Monday, August 28, 2017

REVIEW: 'People of Earth' - StarCrossed Copes With Shocking News in Surprising Ways in 'Aftermath'

TBS' People of Earth - Episode 2.06 "Aftermath"

The group copes with a tragedy. Agent Foster reports back to the FBI. Jonathan Walsh and Don have reservations about the alien mission.

People of Earth ended last week's episode in a very surprising way. It seemingly killed off its lead character. That's just something completely unexpected. Wyatt Cenac has been very good on this show. He's often been the focal point of the series. He's the straight man investigator looking into this incredibly crazy world only to find he's already caught up in the mystery. He was in pursuit of that truth. For him to get all of his answers only to die before being able to tell anyone else, it plays as a somewhat questionable creative decision. It wasn't clear if he truly was dead after getting hit with the alien bullet. He delivered a message to Agent Foster with his dying breath. She then experienced something unexplainable in the woods with a bright light and the vision of a strange deer. But the technology involved was alien. So, it could have had a different impact on Ozzie. But "Aftermath" quickly confirms that Ozzie really did die. The alien bullet killed him and made it look like a heart attack. That's why no one is starting an official investigation into his mysterious passing. The forensics just don't indicate murder because no marks were left behind by the aliens. It's a decision that the show plays seriously for the majority of this episode. Ozzie has died and the group has to learn how to move on.

Of course, People of Earth has a strong ensemble that could survive the death of one character - even the lead of the show. Ozzie being removed right now would reaffirm the life-and-death stakes of this story even though it is still fundamentally a comedy. And yet, there are a number of actors who could step up to fill the void left by that central character. In this episode, it is clear that more of the burden of the story will be falling onto Ana Gasteyer, Michael Cassidy and Nasim Pedrad. That's not all that surprising. Those three characters have always been important. They've been able to carry their own stories in the past. They are just moving more to the forefront now as they explore the aftermath of Ozzie's passing. It's played genuinely as well. The show is able to make this adjustment within its storytelling and it still makes sense. In fact, a number of stories throughout this episode are still quite fun. Yes, it's also grappling with the seriousness and finality of death. Everyone is exploring what this means for the aliens versus humans conflict. But the show also takes the time to show how the characters' grief can be inappropriate to the world around them. They must rely on each other for the support they need right now.

StarCrossed takes Ozzie's death hard. Every single member is a mess. They get the news while watching Kelly's new modern dance routine. She put a lot of effort into this production. It's an ode to all of the ex-boyfriends she has had over the years and the many reasons why they weren't right for her. It's ridiculous to watch. But then, it's paired with the reality of the group finding out about Ozzie. Richard comes into the room and tells Gina. The whole group shares the news together and have to blurt it out to Kelly when she thinks they are emotional over her routine. The group then goes through the emotions of grief. They are all offering up their conspiracy theories for what really happened to Ozzie. Gerry needs to believe that the aliens have selected the best of humanity to go live in a perfect utopia in a far away galaxy. Chelsea suggests that he hasn't actually died and has just been cloned. That clone is the Ozzie in the casket. Meanwhile, Yvonne fears that they will all start getting picked off one by one. It's incredibly inappropriate to be discussing this at a funeral. But it's what leads to the absurdity of the situation. None of these characters know how to properly deal with their emotions. Ozzie's death simply doesn't make any sense. They know he didn't have a heart attack. But there's no other explanation that makes sense that doesn't also make them look like a bunch of crazy people.

