Monday, 7 February 2011

'HUMAN TARGET' 2.12 - "The Trouble With Harry"

Monday, 7 February 2011

The penultimate episode of this sometimes erratic but hugely enjoyable second season gave us another prime slice of Human Target, from the pen of Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine, who usually deliver more of a season 1 flavour to their storylines. In "The Trouble With Harry", we found Chance (Mark Valley) handcuffed to a booby-trapped bar stool, waiting for a hostage exchange to happen, only for bungling private eye friend Harry (Tony Hale) to wander into the middle of the operation.

In flashbacks, the result of Chance apprising Harry of the situation, we followed the circumstances that led to Chance's predicament, which began 48 hours earlier with a client called Sarah (Nicole Bilderback), who had accidentally discovered evidence that her rich husband Claypool (Michael Massee) is running a hit squad. As a recluse with an extraordinary amount of security, a plan was set in motion for Ilsa (Indira Varma) to meet with Claypool to discuss a philanthropic business venture, sneaking Chance and Ames (Janet Montgomery) into the residence with Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) posing as Ilsa's driver, with Winston (Chi McBride) orchestrating events from his nearby surveillance van. Ilsa was tasked with ensuring cagey Claypool drank an expensive bottle of wine they've spiked with a truth serum, in order to get his computer password, while Chance and Ames had to negotiate a room full of invisible laser beams and temperature sensors.

I like Human Target when it's finding a use for everyone and the dynamic shifts into full-on Mission Impossible territory. Having to break into a seemingly impregnable country retreat brought its own delights, with Chance finding himself stretched-out between a table and desk (just above invisible beams, like a shoestring version of the iconic moment Tom Cruise dangled above a pressure-sensitive floor in Mission Impossible), together with the natural comedy of the operation resting on Ilsa being able to convince Claypool to drink his tainted wine. Guest star Michael Massee is also very reliable as a screen villain, often raising the poorest of TV shows out of the doldrums whenever he's around (remember his turn as mad scientist Dyson Frost in FlashForward?), and while Claypool was a slightly underwhelming character for Massee's talent, it was still good to see him involved.

I even enjoyed the sometimes irritating plot-device of starting the story in media res, then telling the majority of the story using flashbacks. It's often the sign of an episode with a lack of plot, which is perhaps true here, but it somehow worked in the case of "The Trouble With Harry". Even Tony Hale, reprising his hapless character from the recent "Communication Breakdown", managed to make his lazy role as expositional aide quite entertaining. And how can you really hate an episode that involved the leading man and woman evading a gun-toting biker with a stolen horse from a stable? A good action moment a pleasing romantic undertone, which led to the breakthrough scene with a drunken Ilsa kissing Chance, having been given proof her beloved husband was cheating on her before his untimely death.

Look, it's hardly rewriting the rules of action-adventure television, but with a capable cast, strong guest stars, a steady stream of decent action sequences, snarky humour and clear storylines, Human Target's carving a niche as a consistent source of disposable in-the-moment entertainment.


  • Last week I commented about Human Target's fascinating leaps around the Fox schedule and the according rise and fall of ratings. This episode actually aired on a Tuesday, following a Monday night episode, and gained the show's best rating all year: an impressive 9.22m. I really don't see any reason why Human Target shouldn't come back for a third season now. It can get almost 10m in a decent timeslot, and even on a Friday it almost gets 5m.

written by Jonathan E. Steinberg & Robert Levine / directed by Peter Lauer / 2 February 2011 / Fox