Sunday, May 2, 2021

REVIEW: 'The Equalizer' - Dante Hits His Breaking Point with McCall While Working Their Latest Case in 'Hunting Grounds'

CBS' The Equalizer - Episode 1.07 "Hunting Grounds"

McCall races to find a woman kidnapped by a serial killer whose past crimes went undetected because the victims were from marginalized communities. Trouble arises for McCall when her vigilante activity puts her on Manhattan District Attorney Avery Grafton's radar.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of CBS' The Equalizer.

"Hunting Grounds" was written by Joe Gazzam and directed by Christine Moore

At the start of the series, Dante had complete moral clarity over the work McCall was doing. Over time though, he came into a reluctant partnership with her. She would show up with details on a case. He would always get pulled into the drama because he understood the necessity of her actions. Everything was done with complete urgency. Lives were on the line. Dante needed to use his resources with the NYPD to save lives that would otherwise be lost. He is aware that the system oppresses so many in this world. He sees the potential value in McCall operating as a trustworthy resource for people who don't believe they will be heard by the police. He pieces together various clues about her life hoping to better understand who she is. He correctly guesses here that she is a former federal agent and has children. McCall connects with him as well. She views him as a kindred spirit. His heart is in the right place. He believes he can make a difference in this job. He holds himself to a strict moral standard. He is being pushed to his personal limits in working with her. But he is a valuable resource because he genuinely wants to serve and protect the community. That moral certainty remains steadfast. McCall is willing to do whatever it takes to exact her version of justice. And yes, people can see her take actions that others are unwilling to take. She shows compassion for people who are casually dismissed. It's necessary to tell those stories. However, McCall is also a person who believes she is always right and thus doesn't need any oversight to hold her accountable. She operates with freedom because she doesn't enter these dynamics with the bias against police. She also doesn't have to play by the same rules. Everything about her aims to signal her heroism. The show has largely been reluctant to call out the potential for her abusing her powers. And yes, she takes things too far here. The show goes above and beyond to signal some personal reasoning for that as well. She takes this case more seriously than the rest because it reminds her of the time her father was killed and the police failed to do anything serious about it. Meanwhile, she carries home the burden of needing to catch this serial killer when Delilah is just trying to set up an online dating profile for Aunt Vi. Everything in McCall's world is treated so seriously. She doesn't know how to just be present with her family. She allows her mind to always go to the worst case possible. She fears something has happened to her family. She has been unable to protect them. There is no actual reason for her to feel that way. The majority of life doesn't operate like that. That's how McCall has been conditioned into seeing the world though. She must exert violence against an abuser in order for him to cooperate. She has to use the resources around her instead of trusting that others are just as capable in the field. This episode goes in hard on the melodrama. It wants to be treated so seriously with its first serial killer case. The clock is counting down until he kills his next victim. Everyone is on high alert. They are nervous. It hits home for everyone. That happens literally. And then, Mel kills the guy in Dante's home. For McCall and the team, it offers a complete and resolute ending to this entire case. For Dante, the story is still open-ended. An innocent man is still in prison needing his case to be thrown out because of how these cases are all connected. The evidence is needed to make that case and save a life. McCall knows how to be of service in one way. That clashes with Dante's methods. The show wanted to present their dynamic with some ambiguity. Any kind of romantic notions though are forced and awkward. The show is suggesting McCall feels bad now that Dante has turned against her because she likes him. It should instead be her weighing the severity of her actions. That may be asking the show to worry too much too soon about the morality of its world. These characters don't have to be perfect. They don't need all the answers. The execution simply seems sloppy. It does whatever creates an entertaining story in the moment. And so, Dante is once more leading the case against the Equalizer. The tables may be turned against her at some point. She may let her guard down. That feels inevitable. It doesn't feel earned though. It's just the expected plot development because of obvious reactions in an episode riddled with more cliches than what has typically occurred. This episode is run-of-the-mill procedural that props up criminal profiling and the tortured psyches of serial killers.