Friday, 11 February 2011

'HUMAN TARGET' 2.13 - "Marshall Pucci"

Friday, 11 February 2011

The season 2 finale of Human Target was a curious mix of exciting moments (most in the first half) with a slight feeling of dryness, primarily because the backbone of Ilsa (Indira Varma) and the weird circumstances of her billionaire husband's murder hasn't been as interesting as intended. It's been referred to occasionally throughout this year's episodes, but was anyone desperate to see this mystery explained? The whole storyline only really took a notable step forward recently, with Guerrero's (Jackie Earle Haley) discovery of a photo showing Marshall with a mistress, so it carried an unshakeable feeling of tedium.

Still, the first half of "Marshall Pucci" was impressive and fast-paced entertainment, with the surprise arrival of Marshall's alleged mistress Julia (Emily Foxler), seeking protection from the people who killed her boss to secure his silence, because Marshall had discovered a weapons cache in medical supplies his company was providing to Africa. Ilsa, relieved to hear that Marshall's rendezvous with Julia was only to provide a colleague with a ticket to safety while he exposed the smuggling, arranged to have Julia taken into her team's care. And it wasn't long before Chance (Mark Valley) and the team come to realize Marshall's killers were a crack CIA squad, led by a rogue agent called Bill Fickner (Jake Weber), who is now targeting Ilsa and has an enviable technological advantage that puts Chance's gang on a weaker footing.

There were undoubtedly some great moments in this finale: Fickner's squad manipulating events out of Chance's control during a rendezvous in a town square, the unexpected reveal that Julia's in cahoots with Fickner and was tasked to bring Ilsa out into the open, the moment when Guerrero realized his young son was in danger (apparently the only "pressure point" he has), and a smattering of decent actions sequences (most memorably a scene when Ilsa got her foot caught in a rail track with a subway train thundering towards her.) Indeed, "Marshall Pucci" was never truly dull, but it also had far less emotional clout than I think was desirable in a big finale.

There was no flashpoint moment when the accumulation of season 2's narrative really took hold, just the feeling this bookended the premiere (in title, and fact it ended with Ilsa taking another literal "leap of faith" with Chance off a building.) The Chance/Ilsa relationship, which can sometimes feel truthful and sweet, still appears slightly stilted and false most of the time. It didn't help that Ilsa was back to being a limp damsel-in-distress for the finale, which is a real pity considering mid-season episodes like "Communication Breakdown" started to give her more depth and range. Ilsa's plucky when required, and has grown from the over-privileged dunce she started the season as, but there's still something in the Ilsa/Chance relationship that hasn't quite gelled.

Overall, I still enjoyed this finale on a superficial level -- it was fast, fun and the action was delivered well. It just lacked that killer spark and emotional resonance I want to see from finales. There wasn't enough to differentiate this from a decent mid-season episode, really. As a whole, season 2 actually became one of the more enjoyable TV shows I've been watching every week, with the only bum note being Ames (Janet Montgomery), who's supposed to be hilariously straightforward and sassy, but just comes across as rude and annoying. Winston (Chi McBride) also suffered through a pretty thankless season, relegated to sitting in a surveillance van providing earpiece chit-chat most weeks, and the show sometimes struggled to provide material for five regular characters. The show worked better with three leads, so in an ideal world one of the core triptych would have been female from the start.

What did you think of this finale and season 2 in general? And what do you hope for in season 3, if Fox renews the show?


  • Showrunner Matt Miller was interviewed by Give My Remote, where he reflected on season 2 and his hope for the show's renewal. It's particularly fun to hear Miller admit he should never have changed the theme tune, in retrospect!
  • I keep talking about the ratings, but they're really fascinating with this show. It started its run on Wednesdays nights with 6.59m, which dropped to around 5m most weeks. Now, at the end of its run, the last two episodes on Wednesday achieved 9.22m and 8.30m (for this finale). And that's after the show was bounced to Fridays, and aired a few weeks of double-bills! It's proven itself a robust show that a loyal audience will stick with, that's also capable of drawing newcomers in if it's scheduled better. For what it's worth, I think it'll be back for season 3.
written by Matt Miller & Heather V. Regnier / directed by David Barrett / 9 February 2011 / Fox