I’m having a really strong sense of deja vu. It’s another Human Target season finale, and we’re in the same place: wondering if the show is going to make it, watching as people speculate it’s not long for this world. It’s not a fun place to be in, but I console myself with remembering that we all thought the same thing last year and here we are in season two.
We semi-pick up from the end of last week’s episode. Ilsa’s still drunk, still brooding, and flashing back to a year earlier, when her husband (Steven Brand) told her not to come to Africa and in so doing, saved her life. We now see things from his perspective, as he tells her he loves her, knowing he’s about to be very dead. That doesn’t seem like a cheater to me, but appearances can be deceiving. In the present day, Ilsa’s still drunk and making out with Chance, and I still don’t like it.
Later on, Winston is telling Chance and Guerrero that Ilsa has decided to move back to London. Into the conversation walks Ames, saying that the whole thing is all their fault. Thankfully, someone arrives to shut her up: Ilsa herself. “The reason I’m going back to London is that I have to work full-time,” she says, and everyone just eyes her before she leaves without fanfare. Winston believes that she was waiting for Chance to ask her to stay, telling him that “Just because we’re men doesn’t mean we can’t talk about our feelings.” Oh, no he didn’t. Insults ensue.
Guerrero, meanwhile, has a gun on a young woman in an alley. This is Julia (Emily Foxler), Marshall’s alleged mistress. She claims she needs protection, but that’s not all she has to tell them. Chance makes a last-second arrival at the airfield where Ilsa is boarding her plane, telling her that they’ve found Julia and that she also claims to know who really killed Marshall. It better not be Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the candlestick, is all I’m saying.
Julia tells the whole team that Marshall found guns in one of the shipments for his aid program in Africa, and that he traced them back to their source and people she can’t identify outside of a phone number. Cue another flashback; that photo Chance and everyone have been obsessing over is from a dinner meeting where he told her to go into hiding and she told him to think about his wife. She is not, in fact, his mistress. “Marshall loved you more than anything,” she tells Ilsa, more than a little annoyed at the accusation. “Don’t you know that?” And thus, Ilsa decides to resume prying into the death of her husband, for better or for worse.
Having set up a meeting with the bad guys, Chance and his team decide to use Julia and Ilsa as bait to get these unidentified people to show themselves. The problem with doing these things in public places is that anyone could be an axe murderer, and there’s a lot of anyones. Chance starts to notice peculiarities in a number of people, and elects to abandon the operation, just as Julia’s phone rings again. Ilsa decides to answer it, and is told to go into the subway by Bill Fickner (Jake Weber, looking and sounding as if he’s become a robot since Medium), who has a whole team of people in a warehouse armed with computer monitors and jamming technology. (What is it with bad guys and empty warehouses? Really? I’d love to see bad guys who are operating out of the shed in someone’s backyard and don’t all wear suits. Then again, I guess they wouldn’t be quite so scary.)
Chance takes off in pursuit, only to have various hindrances thrown in his way – so he’s not there when Julia shoves a gun into Ilsa’s stomach on a subway train. “Marshall fell for it too,” she gloats, wanting to know what Ilsa knows about her boss – and revealing that she was the one who shot Ilsa’s late husband. This, of course, sends Ilsa into a completely understandable rage, and she is able to use the fire alarm to stop the train, steal Julia’s gun, and try to make an escape. However, as she’s wearing impractical footwear, she’s stuck on the tracks and would have been pancaked by an oncoming train if not for Chance.
Back at the warehouse, the entire team has to process the developments in the situation, and the size of their enemy. We get a good look at the CIA seal on a file folder in the enemy HQ just as a strike team shows up at the now-empty warehouse (Again? Really? Twice in two seasons Chance’s place gets broken into? He needs to move.) to nab our heroes. Chance easily deduces that we’re talking about one rogue CIA agent who knocked off Marshall after Marshall discovered his aid program was being used for their ends and not his. He says they all need to run.
Ames attaches herself to Guerrero, who says he’d rather be with the CIA than have a life with her. He is not happy when he overhears the bad guys targeting his kid; he tells Ames to take the Cadillac and walks off.
