Last week saw the debut of the revamped Human Target, and fan reaction has so far been mixed. I’ve seen people who are thrilled, and others who are up in arms. I can see both sides of the argument; anyone who knows me at all can say how passionate I am about this series. I suppose that also states my position in the debate for me; I haven’t loved a show this much since 24, so I’m not going to give up on it without a fight. Especially not when the episodes so far are still the best thrill ride on television.
We start seven years ago, when Chance is doing some work at the home of Daniel and Rebecca Brooks. He’s not there to protect them. He goes out to the van, calls Donnelly (Justified‘s M.C. Gainey), and then grabs a gun. Yes, he’s there to kill Mr. Brooks. In case you’re not sure about that, the editing insists on a brief moment of slow motion and a jump cut of Daniel’s reaction to having a gun aimed at him. It’s a little too flashy for my taste, but nothing can outdo that stone-cold look in Mark Valley’s eyes.
In the present day, Donnelly calls Chance and sets up a meeting at a delightfully seedy place (you know the type). Winston does not approve. “That place, those people. It’s part of your past. Don’t you think it’s better you kept it there?” he suggests. Chance, being Chance, doesn’t listen to him and takes the meeting. Donnelly slips him information about a new hit that’s been ordered on Rebecca Brooks, suggesting he might want to fix it. “If you can’t save her, nobody can,” he says, and I’m inclined to agree with the guy. Chance tries to get more information from him, but Donnelly would like to remain breathing, and balks. Despite having next to nothing to go on, Chance knows Donnelly’s read on him is spot on, and he tells Winston that they’re taking the case.
They get back to the warehouse and Winston has issues with some of the new technology that Ilsa has provided for. They now have an “integrated table interface” that works with three computer screens and comes with a manual thick enough to bludgeon someone to death. More frustrating is that because of the nature of Joubert’s organization, Chance knows very little about his previous job that can help them. He admits that he didn’t even know Daniel was married. He’s learning at the same time we all are, including that Rebecca and her husband were both economics professors at Northern California University. Winston points out that this is not exactly a life-threatening career choice.
Into all this walks a very blind Guerrero. When Chance points out he’s not wearing his glasses, he says they went through a meat grinder before moving on without missing a beat. He agrees to lean on Donnelly to see if he can find out who ordered the hit, but since he can’t drive blind, Ames ends up becoming his escort for the day. Chance discovers from a quick perusal of Rebecca’s social networking profiles that she has a date that day at the Berkeley Diner, and knowing it would be a perfect opportunity for an assassin, decides to go there, pretend to be her date, and try to get her out of harm’s way.
Guerrero and Ames drive back to the dive bar to pay a return visit to Donnelly. She continues to go on about how she’s been on the streets, and once again, he could care less. Ames really has this habit of talking too much that’s not only getting on his nerves, but mine as well. As he says, I don’t want to hear her bad girl resume.
Back at the warehouse, Winston runs into Ilsa, who wants a word with him in her office. That’s right, she now has an office in the warehouse. All the place needs now is a watercooler and it would really be a corporate office. The only amusing part of this exchange is her asking “You don’t see any need for a tank, do you?” as if she’s talking about what he might like for lunch. I have to admit, I’d love to see what Chance would do with a tank. When Winston tells her that he has to leave to help Chance, she decides to tag along over his objections. In fact, she rather arrogantly refers to herself as his employer and the team as her staff. It’s an attitude that won’t get her far with Human Target fans, as in that one exchange, she’s pretty much said everything they could possibly dislike her for.
Chance is surprised when he hears Ilsa in his ear as he approaches the diner and his “date.” Nonetheless, he proceeds to impersonate Rebecca’s would-be suitor, and it goes horribly wrong when the real date shows up and wants to know what’s going on. Everyone sort of stares in shock as the rescue plan blows up in Chance’s face. Angered and confused, Rebecca (Deadwood‘s Molly Parker) ignores Chance’s warning that she’s in danger. He’s already identified her would-be blind date as the assassin sent to kill her, and she’s making herself an easy target. She heads for a nearby parking garage, and Chance finally convinces her to get into his car when the assassin starts shooting at the both of them. An interesting action sequence ensues as he manages to keep up with the car well enough to get several shots off, and Chance introduces us to the new technique of shooting back at your adversary by firing through the exact bullet hole he just left in your windshield.
