Monday, August 21, 2017

REVIEW: 'People of Earth' - Ozzie Finally Learns the Truth From Jonathan Walsh in 'Why Can't We Be Friends?'

TBS' People of Earth - Episode 2.05 "Why Can't We Be Friends?"

Ozzie confronts Jonathan Walsh about being an alien. Richard gets fired from his job and joins Agent Foster on her search for Walsh.

Last week I complained that People of Earth was purposefully delaying the inevitable meeting between Ozzie and Jonathan Walsh where all the answers about the central mystery would be revealed. Ozzie came to a huge realization at the end of the first season but hasn't really learned anything new since then. In "Why Can't We Be Friends?," it would be impossible for the show to avoid this sit-down any longer. It reasonably could have. The show established the threat from the new reptilian assassin hunting Walsh down. The previous episode ended with Walsh saying Ozzie wouldn't get to the cabin until the next morning only for Nancy to hear something out in the woods. This episode doesn't pick up right there to reveal what that noise actually was. It instead begins with the next morning on Richard getting fired from his job. Then, Ozzie pulls up to the cabin. It could be empty and thus delay this meeting even further because something happened to Walsh and Nancy in the interim. And yet, that's not what ultimately occurs. The brief tease at the end of last week's episode turned out to be nothing. Walsh and Nancy are still safe at the cabin when Ozzie arrives. He is able to enter the building and get the answers to all the questions he has for his former boss.

It's not the first instance where a main character is interacting with an alien. But it is a significant meeting because there isn't the promise that the human will completely forget about it when it's all over. Gerry had a playful dynamic with the aliens on the ship but they wiped those memories and programmed him for something sinister in the next stage of the invasion. Don tried to come out as an alien to Kelly but wiped her memory every time because of her horrible reaction to the news. But now, Walsh doesn't want to do that to Ozzie. He wants him to know everything that has been going on. He wants the truth to be out there. He wants to expose just how far-reaching this alien invasion goes. He confirms what Richard has always suspected: the aliens have infiltrated every major organization on Earth. That makes this an incredibly daunting task for Ozzie and Walsh should they try to expose it to the rest of the world. But that's getting ahead of themselves as well. Ozzie started the series as a skeptic when it came to aliens. He's opened up to it possibly being true. And now, this episode is a key turning point for him.

Ozzie's life has been touched by aliens for a long time. He first stumbled upon them as a child. Walsh decided to take him to the ship then. He's been a presence in his life ever since. He's been an arrogant jerk most of the time. Last season he wasn't always nice to Ozzie but was a constant presence in his life for either personal or nefarious reasons. And now, Walsh fully sympathizes with humanity and wants to protect Ozzie at all costs. He wants Ozzie to trust him. In order to do that, he must show his true face. That's a wonderful scene. Ozzie is prepared to see an alien but he still freaks out because it confirms that all of this craziness is actually true. He can no longer deny that aliens exist and have been manipulating humanity for a long time. This is his confirmation. It's still a startling sight. Walsh then has to go into detail on how he has always been a benevolent and looming presence in Ozzie's life. He's protected him for awhile and made sure he's had the best opportunities to get ahead in life. To Walsh, they have an honest connection and bond. But it was all created under the guise of Ozzie's abduction. The dynamic between them isn't real because Ozzie didn't know the truth. But now, he does and that changes everything.

It's then hilarious to watch as Richard is forced to question whether everything he has believed for the entire series is actually true. He has believed in aliens with so much conviction for a long time. He blamed them for the end of his marriage. He blamed them for losing Nancy as his girlfriend. And he now blames them for losing his job. It's his go-to excuse in this world. He believes that nothing could possibly be his fault because reptilians exist and are out to get him at all times. He can't just accept his firing with grace. He's full of rage and ready to strike when the situation presents itself. That makes him a strong target for Agent Foster's manipulations. She knows how to work him in order to learn where Ozzie and Walsh are right now. She's very skilled at doing it too. She just plays into his ego and beliefs. She returns to StarCrossed as a fully believing member ready to accept everything Richard says. When the time comes for it, she handcuffs Richard to the car to ensure he doesn't do any damage during her takedown of this infamous criminal. So, he's not in the room when the confrontation goes down. Instead, he just sees Nancy running in the forest which makes him question everything he has believed in. His beliefs are absolutely true. But they can be crippling to him as well. He still needs to have some personal responsibility for his actions. He seems to come to that realization. But that also forces him to doubt the existence of aliens. He now believes this to just be a simple criminal investigation and nothing more. That's an interesting idea that pairs nicely with Ozzie's big moment of realization.

