Monday, 22 October 2007

BIONIC WOMAN 1.4 - "Faceoff"

Monday, 22 October 2007
Writers: Robert Rovner & Jon Cowan
Director: Paul Shapiro

Cast: Michelle Ryan (Jaime Sommers), Miguel Ferrer (Jonas Bledsoe), Molly Price (Ruth Treadwell), Will Yun Lee (Jae Kim), Lucy Hale (Becca Sommers), Katee Sackhoff (Sarah Corvus), Isaiah Washington (Antonio Pope), Brian Hallisay (Dr. Mark Stevens) & Kevin Rankin (Nathan)

Jaime is sent to rescue an American doctor who has been captured in Paraguay. While there, she discovers the shocking truth about her life expectancy...

Sarah: From you, I want nothing. Kill me or let me go.
Jonas: You know I tried that once before. It didn't work. This time I thought I'd help.

I just can't find a reason to enjoy this show. Michelle Ryan is likable enough as a lead, and Katee Sackhoff's performance is great fun, but other than that... Bionic Woman offers nothing you haven't seen before, or seen done better...

Faceoff atleast gives Jaime (Michelle Ryan) a more grown-up mission: helping Antonio (Isaiah Washington) rescue captured Dr Mark Stevens (Brian Hallisay), an expert in bionics, from some bad guys in Paraguay...

As usual, the episode is a jumble of enjoyable sequences desperately in need of an engaging story to hang them off. The few "bionic moments" are nicely-handled (particularly a series of death-defying leaps), but Jaime's skills are still mostly confined to block/punch/kick choreography that's already overused and boring.

The rescue of Dr Stevens basically serves to dispense information to Jaime about her new abilities and shortcomings. The anthrocites in Jaime are shown to prevent body repelling foreign objects (her bionics), but unfortunately their behaviour is very unhelpful if you're shot by a bullet...

Most importantly, Stevens tells Jaime her body will ultimately reject the anthrocites, meaning she'll die in 5 years time. That's actually a good way to inject the show with an inherent "deadline", and provides a recurring theme of Jaime's own mortality. On a show awkwardly trying to carve out an identity, it's one of their better ideas.

Unfortunately, far too much emphasis is being placed on Sarah Corvus (Katee Sackhoff), whose had more screentime as a "recurring character" than some of the regulars! She's clearly someone the writers feel they can have fun with (more so than Jaime) so she's again brought back for a subplot here. But, as much as I like Sackhoff in this role, Sarah is suffering from overexposure. It's only episode 4 and we know the bulk of her entire backstory, it seems! She should be used as a mysterious shot of adrenaline every now and then, but instead she's a crutch.

Faceoff has Sarah captured early on by the Berkut Group and shipped to their secret HQ -- where she's restrained in a silly Hannibal Lecter-style stretcher and interrogated about the whereabouts of rogue bionic scientist Anthony Anthros. Her capture is so swift and easy, it destroys the unbeatable vibe Sarah had, and her eventual escape is just as simple and anticlimactic.

Sackhoff's charisma deflects attention from the plodding nature of the other plots, but it's a trick that's working less and less. It's time to rest Sarah before fatigue sets in. Let's have some better development for Jaime or her two-dimensional sister Becca -- who mentions being in an internet chatroom, despite being banned from computers in the Pilot (the second such oversight in as many weeks!)

To summarize, Faceoff is a mundane episode that delivers information pertaining to Jaime's lifespan and finally has Becca (Lucy Hale) questioning her sister's mysterious working life, but there's previous else going on. It passes the time well enough, but it's difficult to work up any enthusiasm for anything you're seeing.

Bionic Woman needs to be super-Alias, or a cybernetic "Jaime Bond", but it's just not happening. The idea to equip the 70s series with an expansive mythology is fine, but at the moment everything is unfocused, rambling, ill-defined and plays like mid-90s sci-fi in a TV landscape where Lost has upped the ante...

17 October 2007
NBC, 8/7c pm