Sunday, December 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'Eyewitness' - Helen Learns the Truth Just as Everything Unravels for Her in 'Savior Unknown'

USA's Eyewitness - Episode 1.09 "Savior Unknown"

Ryan struggles to cover his tracks. Helen's dark past comes back and threatens her marriage as well as her ability to protect her family.

A key component of Eyewitness has been the characters keeping secrets from each other. This narrative has been stretched out for as long as it has because of secrets. Philip and Lukas lied about not being at the cabin during the murders in order to hide their relationship. As soon as they came forward, the narrative would lose its sense of mystery and could be wrapped up very quickly. So, the show has found numerous ways to prolong that moment without seeming completely ridiculous or stalling until the good and exciting stuff can occur. The moment of someone coming forward with the truth or solving the big mystery should be the most important moment of a show like this. Lukas came forward and it was a rewarding moment even though the aftermath was once again defined by secrets and lies. Lukas getting shot was clearly the motivation for Philip to come forward and tell Helen that he was at the cabin too. And yet, that revelation isn't handled all that well. It's less about the character and more about the plot. Philip sees Kane for the first time in a long time. He tells Gabe the truth offscreen. Gabe then calls Tony and tells him the truth in a phone conversation the audience doesn't hear. And then, Tony is the one to sum all of this up to Helen. No disrespect to Tony but all of this just lessons the reveal and the emotion behind it. It plays instead as something that needed to happen. All emotion has been drained from it.

"Savior Unknown" also suffers from going as big and chaotic as possible in order to amp up the stakes and tension. It's an easy way to escalate things during the final portion of a story. But it's such a cliche and lackluster way to do things as well. It's just another formulaic plot device that feels expected. Eyewitness has felt very much like a traditional show. It's not trying to break the mold in any way at all. So, it's not surprising that Helen learning the truth about Kane only happens because too many things are happening for him to cover up. Both the killer and the show are getting sloppy. Now, that chaos does lead to a whole lot of uncertainty heading into next week's finale. And yet, it can also confuse and bog down this episode as well. This hour has a number of great moments. But most of them are overshadowed by the need to reveal everything in the plot and put Philip and Lukas in harm's way yet again. Again, it's a familiar and simple way to tell this story. But it also gets in the way of some strong character work as well. The emotional material can get lost during the plot and this is a show that does emotion so much better than plot.

So, Lukas got shot at the end of last week's episode. That was a huge moment. One that signaled the killer wasn't dead after all and is still a threat. And now, Kane knows who truly saw him commit these gruesome crimes. He's easily been able to manipulate this investigation to his benefit. But now, things are becoming much more complicated for him. He's there every step of the way to know if Lukas survives his injuries or not. He already has a plan to poison him in the hospital. Plus, he's already planning his big escape. Now, the moment where Helen learns Kane is taking a leave of absence is incredibly rushed. The two of them built a connection during last week's episode. The show wants the audience to see them as two sides of the same coin. They've both been damaged by this job and don't have anyone else to share that with. They confided in each other even though Helen is hunting Kane down. But Kane trying to leave all of this behind just doesn't track well. He tries explaining it as the situation getting too out of control and he no longer recognizes his life. But it's still just an awkward way to bring the two of them together. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense as a part of his character arc.

Intimacy is important for Helen's overall story as well. Her marriage to Gabe hasn't been that great lately because of this investigation. She has become a different person in order to solve this crime. A person who Gabe doesn't even recognize. She hid her past from him. It's such a powerful moment when she finally reveals the truth to him. She's been suffering for so long. And now, she has this tremendous relief. Sure, it's awkward and weird when it's revealed he's already seen the box. That largely just sets up how unstable she is which is important for the final twist of the hour. But it's still a wonderful moment that brings the two of them closer again. The same is also true when she apologizes to Philip for how she has treated him during this investigation. She is right to suspect he is hiding something from her. But he has to be willing to share it. It just takes him too long to actually do so. However, that moment still builds intimacy. That's what Helen needs right now. When it comes from Philip and Gabe, it's very healthy for her. When it comes from Kane, it could possibly destroy everything she loves in this world. She doesn't figure that out until it's too late.

Of course, Helen isn't really allowed to have a reaction to learning Philip was at the cabin with Lukas and knows what the killer looks like. The situation calls for her to immediately jump into action to protect her two witnesses. It's an awkward set piece because she's trying to handle it all herself while Tony is just posted at the front door. She sets a trap for the killer by sending Lukas to another room and just waiting for him to arrive herself. That is soon followed by a panic attack of sorts. She has never suffered one of those before. But here, it defines this whole moment. She wants to catch this guy but is incapable of doing it. Kane takes a really long time getting to the hospital from the gas station. It's enough time for Helen to freak out and be sedated. That just sets up that last twist of her asking him to protect the witnesses he is trying to kill. It's important that she's the one who ultimately solves this mystery. She sees the cologne and baseball hat which connects all the dots for her. She doesn't need Philip to positively identity Kane as the killer. But it's still her being a reactionary character who will need to chase down the killer before he does more harm in the finale. Helen works well under pressure as a character but this may be forcing things to the extreme too much.

Those are all the big plot moments that happen in "Savior Unknown." Underneath it all is still a love story with Philip not knowing if Lukas will survive his wounds. Of course, the injuries aren't as bad as they seem. The doctors save Lukas with very little effort. He's in a coma for a little while. And then, he's just upright and talking with very little pain. It's television once again minimizing the lingering effects of serious injuries in favor of plot. It's annoying. And yet, Lukas waking up offers Philip the opportunity to tell him how he really feels. Philip loves Lukas and wants to share that with the rest of the world. He's willing to face whatever the reaction will be from the community. Lukas is the one who is scared people will react horribly to the news. Of course, those are very minor problems considering Kane is coming to kill them right now. But it's still good that they are no longer able to keep their relationship a secret anymore either.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Savior Unknown" was written by Adi Hasak & Jennifer Coté and directed by Scott Peters.
  • It's a big moment when Lukas' father asks Philip to talk to Lukas in the hopes of getting him to wake up. And yet, it's just one more annoying plot contrivance when he sees Philip kissing Lukas' forehead.
  • Rose appears again for some reason. She actually seems like a descent person this time too. She tells Philip that she figured out the truth about him and Lukas. She doesn't really care and won't tell anyone. So basically, all of Lukas' fears are just in his head.
  • Ever since Sita's death, the big drug bust the FBI has been working on hasn't been important anymore. It's just an excuse to limit the resources Kamilah can give Helen with her case. It was a crucial part of the story earlier. But now, it's just background noise.
  • It seems pretty obvious to Helen and Gabe that Philip is in love with Lukas. They even talk about it when he's not in the room. But they also recognize that he has to be the one to come to them to talk about his feelings. They just have to be supportive of him doing this difficult time.
  • Philip has no problem telling his mom the truth about everything that has happened. She has gotten better and even has visitation rights now. But it's also just weird that he has to ask for her permission before telling the truth. 
  • Why does Helen freak out about someone tampering with the box in her storage locker? She didn't think the lid could move after she brought it to her house to share with Gabe?
  • Also, Gabe just disappears during that chaotic final sequence. He is tasked with getting Philip and Lukas to safety. But he doesn't have the training to protect them from a killer. Plus, where is he when Philip goes to get water?