The conflict happening inside of the cabin is important as well. Ozzie has seen Walsh and now trusts him completely. The two of them can work together once Agent Foster and the reptilian assassin arrive. Agent Foster doesn't believe in any of this. She believes she's just being deceived first by a white-collar criminal and then by a Russian agent. It's an amusing joke because she believes it so seriously while the assassin is just making fun of her because she doesn't understand Russian. She believes this is now becoming an international incident with Russia. She's completely oblivious. She doesn't see anything that will help her believe in aliens. She's handcuffed to a refrigerator. She needs Nancy's help to break free. But she has no suspicions about what's actually going on. Meanwhile, Ozzie and Walsh are doing their best to break free of this assassin. Reaching for the gun in the box of chocolates doesn't work and neither does staging a fake fight to distract the assassin. It still ends with the assassin having a gun pointed at the traitorous Walsh. And then, Ozzie jumps in front of the bullet. It's such a surprising moment. It would be easier to kill off Walsh now because he holds so many answers to the grand mysteries of the show. Ozzie gets a taste of reality only for it to tragically be taken away from him. But instead, the opposite is true which is incredibly refreshing. Ozzie is the one who gets hit by the bullet. Of course, it's alien technology so the effects are different. He may die or he may survive somehow.

The show definitely plays this as Ozzie's big death scene. He refused to believe in aliens until the very end. He got his answers but that ultimately didn't improve his life at all. Instead, it led to his death and him pleading with Agent Foster to trust Walsh moving forward. But the show leaves Walsh's fate up in the air. It doesn't reveal what ultimately happens to him. Both Walsh and the assassin are gone when Agent Foster finds Ozzie. That's followed by a flash nearby in the woods. So, Walsh may have been beamed up to the ship to pay for his crimes in a way other than death. That could be fascinating since he's had a tense relationship with Jeff for a long time. But it seems odd not to kill him now since that's the assassin's whole purpose on the show. Meanwhile, Ozzie's death would be completely unexpected as well. He's the lead of the show. He's been the audience surrogate in this world for a long time. And now, he may be gone. Agent Foster may have to take up that mantle moving forward. That would be a surprising move but a nice subversion of the genre as well. The show is already teasing alien encounters in Agent Foster's past. The episode ends with her seeing a deer in the woods. So, all of this could be a false memory or it could just be the hint of something more going on that will completely change things moving forward.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Why Can't We Be Friends?" was written by Alyssa Lane & Alex Sherman and directed by Jennifer Celotta.
  • It's a little odd that no one in the group tries to stop Richard from sneaking out to help Agent Foster track down Walsh. Everyone else seems to see through her act. They don't believe this big epiphany she has. And yet, they aren't really that important in the actual story of this episode. It's just important that Richard escapes to finally be the hero he always sees himself as.
  • It's funny that Richard equates not being able to do an attachment in an email and being a reptilian as the same offensive action in a workplace. He truly believes he's being fired for his beliefs. And yet, his boss does a nice job sharing that he's a horrible employee - who'll just leave for a week without telling anyone. It's a miracle he lasted this long.
  • The assassin is able to sneak up on Nancy and knock her out fairly quickly. That's what allows the confrontation to happen in the cabin. But Nancy doesn't lose any of her new personality because of this attack. She still doesn't want to be insensitive to Agent Foster when she is asking for help escaping from her current situation.
  • Walsh reveals that he's the reason why the bullies stopped tormenting Ozzie when he was a young kid and was reasonable for a cheap apartment being available when he was at college. Ozzie never seemed to question those moments before now. But he's now aware to how vast Walsh's influence in his life has been - while also realizing how difficult it will be to expose the alien plan.
  • Walsh knows a lot of what the aliens are doing. He knows every part of the world that they have already invaded. But he notes that it's just stage one of the invasion. Stage two is still coming and he doesn't know the specific orders. So, there's still some mystery in the narrative. He just teases that nothing good happens in stage two. It's only a matter of time before the plans are activated.