It's also fascinating to see all of this from Gina's perspective. She lost a close friend. And yet, she's more worried about the group. She's acting as their therapist in order to help them cope with this tragic loss. She sees that as her responsibility. She has guided them through so many trying times. But she's a member of the group as well. She's been abducted by aliens multiple times just like everyone else - minus Gerry. She's been at the forefront of the investigation alongside Ozzie. She was there to hypnotize him in order to find clues within his subconscious. She helped him escape Agent Foster so that he could go to this meeting with Jonathan Walsh. She's not just an impersonal therapist trying to help the group. She's one of them. She's trying to keep it together. But she can't. She loses it as soon as Ozzie's fish dies. It was her responsibility to keep the fish alive. Everyone wanted to take care of it in order to honor Ozzie's memory. But the fish has died. Death has rocked the group once more. The only catharsis they can get about this situation is screaming at the aliens in the middle of a park. Again, it's wildly inappropriate because there is a kid's birthday party happening nearby. But it's still okay because it's Father Doug leading the group through this experience. He's an outsider who doesn't have the same experiences as them. He was close with Ozzie as well. He's grieving too. But he's also able to help the group through the grief. Of course, the only takeaway that Gina gets from this experience is that she should try to get back her license as a therapist. She realizes that that's the work she needs to be doing. She still doesn't believe that she needs therapy herself though - which may make getting her license back very difficult.

Death defines every story of this episode. Agent Foster and Walsh are dealing with the trauma of actually being there in the woods to see what happened to Ozzie. Agent Foster still has no idea what actually happened. She still believes that Russia or the CIA posing as Russia were involved somehow. But Walsh and Nancy know what happened. They've escaped to the main spaceship. That brings them a new sense of security. They are no longer being hunted by the reptilian assassin. And yet, Walsh is overcome with grief. Eric only trusts Walsh because of the story of him killing a human. That allows him to become part of the mission once more. But this corner of the universe is important because it reminds the audience that death is no longer a finite thing in this world. The show brought Kurt back to life earlier this season. Now, he's just roaming around the spaceship once more. No one knows how he came back. It's just important that he did and no one's questioning it at all. He's back to being an employee on this mission. That sets up the expectation that this won't be the end for Ozzie. Walsh is now on the ship that has the capabilities of bringing people back to life. He doesn't know if it will work on a human. And yet, it seems likely because the show is setting up that expectation. So, chances are the show won't be without its lead character for very long. Ozzie shows up to haunt Gina and Agent Foster in their dreams. But more importantly, Walsh has beamed up Ozzie's coffin to the ship with the intention of bringing him back to life. That's just a mission that may become complicated by Eric being in charge and having nefarious plans for the human race.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Aftermath" was written by Brig Muñoz-Liebowitz and directed by Ian Fitzgibbon.
  • Why is the Albuquerque field office of the FBI in charge of the search for Jonathan Walsh? That just seems like a massive inconvenience for an investigation that takes place in Beacon, New York. And yet, Agent Foster is able to travel to and from with very little difficulty. She is back reporting to her superior in person this week about what she saw out there in the words.
  • Of course, Agent Foster's superior is a reptilian who is trying to manipulate her into writing the report that won't cause any problems for the aliens in the future. Because she's not willing to do that, he labels her as traumatized and not fit to serve as an FBI agent. She sadly has to turn in her badge and her gun. But even that is a comedic moment because she won't let go of her badge. To her, that's the more important item she is losing.
  • Richard believes he is being followed. He has always believed that. He believes the reptilians are keeping a close eye on him because of what he knows. The show has never really confirmed whether or not that is true. But this episode does feature a sequence of a car seemingly following him. But it's a story that just randomly ends after that. It's then played as Richard not acting any stranger than usual.
  • Walsh is now promoting a mutiny aboard the alien ship. That's a promising tease for the future. It's a plan that everyone else supports. Jeff is motivated because Eric hates him and wants to fire him. Don is motivated because Eric wants to kill everyone in StarCrossed - including Kelly. And Walsh is motivated because he needs to protect Ozzie even in death.
  • Eric has seemed all-knowing and extremely powerful as an alien this season. But now, his first flaw is seemingly introduced. He can tell when someone is lying or telling the truth. But he can't judge how guilty an alien is feeling. Walsh is guilty about getting Ozzie killed. But Eric just loves that Walsh's actions killed a human.
  • Eric definitely has Gerry doing something down on Earth for him. He watches carefully over the computer while he constructs the project of sorts. And then, he provides comfort for Gerry in saying that he's like a son to him and that he can always be found behind the moon. That's comforting to Gerry. Meanwhile, Yvonne thinks nothing of seeing him outside like that because he's in mourning.