Ilsa, meanwhile, is holed up with Chance and Winston, and trying to process why her husband didn’t tell her what was happening. It’s not hard to see why he would have, but Chance thinks that maybe he did and she overlooked it. To that end, he wants her to start talking about her marriage, which is in no way awkward. She tells him about a hotel they used to meet at once a month, so that’s where they head, but the CIA guys are already there. As Chance and Ilsa arrive at the suite she used to stay in with her husband, they move in for the capture – but get Ames and Chance hiding in the ceiling instead. Seriously, Mark Valley could not get any cooler if he tried. Ilsa has switched places with the thief and found what she’s looking for: a memory card containing Marshall’s incriminating photographs hiding behind a painting. She’s also got the gun she swiped earlier and would like to put a hole in the head of the woman who shot her husband. I would do the same thing, were I in her position; I’d probably also get killed.
As Ilsa takes Julia hostage and drags her to the roof in the pouring rain – I’d call this overdramatic, but knowing the show is filmed in Vancouver, I’m sure it was probably pouring naturally – Chance arrives, and refreshingly, does not try and stop her, possibly because he knows she won’t go through with it. “Go ahead and pull the trigger,” he says, but she can’t, just as the CIA strike team arrives. In a nice callback to the season premiere, the two of them jump off the roof and no one knows what to do. I’m wondering why it had to be in slow motion. That’s overly dramatic. We know they’re not pancaked on the street, or there’d be no show; nope, they’re hanging off the side of the building as Winston and Ames arrive, while Guerrero tells Fickner to call off the whole darn thing, because he’s Guerrero and he makes grown men cry. As payback for threatening his daughter, he blows the guy up and Jackie Earle Haley gets to walk away in slow motion like many action heroes before him.
With Winston working to ensure the memory chip ends up in the right hands, Ilsa leaves again. Chance returns later that night to find Winston waiting for him, wanting to snark at him again for not saying a proper goodbye. Goaded into it, he turns up to tell Ilsa to stay. He finds out that she was never planning on leaving at all.
It’s only natural to compare this season finale to the first-season finale, and I have to say I prefer season one, but that’s not necessarily a reflection on this episode. I loved “Christopher Chance” because it was the culmination of a season-long exploration of Chance’s character, and gave me all the answers I wanted; I wasn’t going on that same journey this season. Yes, this season has felt at times like we’re telling Ilsa’s story and we’re supposed to be invested in the truth behind her husband’s death, but since I didn’t get invested in her character the way I did with Chance, I didn’t really have questions I wanted answers to. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat because there wasn’t that same “need to know” pull.
In addition to that, since I’m personally not in favor of the Ilsa/Chance romantic subplot, all of the stuff concerning that didn’t interest me, whereas the first-season finale worked for me completely because I knew what was coming and understood its place. I certainly preferred last season’s cliffhanger to this season’s – I hate to say it – sappy ending. That’s purely a personal preference. I’m the kind of woman who’d rather watch a Die Hard movie than a romantic comedy any day. (Yes, I know how weird that makes me.)
Not to mention, the first-season finale boasted characters played by the likes of Lee Majors and Armand Assante, and no offense to the guest cast here but they’re not on the same level as those legends. Any show would have a tough time topping them (plus let’s not forget Lennie James either). I called Julia being a bad guy about a mile away, unfortunately. Maybe it’s the TV cynic in me.
That said, this was a pretty good episode once you get past all that; the show never fails to deliver some great action setpieces, like Chance coming out of the ceiling to take down five bad guys at once. That stuff will never get old, and it’s also great to see that the show did not end up demonizing Marshall Pucci after all. It’s a good episode of the show, but it didn’t take my breath away like I was hoping for.
If this does end up being the last we see of Human Target, I want to take a moment to extend my deep gratitude to everyone involved with the series. Thank you to the great cast, crew and to the publicists at both Warner Bros. and FOX that I’ve been lucky enough to work with over these two seasons; everything you do is noticed and appreciated. Thanks especially to Jon Steinberg, a brilliant and lovely man whom I’ve grown quite fond of; to Matt Miller, who’s always been as supportive of my love of the show as I am of the show itself; to Bear McCreary, for some magnificent music that reignited my love of orchestras and for letting me pick his brain about them; and of course, to Mark Valley, who was one of my favorite actors before this show and, now that I’ve been lucky enough to know him, is even more fabulous in my book. This show paired one of my favorite comic book heroes with one of my favorite actors, and in so doing became one of the great experiences in my life, as a critic but also as a fan. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to get to know all the people who made it happen, and I hope that we’ll all still be together come next season, as I love and respect you all.