When the smoke clears, he brings her back to the warehouse, only to be confronted by Ilsa, who wants to know why he’s left Rebecca alone in the next room. He doesn’t even have to answer her, as she marches in and takes the brunt of Rebecca’s confusion and anger. Ilsa tells her about her experience with Chance, and that she can trust him. That seems to calm her down enough to talk with Chance and Winston about Daniel’s death. She tells them that his last project was a formula to predict price changes in ticket prices at major league ballparks that went unfinished, and that she recently applied for a grant to finish the project in his memory. As implausible as it may seem, Chance is convinced that the hit on Rebecca is connected to that formula. She says that all Daniel’s work is in the university archives, and he makes plans to take her there and retrieve it before anyone else can.
Guerrero meets with Donnelly and his touch is less softer than Chance’s. He raises the volume of his voice just enough so that everyone in the bar can hear that Donnelly is considering playing both sides, and mentions that he still knows where the man’s daughter lives. This would all go perfectly, except for that Ames decides to waltz in and interrupt, pretending to be Guerrero’s girlfriend. He is not amused. She manages to swipe Donnelly’s phone, and then has the gall to act like she’s majorly accomplished something. As Guerrero points out, it’s inconsequential; he was just about to get Donnelly to give up the name, which by definition is faster than having to rifle through his phone’s call log. I hope for Guerrero to hit her with something, but alas, that doesn’t happen.
Ilsa continues her running commentary on the team’s operations as she and Winston watch from the warehouse while Chance takes Rebecca to the university. At the front desk of the archives, Rebecca learns her husband had his papers shipped elsewhere before his death. Where did he send them to? Well, it’s the house Chance killed him at, of course!
Guerrero helpfully adds at that moment that the name they got from Donnelly traces to an investment firm, and surmises it’s the same people that hired Chance to perform the hit on Daniel. Ilsa overhears this and has a moment of freaking out over it before Winston reminds her that right now, Chance is the only person she can trust. If anyone needed that reinforced, the assassin turns up at the university and starts shooting again. What follows is an escape through an occupied chemistry lab that involves fun with a fire extinguisher and Rebecca having a panic attack in a stairwell. It’s heartwrenching as she sobs to Chance that she thinks that the man pursuing her could be the one who murdered her husband, while he (and we) all know that’s not the case.
Guerrero interrogates the guy who ordered the hit on Rebecca (“A lawyer and an investment banker? Wow. I’m really gonna enjoy this.”), who tells him that Daniel was blackmailing the investment firm. Once again, Ames busts in and deflates all the tension by using some very bad comparisons to describe Guerrero. He advises her to “save the speeches for Malcolm X.” Before he can get any further, someone snipes the lawyer right in the head. He passes this information to Winston, who decides to go out and back up Chance, much to Ilsa’s annoyance. He finally decides that he’s had enough of her, angrily reminding her that she knew about his past when she agreed to work with them. She threatens to tell Rebecca that Chance killed her husband, and an indignant Winston tells her Chance will do that for her. When she once again invites herself along, he speaks what I’m thinking and says “If you weren’t my boss, I’d shoot you.”
Chance and Rebecca arrive at the house in search of Daniel’s papers. The search leads them to a hidden space in the attic that contains not only the papers, but a gun. Further examination of the papers shows that Daniel’s theory can also be applied to manipulating the stock market. Yet Chance lets slip that he’s a little too familiar with the house, and with the gun in his face, he has to admit to Rebecca that he’s the man who murdered her husband. She shoots him in the arm (for which I give kudos to the writers, being willing to injure their hero instead of taking the normal route of a near-miss) and flees, on the verge of a breakdown. This almost gets her killed, except for that Chance shows up to wreck her patio and dispose of the would-be assassin (for good this time). Even injured, Christopher Chance can still out-brawl the competition. I remain convinced that Mark Valley could break me into several pieces and furthermore, make it look easy.
