Written by: Glenn Gordon Caron
Directed by: Christopher Misiano
Episode Number: 102
Original Broadcast Date: October 1, 1999
Guest Stars: Kim Chan (Eggman), Chip Zien (Gerald Misenbach), Matt Malloy (Civil Servant), Michael Cullen (Police Commissioner), Paul Reggio (Lew), Timothy Devlin (Special Agent #1)
My main nit with "Origins" was that it was way too slow... enough that the plausibility nitpicks seemed glaring. This time, there were quite a bit of occurrences that seemed ridiculous, but that just didn't seem to matter so much. I was too busy being entertained by "On the Town" to dwell all that much on the nitpicks.
But to be fair... I will get the nitpicking out of the way first.
Okay, the security on Michael was way too lax. If he can take out a boxer with one punch and tear off a car door, three guys are not going to cut it. Also, they were armed but couldn't take a shot at him because it would cost too much to seriously injure him? Hello? Geez, they have the technology to engineer this guy, they should be able to equip their agents with tranquilizer guns or something non-lethal that would effectively stop Michael in his tracks. Also, someone on the list pointed this out, and I must agree: they should have just staked out his house. If Morris isn't completely surprised by this behavior, he should have figured Michael would try to see his family. The only excuse I can come up with is that the business with the e-mail threat sidetracked them.
Why didn't anyone on the street notice that there was a guy climbing up the side of an office building? I suppose you could say that it was New York, but in the financial district someone would have had the guts to call the cops. And for all the trouble they gave Michael during the day, the insurance company's night security must really be lousy.
Okay, now I'm done nitpicking.
In "Origins," I was tired of bouncing back and forth between plotlines that were seemingly separate. In "On the Town," the stories started to come together in what, IMO, was a far more entertaining episode. The tone, as usual, shifted back and forth from comedy to angst to suspense, but this time around the different aspects weren't quite so jarring and seemed to blend together nicely. Suspension of disbelief came much easier this time around since the story was held together more tightly and was far more entertaining.
Watching the episode, I got the impression that the reason Michael seemed to be making some rather foolish decisions was this: he hadn't thought anything through. Sure, he managed to break free from Dr. Morris and the government, but after that he obviously did not have any real set plan. The minute he suggested the initial plan - having Roger introduce him to Lisa and Heather - I knew how ridiculous that idea was. It wasn't thought through; in fact, very little was, with Michael acting primarily on impulse throughout the episode. Which was a plus indeed - mainly because his lack of calculation was consistent. At no point did he suddenly have a plan on how to proceed; he managed to evade the teams for so long out of sheer luck.
It made more sense to play it that way rather than having him follow a clever plan by any means; forget superhuman strength and speed, Michael's still an ordinary guy who's only had a week of training. The writers didn't try to make us forget this at all; when he knocked a boxer out with one punch, Michael's first impulse was to check if the guy's okay. Nice touch.
One of the more surprising performances this time out was Gerrit Graham as Roger. He was absolutely hysterical playing the cowardly best friend, and his reactions to the night's events were perfectly delivered. Of all the characters, he got the best lines. I didn't expect him to be the comic relief by any means, and was pleasantly surprised by him this time around. His interaction with Michael was a riot, and as annoying as the character was supposed to be, his misguided conclusions were so hysterical that you could see why Morris didn't quite want to kill this guy.
The episode could have been rather depressing; from the promos, I was afraid that half of it would consist of Michael watching his family from afar and feeling sorry for himself. But that wasn't the case at all. When the lights came on in the kitchen and Michael first got a glimpse of Lisa and Heather laughing and washing the dishes, instead of drowning in self-pity, he got a huge smile on his face, just happy to see them again. And his jealousy upon finding Lisa had a date was pretty funny and realistic - one has to keep in mind that while he's been gone for seven months, to him it's been only a week.
Haysbert still continues to impress me with his acting. As usual, he kept up the scene-stealing eccentricity of his character, and while there was no singing this time out, he didn't disappoint. The scene when he pretended to be God was marvelous. There's also an ironic quality to that part when you think about it - "playing God" comes naturally to Morris, and that's exactly what he does with Roger. But he also showed a slight reluctance to follow through on his threats in this episode more than the last - firstly, by letting Roger go, and secondly, when he gave Michael the option to go on living once he had captured him again. I personally don't believe there was another "bun in the oven" at all.
