Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Television Tuesday: Human Target Part Deux

Few things bring as much joy as discovering someone as obsessed over a TV show as you are. If nothing else, you can at least share the same medication. Imagine my delight when Samantha Hunter and I began tweeting about Human Target, a show I blogged about here a few weeks ago. After our mutual appreciation fest had worn itself out, we decided to chat about the show back and forth on our blogs - She Said; She Said - and share some love for good television while discussing the finer points of an action hero versus romantic hero and how (for my part) this show has quickly gone completely off the rails by forcing romance on its hero. Samantha took the first pass earlier this week; now it's my turn.

I'm not going to reiterate my objections to the two women characters added to the cast for Season Two (exactly how much longer are we to be forced to endure Ames?). Rather, I'd like to focus on Samantha's points regarding the relationship between Christopher Chance, our hero, and his boss and benefactor, Ilsa Pucci.

First of all, what relationship? There is zero chemistry between these two characters. Look, there's a reason Mr. and Mrs. Smith destroyed a marriage: the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie literally leaps off the screen. It crackles before your very eyes. There's no crackle between Chance and Ilsa. There's not even a spark. How are we expected to believe this supposed romance when the hero himself couldn't look more bored?

I do agree with Samantha that Ilsa began to come into her own in the jungle episode. Certainly, we got more insight into her back story (I'm a sucka for a good back story). But even there, I rolled my eyes. Northern Ireland? Really? I'm all for blind casting, but Indira Varma is not remotely Irish. Trying to convince me otherwise merely yanks me right out of the story. I'd actually forgotten that Isla was assaulted at the end of that episode. That's the point: I forgot. There wasn't anything remotely memorable about that episode. Except clearly Northern Ireland. And the spiders.

Samantha proposes that Isla is actually now in danger of becoming a more interesting character than Chance.

[Isla] is actually becoming such an interesting heroine that Chance has to catch up. The danger here is that as she becomes more interesting and layered, he becomes more flat. That may have been okay when it was just the guys — an action hero can be more one-dimensional – but if you are sparking up romance, conflict, inner turmoil, and so forth, your hero HAS to rise to the occasion. While he has been written as a fantastic action hero — he plays that to a tee — the romantic hero presents new challenges.
I have to agree with Samantha. When the stakes rise, be they emotionally, romantically, or externally driven, an action hero must also rise to the occasion. But while Samantha calls Chance's characterization flat in light of Ilsa's evolving complexity, I see it as simply a total lack of interest in this fabricated romance.

One of the things I loved about Season One was the slow reveal of the origins of Christopher Chance. The allusions to "the old man", the assignation tango with former friend, the killer Baptiste (Lenny James rocked it hard in that role), that nail-biting finale when Wilson is kidnapped and freaking Armand Assante comes to their rescue. The holy crap revelation that Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man himself, was also once Christopher Chance (the richness of The Princess Bride homage in that reveal pleased me to no end. "I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts. My name is Ryan.")

It's not an over exaggeration to say that the Season One finale gave me chills.

The characterization of Christopher Chance is a rich feast of a man trained to kill without conscience who came to a crossroads in his life and took the unknown road. This has mainly been lost in Season Two as the show as deviated away from this premise in order to force this "romance" down our throats. Of course Isla is becoming more complex in comparison to Chance; his previously compelling story has been truncated to fit the demands of having two additional full time cast members and a romantic subplot that supersedes any effective continued development of our hero whether he's action or romance oriented.

Samantha writes, "There is a difference between strong and silent, self-assured, confident and restrained — and emotionally stunted. In the finale, some of the very best moments were the hanging off the building declaration ("Don't let me go…" "Never")"

Actually, I found that moment a major fail. This level of emotional commitment has in no way been earned by these characters. It's like the writers are following a template and this is where the instructions say to put in the Last of the Mohicans moment. Chance and Isla went from zero to 60 in about 3.3 seconds and that's only a good thing if you're an Enzo.

Samantha continues:

[Chance] has to be talked into going after her at the end. As much as I liked the trek across the city in the 'vette (and the music was great), Chance had to come to this on his own, not be pushed into it by Winston (who could have delivered that awesome line quoted above at the start of the show, not the end).  That he didn't do this just puts another flag in the emotionally dumb camp, and there is nothing attractive about that. The biggest problem is that while we have seen Ilsa grow and change over the course of the season, Chance has not — or not much — most notably,  in spite of his promise on the side of the building, he was in fact very willing to let her go.
That's because he's not in love with her. He's merely doing what everyone tells him he should be doing (including the writers). I figure as long as Ilsa continues to pay the bills, Chance is happiest when she's anywhere BUT by his side.

What makes it all so much worse is that the bones of the show I love occasionally still shines through. Remove the ridiculous romance and you have great episodes like Imbroglio.

