show continue, albeit with the three original lead actors back in place. Although a character piece, Jack isn’t Jack without Kate, and is better with Cody on the scene.

Shows That Need to Happen: Red John (Part 1 of 2)

The Mentalist

Part 1: The Case for Another Season  *Spoilers abound*

Anyone who has watched The Mentalist knows that the driving force behind the show was Red John, or more precisely, Patrick Jane’s pursuit of Red John. Other shows are crime/detective procedurals, other shows have quirky consultants, other shows use alternative methods of solving the crimes, and The Mentalist had all of that and more: A serial killer that didn’t get caught for 5.5 seasons and was hunted by a man so permanently damaged that not even a happy wedding ending could shake the feeling of melancholy surrounding his character.

Despite being a con artist who pretends to contact the dead and read minds for money, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) was picked to help figure out the identity of a serial killer named Red John whose calling card was a giant smiley face painted on a wall with his victim’s blood. After publicly insulting this unknown killer, said killer murdered Patrick Jane’s wife and daughter for revenge. After suffering a mental breakdown, Jane made it his mission in life to hunt down and kill Red John. He joined the California Bureau of Investigation to work with the team assigned to the case.

As great as The Mentalist was, I think it could handle another season, and one centered around Red John at that.

First of all, the catching and klling of Sheriff Mcallister (Xander Berkeley – did a great job, by the way) should have been either the last or second to last episode of the entire show. It was painful to watch Patrick Jane limping on two years later, forced to either work for the FBI or have to face prosecution for taking the law into his own hands. And although I was happy to see him and agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) get together, I thought they deserved better than an overdone rom-com airport confession and a following relationship that carried little of the closeness that had come before.

Marriage and a baby on the way both point to a good future for the couple, but there are things that show that Patrick Jane is still very damaged. Take the scene in South America (don’t remember which country he’s in) where Jane wakes up in deja vu to an undercover FBI officer cooking him breakfast at the stove, eerily like Lorelei Martins (Emmanuelle Chriqui) did before she revealed she was a follower of Red John. The lighting, the slow motion, everything about that scene recalls the one that came, in on-show time, two years before it. Patrick Jane is also much subdued after finally killing Red John, something that may be realistic, but is hardly exciting to watch.  Although he initially welcomes working for the FBI to see Lisbon again, he grates against the job in a way that is disconnected from the Patrick Jane we’ve come to know. He grates against the work more than he does against the FBIs rigid way of operating.  He proposes to Lisbon with his dead wife’s wedding ring. He wants to spend his life fixing up a shack.  He buys a RV caravan thing eerily reminiscent of the carny culture he so wished to escape as a young man. These things don’t signal “happy ending” for either him or Lisbon. This is a man still very much in crisis. This a man who stll has a sliver of doubt about himself, perhaps because Jane was at his best when hunting Red John. He had a purpose and a calling.  Revenge is a tragic way to make a living, but for his character and for the show, it worked.

Make no mistake: I want a happy ending for the characters. I want a wham bam, wow of an ending that makes sense of all of the seasons that came before. The choice of Sheriff McAllistar as Red John didn’t work for me. The Captain Hook phrase “worthy opponent” comes to mind. Why the sheriff was not that opponent has a lot to do with screen time, but also due to the fact that he was a random choice. He was only in one episode previously to being added to the list of seven suspects, but so were others like Brett Partridge (Jack Plotnick). Brett with his greasy hair would have been a better choice, actually. His first scene in episode one of the entire show is chilling. Partridge describes what Red John does to his victims not in the clinical tones his job calls for, but in an excited and almost reverant fashion. Patrick Jane immediately names him as a ghoul, and the entire scene crackles with foreshadowing. Had Brett Partridge been chosen as Red John, I would have thought, “Ah, that makes sense. It fits.” His fanaticism and downright creepiness make him a worthy opponent. Vizualize cult leader Bret Stiles  (Malcolm McDowell) (why are all of these guys named Bret(t)?) would have also been a worthy Red John, as he mentally spars with Jane throughout almost all of the seasons of the show. Even the fake out choice of CBI director Gale Bertram (Michael Gaston) was better. He at least had several previous episodes to give the audience reason to suspect him either to be Red John or to be working with him.

The biggest problem with McAllistar is that he was suddenly added to a list of 7 suspects of people with whom Jane had met and shaken hands since…really? Really, writers? If the list itself had been a bluff for a different person they had in mind, that would have been awesome. How it turned out, not so much. The Vizualize guy would have been a better choice. Heck, Cho (Tim Kang) would have been a better choice. Who would have seen that coming? I mean, he’s got a brain. Have you seen the classic tomes he reads? And he likes the bad-good girls.  His romance with Summer (Samaire Armstrong) was epic.  What about Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti)? What about Lisbon? Rigsby (Owain Yeoman)?

I have to ask, is it really that big of a deal if some or even all of the audience guesses the answer before the end of the story? I guessed who Johnny Depp was in The Tourist and I still enjoyed the ending. Writing a twist that almost no one guesses (i.e, The Sixth Sense) is next to impossible. And once someone does, every thriller after the audience is hunting for the twist and it becomes a headache for the writers because same audience decides that the story lives or dies on whether they guess the twist. Too easy to figure out, the writing is crap. Too hard to figure out, audience feels cheated (i.e., my own wish that there had been a different ending).

Did fears of the audience guessing “who dunnit” play into the strange choice of McAllistar and the even worse choice to try out The Mentalist as a straight procedural? I don’t know, but as a viewer, I felt it didn’t work. The show never sold me on being a procedural at the cold and clinical FBI, although it worked ok at the CBI as long as they were also chasing Red John. The Mentalist deserves another season to remedy these mistakes. Patrick Jane deserves another season to revel in the chase. He can be happily married, and a father, and still revel in the chase. He can be happy in all of these things and still be a tragic character, but one true to the episodes that came before. Patrick Jane does not build cabins in the woods. He does not buy RVs. Patrick Jane enjoys detecting and the con, especially conning evil. And he’s damaged and always will be  Patrick Jane is still very much in need of therapy, and that therapy involves catching killers.

Up Next Time: Part 2 – What a Red John Show would look like.