Human Target, “Imbroglio” and “Cool Hand Guerrero”

Due to President Obama’s presence at the Tuscon memorial, FOX postponed Human Target last Wednesday, only they forgot to tell anyone until around 9 p.m. eastern time. They clearly care a lot about this series. Eventually, these two episodes were scheduled for Friday (more confidence!). And due to my desire to not spend two hours of my Friday night watching mediocre television, I didn’t get to these episodes until late last night after the Golden Globes.

Maybe it’s because anything would have looked great after the last 90 minutes of the Golden Globes or maybe it’s just that these episodes are a bit better than last week’s double feature. It’s probably a little bit of both.

I appreciated the attempts of last week’s double feature to create some sort of connective tissue, but the execution just wasn’t there. The bantering and the drama between Ilsa and Chance annoys me less than it does most people and the idea of her having to deal with the consequences of killing someone is at least partially interesting. But those little tidbits alone didn’t save last week’s episodes from trying too hard to earn something that they didn’t really deserve to. And again, this is coming from someone who likes Ilsa and has no problem with her relationship with Chance.

ANYWAY, this week’s episodes didn’t try any of that nonsense. There’s no connective tissue between them and instead “Imbroglio” and “Cool Hand Guerrero” present us promising standalone concepts that are executed to various degrees of success.

But of course, because this is apparently a requirement now, both episodes include PERSONAL ANGLES. I’ve talked a lot about this throughout the season and I don’t want to keep talking about it, but the writers apparently want to keep using it as a storytelling device so I have no choice. In theory, making a good number of the procedural cases and jobs about something in the personal lives of the characters feels like a good idea. It gives the audience an in to the characters’ psyches (perhaps) when they’re working a job, it makes the series and its characters seem more personable, it helps create recurring characters, etc. All that is well and good.

Here’s the problem: I don’t think Human Target needed to be that program. Even though I haven’t seen even half of season one, I know that its charm came from the sort of insular language the three main characters and how those relationships were tested in dealings with strangers. This season, a lot of that is gone. Matt Miller and his team have tried to make it seem as if Ilsa and Ames are those strangers, only they are around every week and at this point, it’s a little annoying to have them seem shocked that Guerrero would be secretive or Chance would take a dumb risk. It just rings false.

And on top of that, digging into the pasts of these characters has taken the edge off of them. I understand that there is a desire to see who these people were before they became a team and also take a look at what would happen if people from their past come to disrupt their new lives, but that has more or less declawed the leads and the series as a whole. Chance, Winston and Guerrero no longer feels as interesting or different than they were in even those few episodes I saw of season one and so I don’t know where the series would really go in a very improbable season three. In the end, I think bringing in Winston’s ex-wife or hinting at the fact that Guerrero has a son are good ideas, but they haven’t been hammered home in the best way. That’s more or less the story of Human Target‘s second season.

But let’s move away from the criticisms for a moment and talk about the positive aspects of these episodes. “Imbroglio” and “Cool Hand Guerrero” do have fine things to offer. Trapping Chance, Guerrero, Ilsa and her visiting sister (PERSONAL STAKES) in a theater with a good amount of villains isn’t the worst set-up for an episode the series has presented us with all season. I think once the villains started plotting, “Imbroglio” got a little muddled, but there are moments, like Chance taking on all comers and then accidentally punching an innocent in the face because he’s confused on who is bad and who is good, that really make me smile. That’s when I recognize that Human Target has something to offer.

“Cool Hand Guerrero,” thankfully, is one of the better episodes of the season. It seemed like the writers really dove in to making it an outlining standalone. There are darker hues, the music seemed a bit different of course, the episode offered up more Guerrero than usual. While I don’t really care for the personal stakes again, having Chance and Guerrero plot separately to try to help the situation was a nice way to frame the episode. Sure, putting yourself in prison so that you can help clear your friend’s name is a classic staple for a series like this, but it was definitely well executed here. Moreover, I thought the whole sequence in the gun store, from the staging of the fight down to Mark Valley’s redneck accent, were really, really well done. I think that might have been my favorite sequence of the season.

I know I did more complaining than praising for these episodes, but I still sort of enjoyed them. Again, I have no dog in this fight, if you will. I like Human Target, but I’m not really angry that it’s fallen victim to a hackneyed retooling. Anyway, there are only two episodes left, probably ever, and so I’m just going to enjoy them for what they are.


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