Ilsa is attending the opera with her sister-in-law sans the rough and tumble guys. At the last moment, Chance and the wonderful if seriously defanged Guerrero (worthy of a whole post all on his own) also attend. Some dodgy intelligence has given Chance a bad feeling. As Isla confronts them, scornful of their proposed interest in La Traviata, Guerrero deadpans "I'm not gonna lie, if I have to sit through this Baroque stuff, I'd much prefer Rossini."

Ha! I rewound that moment. Twice.

Imbroglio crackled with intensity, high-stakes, action and humor. Not surprisingly, Ames was nowhere to be seen in the episode and even while at its center, Isla was significantly toned down. Honestly, it was such a thrill to watch Chance kick bad guy ass again. Because the heart of this show, of the story, are these three men, Chance, Guerrero, and Wilson and oh, so much not the romance.

The Season Two finale showed sparks of the old fire as Guerrero got to go all super assassin on the CIA. Suddenly, it just. Got. Interesting (though don't think too hard about how a rogue CIA agent can suddenly take down headquarters but is quickly subdued by the bad ass Guerrero.) I think it's telling though, that when the CIA spies fast roped into the loft, my first thought was where's Carmine the dog? Do not hurt the dog!

That fire was quickly snuffed out, abbreviated for a misapplied, run-through-the-night-to-stop-the plane segment where Chance didn't exhibit an iota of passion or urgency to reach Ilsa before she left (the Corvette showed more urgency than Chance, but come on, it's a 'vette. It's not like it'll let you drive it slow). Frankly, I don't think the man cared.

Yes, my John Hughes-trained heart surged to see the Corvette streak through the rain at night towards Isla – but that's mostly because I like well made cars. Frankly, the 'vette was the only thing keeping me watching at that point because I was so abysmally bored. I knew exactly what was coming next, I could have written the scene myself, and when I'm saying the lines out loud along with the actor and it's the first time I've seen the episode, honey, that is not a good sign.

Look, Human Target is a show worth saving, but not in its current state. I would rather see it be canceled than have to endure another season of these story and character bastardizations that aren't generated by organic growth but rather manipulated to suit the flawed visions of outside forces.



  1. This is so awesome. :) what a great response.

    Can't wait to respond, but have to (damn having to pay bills, get work done, eat, etc) but I think you really hit on some interesting nuggets here, and I can't wait to go back to the blog and ponder! (addicted much?). You reminded of a few things I had forgotten, and really triggered some new thoughts...

    I think I'll peg my responses for Thursdays, if possible. I've been playing it kind of loose with my blog schedule, but if I last until Thurs on responding, it will be a miracle, LOL.

    But, I hope to be able to get some input from what others have to say as well...


  2. Thanks for this post. I think you've articulated some of my concerns about this show, and where it feels so hit-and-miss this season. I had read somewhere the women were added in an attempt to increase female viewership, but it has definitely watered down what I loved about the show initially, which is the interplay between the three men.

    I cannot imagine why any of them tolerate Ames, especially Guerrero. And I'm not sure I even like Guerrero's newly-revealed "pressure point". I like his morally ambiguous persona better. LOL

    You've given me a lot to think about, which is not good, since I'm supposed to be thinking about my WIP. LOL But I really enjoyed this post.

  3. @Sam - Thanks so much! Can't wait to hear what you have to say about those nuggets. I'm really enjoying doing this with you.

    @Donna - thanks for stopping by and posting a comment. I appreciate your kind words. It really is hit or miss this season and it's telling that the hits are when they focus on the three guys. Let's face it, this is not an ostensibly female-friendly show (unless you're us!) and trying to make it so it ruining it.

    Totally agree with you about Guerrero. That moral ambiguity is what makes the idea of him shooting Ilsa to keep her safe so plausible. And then they throw out that pressure point and just let it dangle there. Bad writers!

    I'm thinking we're going to have to have an entire post on Guerrero all too soon...

  4. I started to like Ilsa toward the end. I actually felt some of that chemistry after she shot that dude in her apartment. But, eh, I don't think they needed the chicks. It was a fine show without them.

    I hope, if there is a season three, they go back to the original premise.

  5. I tried to watch this show and I don't think I finished watching the second episode. Something about it just didn't appeal to me.

    Your summary of how it's going makes me think maybe I was right in abandoning it. If I hear rumblings that the show was given a new life, I may check it out again.

  6. @Melissa - thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. This show is definitely not for everyone, but, at least in the first season, it had a great premise and some really engaging execution. It's sad when a show with a loyal audience 1) doesn't make it for ratings or 2)get rejiggered so much to its detriment to try to increase those ratings that it doesn't much resemble what was great originally. C'est la vie; c'est la guerre.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  7. @Jenn - yeah, I don't see it surviving to a season three unless Fox is hard up for shows. I'm not happy about it, I think it's more than savable if they embrace the good parts of Season One and go back to focusing on our three original guys by expanding back story, evolving their character more organically (come one! Guerrero w/a son? No.) and exploring more the kinds of conflicts that relate to what their doing like those of conflicting interest or struggling with the morality of a particular case.

    Thanks for the comment lovie.