Even having seen Chance save her life, Rebecca is still more interested in killing him. Donnelly stops that from happening, but unsurprisingly, he’s just there to kill the both of them, as he set up Chance to kill Daniel years earlier. But wait, we’re not done yet! Winston gives Donnelly a bullet of his own, sending him into the pool and saving the day while everyone else looks on. He even has the perfect line to follow it up with: “I told you, I hate bad guys.”
The team regroups the following day at the warehouse, where Guerrero presents Chance with the full story on Daniel Brooks, pulled off the dead lawyer’s computer. Daniel had been blackmailing the bank for years, plotting to make his escape with millions of dollars he’d had saved up. Ames decides to pout about how she’s not getting any respect. Ilsa is shocked by the idea that Rebecca Brooks didn’t know her husband. However, when she and Winston meet with Rebecca later, she decides not to correct the other woman’s perception, even if it means Rebecca leaves making sure Chance knows she’s still angry at him for murdering the man she loved.
As I mentioned in my advance review of this episode, “The Wife’s Tale” takes an interesting tack in that Chance sets out to protect the widow of a woman that he murdered in his past life as an assassin. It’s the first time the show has gone that direction, and that opens up a lot of potential storylines; no doubt, there’s no shortage of past jobs that Chance could make amends for, but at the same time, going to that well too many times would turn the show into a one-note song. (It’s the same thing that happened with Nikita when that show played the same card; “Rough Trade” was the show’s best episode for a long time, but largely because it was unique.)
The episode is helped by having two solid guest stars. As I’ve said before with other shows, guest stars can’t save a bad episode, but they can elevate a good one, and Molly Parker and M.C. Gainey do just that. If I have one quibble, it’s that I’ve never seen Gainey play a good guy in anything yet, so I was pretty sure Donnelly was going to turn up as the bad guy at the end; however, I doubt most people would be as nerdy as I am about resumes of guest stars, so I don’t think it really detracts from the episode. Although I should admit that by episode’s end, I wanted to shake Rebecca and her complete lack of gratitude toward Chance. The man saved your life, for crying out loud, you could at least thank him for that.
Speaking of things I dislike, this episode is not the finest for either of the two new characters. It doesn’t portray either of them in a flattering light. It may be intentional, however, as they seem to say and do everything that fans were afraid they’d say and do. Ilsa spends the episode reminding everyone that she’s in charge and going where she shouldn’t be, and Ames spends it ruining everything Guerrero tries to do while refusing to be quiet. It’s almost funny how they hit every single cringe-inducing possibility with these two characters this episode; it’s as if the writers knew all our fears and proceeded to shove them all out of the way in one go. This would be more effective if I believed by episode’s end that either of the characters had actually grown past all those flaws; while at least Ilsa admits she may be out of her depth, she still shows up where she has no business being, and Ames still can’t keep her mouth shut. Let’s hope they both learn from their experiences here. It’s at least to Indira Varma’s credit that she brings a certain amount of poise that keeps Ilsa from becoming a caricature.
I stand by my earlier statement, though, that “The Wife’s Tale” is a reliable second outing for Human Target. There’s a compelling story here about Chance’s further redemption and hope for forgiveness, and that came through for me. I’ll admit that I even got choked up during the stairwell scene. It may be Rebecca’s story in title, but it’s Chance’s quest to make right something he did wrong, and the things he struggles with in the process, things he probably will always struggle with on some level, that made this episode for me. I enjoyed the action and I felt served by the story, but what I’ll remember about this episode is that Christopher Chance endeared himself to me yet again.
Review/Recap By: Brittany Frederick