Human Target, “A Problem Like Maria” and “Communication Breakdown”

Fans of the first season of Human Target are not enjoying the new season. Zack Handlen over the A.V. Club hasn’t been too kind and as someone who hasn’t seen most of the first season, I can’t really judge or complain. But as a first-time viewer, I can’t really find a whole lot to complain about with these episodes. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t really care about any of these characters and the plots are here completely derivative at best and hackneyed at worst, but I find Human Target to be enjoyable, mindless fun.

So maybe that’s why I can’t really bring myself to complain much?

“A Problem Like Maria” and “Communication Breakdown” creates a somewhat (read: barely) connected two-parter that is full of clich√©s and standard story beats that are delivered with too much earnestness, but I didn’t not like them. Double negatives! There are explosions, funny Guerrero lines and Tony Hale being Tony Hale. I mean for 90 minutes of viewing on Hulu on a cold and snowy Thursday afternoon, I’m not sure I can really bring myself to complain, you know?

Of course, I didn’t see the season one episode with Maria so her return means little to me. I’ve noted a few times before and Matt Miller has been open about it as well, but the series clearly wants to create recurring characters and make the cases seem more personal and important to Chance, Winston and Guerrero. In a lot of ways, that’s a smart strategy and certain episodes have been okay at trying to do accomplish these sorts of goals. But when the characters aren’t that memorable in the first place, it’s kind of hard to make a big deal out of their return and convince the audience that they should care. From everything I can deduce, no one really cared about Maria and it seems like this just happened to be the one actress who was available to return.

And for the most part, it’s not like this first episode doesn’t a whole lot with Maria anyway. “A Problem Like” has a nice teaser sequence but once the case begins, Maria more or less disappears and the events turn to the stressful relationship between Ilsa and Chance. I apparently am the only person on the planet who is okay with Ilsa. Sure, she’s playing the one-note, annoying boss lady, but Indira Varma is doing an okay job in the role and she seems to have a nice vibe with Mark Valley. I don’t know man, these two episodes take an obvious direction with Chance and Ilsa bickering, then really arguing, then deciding to not be partners anymore and then finally deciding to be something a little more than that after a traumatic situation, but it’s alright. Tons of other series have done something like this before, but it’s fine.

Other things that are fine? A nice airplane explosion, Ames being less annoying, the series being more winking in its use of her constant near-nudity and of course, Guerrero. Jackie Earle Haley is,¬†unsurprisingly, the best part about these two episodes. I loved that he actually showed up to the meeting in “Maria,” but refused to stay longer than five minutes and said that Ames or Winston could sign his name with a big, black X. It’s in moments like that one where I see why people are probably upset that the series has tried to inject this different kind of life into it as opposed to just letting Chance, Guerrero and Winston blow stuff up, crack wise and come together because they’re miserable, alone and have nothing better to do.

Oh, I also thought Chance’s attempts to keep Ilsa shielded from violence were nicely played and probably the best part of these two episodes. The final bit with him running down the street trying to save her from the crazy evil brother murderer dude was well-executed and while I am not totally sure the final moment with Ilsa actually killing the guy was earned, I am definitely interested in seeing how the series works this new development into Ilsa’s character and her relationship with Chance moving forward. They are obviously growing closer, but it will be intriguing to see if this actually brings them closer or throws a wrench in that relationship.

Listen, I know that Human Target isn’t really nailing this transition from what it was in season one to what it’s trying to be now. The strain has been obvious all season and there has probably only been two or three episodes have that have overtly successful in managing all the different tones, characters and approaches to what the series should or could be. That’s unfortunate, especially when there are only four episodes left in the season and probably the series. But these two were entertaining enough.

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