Saturday, 11 December 2010

'HUMAN TARGET' 2.4 - "The Return Of Baptiste"

Saturday, 11 December 2010

This episode was co-written by Human Target's creator, Jonathan E. Steinberg, and involved the return of popular badguy Baptiste (Lennie James), the erstwhile partner of Chance (Mark Valley) when they worked as assassins-for-hire. With so much harkening back to last year, it was no surprise that "The Return Of Baptiste" felt like a missing episode from the show's pre-revamp days; and, considering it was the best hour season 2's delivered so far, maybe showrunner Matt Miller should take heed. Some of his changes have been worthwhile and logical (female regulars, a billionaire's bankroll, more location footage), but this was the first time Human Target really felt like Human Target.

This week, a British reporter and friend of Ilsa's (Indira Varma) was being held hostage by South American criminal Mr Cervantes (Jorge Montesi), so she asked Chance to rescue her. Unfortunately, Chance knew that the only person capable of locating Cervantes is his old partner Baptiste, who's currently residing in a Russian prison. After brokering his temporary release, Chance and Baptiste flew into South America to find Cervantes and liberate Ilsa's friend -- but, naturally, Baptiste had one eye on a permanent escape. Back in San Francisco, Chance's getaway was jeopardized when Ilsa's private jet wound up grounded by US authorities, prompting Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) to implement a "Norma Jean" plan to get the plane airborne again. Unfortunately, success rested on sending Ilsa out into the field, to sweet-talk a military official...

In some ways "The Return Of Baptiste" was a jumble of plot elements from season 1, telling a story that was also quite familiar, but you just can't underestimate the appeal of Lennie James as Baptiste. He's a really enjoyable presence; playing Chance's antithesis, who maybe close to redemption if he'll likewise relinquish his selfish, opportunistic ways. Valley's performance has never thrilled me on this show, but his reserved demeanour felt more like confident superiority when held against James's outgoing, "evil twin" reflection of himself. It's a screen partnership that works very well, making me wonder if Human Target would be improved if there was a Chance/Baptiste duo at its tip.

Overall, "The Return Of Baptiste" was a definite throwback to season 1, but a pleasant one, despite too much adherence to last year's overdone formula (Chance's damsel-in-distress being an attractive woman, the climax involving extraction from a foreign hotspot). Everything involving Chance and Baptiste was confidently handled (although the bad blood over Baptiste once killing Chance's soulmate could have been pushed more), the action/fights were great, and James was again very entertaining to watch. It was also curious to see writers Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine struggle with some of season 2's format changes: Ames didn't feature whatsoever (another sign she's one newcomer too far), while Ilsa was suddenly required to expose some cleavage and purr over a man in uniform for the sake of the mission.

What did you make of this episode? A welcome return to last year's vibe?

WRITERS: Jonathan E. Steinberg & Robert Levine
DIRECTOR: Bryan Spicer
TRANSMISSION: 8 December 2010, Fox, 8/7c