I had mixed feelings about a few scenes in this episode. The first, of course, was the part when Michael tore the car door off. From a comedic standpoint, I loved it - Roger's deadpan reaction was perfect. But within the framework of the story arcs... I don't know. The "reincarnation" conclusion it led Roger to was okay, but having Michael show off his abilities to his friend so early on worries me. Not to mention the fact that he'd be more likely to rip off the handle instead of the entire door.
The second scene was the office dialogue between Lisa and Misenbach. On the one hand, it was sort of a cop-out for her to find a reason to break it off so soon; the conflict with her dating someone while Michael watches jealously from afar is something that might have been nice to see over the span of a few episodes. On the other hand, it was rather well-acted. I found myself liking Lisa a lot more after she managed to tell him off, and Misenbach didn't come off as a total sleaze, as opposed to Chad Lowe's portrayal of Craig Spence. He almost seemed well-meaning, but she was right to brush him off the way she did. I suppose there's always the possibility that he'll try to call again despite her refusal.
Lastly, the part where Michael and Lisa actually met again. I did not see that one coming at all. I expected maybe she'd say a few words to him and that would be it before the agents grabbed him. Why she actually met him and got a decent impression of him this early on in the series boggles me. It would have been better just having Roger "know" and have Lisa in the dark a bit longer. I didn't have much of a problem with why she would buy this homeless stranger shoes, but it came up too early.
Then again... while it happened too early, I loved their interaction. I really did. I suppose it falls into the "wishful thinking" category. She helped him out because she was already reeling a bit from the letdown of Misenbach, and she did have a little bit of wine. Besides, she did find something familiar about him, and that did come through. Both Close and Colin did a wonderful job in that scene - just for a second, when her back was turned, Close had a wistful, longing expression that really stuck with me. The dialogue wasn't much, but the acting filled in for it. You could tell, by the end of the episode, why Michael had gone from asking for his death back to insisting that he wanted to live.
The final scene was almost as creepy as the Eggman's first strike on the subway. Probably the image of the blood seeping under the hotel room door did it for me. It's a good thing this subplot is coming full circle next episode, otherwise I'd be tearing my hair out.
Overall, a vastly entertaining and occasionally touching episode, and I can officially say I'm hooked. Forget "Harsh Realm," I'm sticking to this.
Notes of Interest:
- Okay, Lisa's unemployed, that's confirmed. And she majored in art history in college.
- "Great. I'm fighting Gallagher?" For those who don't get that, Gallagher is a comedian whose shows always included the smashing of watermelons with a sledgehammer... and occasionally he used chainsaws too.
- The senators funding the project are apparently aware that the brain of an ordinary civilian was used for their "perfectly engineered body."
- With all Morris' worries about plastering Michael's face over the 6 o'clock news, the security at Grand Empire has a photo of him on file now. Wonder if that'll come up later?
- While the Eggman apparently spoke decent French, it appears his English isn't quite as good.
- So he's not invulnerable, but the cuts Michael got from the broken glass didn't look as bad as you'd think. Perhaps he heals faster.
- Wait a minute... the CBS press release says Roger's last name is "Singer," and this episode reveals his last name is "Bender." What?
- I'm going to place my bet now that Roger's going to change his testimony back to "disappointed" now after his encounter with Michael. Unless something drastic happens to make him revert back to the cowardly route.
- Random observation: the music in the background in the discount store is Fatboy Slim's "Praise You." I only noticed because I like that song.
- Whatever sort of "tracking device" they have implanted in Michael must be fairly short-range if it took them so long to get a decent signal. Perhaps a more powerful signal might either be too easy for enemies to intercept - or maybe a stronger signal wasn't feasible given that it's implanted in Michael's head. (No, I don't think it's up his nose.)
- Was there really an ex-Green Beret? Personally, I doubt it. Too convenient, and after having Michael literally ask for his death back the night before, I think Morris was testing him; a suicidal operative would be more trouble than he's worth.
- Damn, but that toxin has one hell of a range... but while a subway car was insulated enough to contain it, apparently an elevator isn't. Then again, the doors could have been open when he dropped the egg. Brrr.
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