Poor Human Target. Not only has it been constantly shuffled around on the schedule because FOX really has no confidence in it (and for good reason), but it has been heavily criticized by its small band of S1 fans. Those circumstances make last night’s special viewing of “Kill Bob” sort of interesting — or disappointing, depending on who you ask.
Again, I know I haven’t seen all or even most of season one, but it seemed like “Kill Bob” made a concerted effort to feel more like an episode from that era than what we’ve been given this season. Ames and Ilsa had very little to do throughout, leaving Chance, Guerrero and Winston to be on their own doing their thing. Moreover, this episode didn’t feature any special guest stars that existed as horrible attempts to create recurring characters and even better, there wasn’t any major personal connection to the case. The series has gone to one of those two wells in nearly every episode this season so it was nice to see the three male leads out in the field blowing stuff up and kicking ass with little discussion about larger issues.
Unfortunately, because “Kill Bob” pretends to be a throwback to season one it is probably ultimately more disappointing. You know, because it’s a total mess. The narrative uses a lot of shorthand storytelling and in certain spots just decides to gloss over what should be major problems so that it can squeeze in this hackneyed narrative about what it means to be in love. No offense to Matt Miller because I understand he’s coming from Chuck where those kind of concerns are more prevalent, but Human Target is not that series. I understand that there is value in humanizing Chance, but having him randomly be a makeshift romantic doesn’t really work for me.
But back to the narrative holes. I’ve watched the beginning of this episode twice and I’m still not really sure how in the heck the client (named Bob) makes it from his possible execution to Chance and company. I understand that there isn’t a whole lot of time to discuss the protocols of what happens when someone tries to shoot you and we’ve already seen the team strut their stuff versus the police force a time or two this season, but it seemed so rushed and glossed over that there’s really no reason for Bob to come to Chance, Winston and Guerrero. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s sort of indicative of how the series has been working all season. There has been a lot of showing and not enough telling when it comes to narrative propulsion.
Secondly, though I again see the intentions with the A story (wherein Bob’s wife isn’t actually trying to kill him but only pretending to because it’s what she’s been hired to do in the first place and now she has a change of heart), but the execution is still a bit messy. In the middle of the episode it comes out that Bob’s wife is actually a Russian assassin, one that has married and killed all sorts of people in the past. Bob is rightfully freaked out about this, for about 7 minutes. He’s more naive than Chuck Bartowski has ever been, it’s pathetic. And from there, the episode doesn’t seemed too concerned with the woman’s past, no matter how evil, and instead focuses on the fact that hey, she probably does love Bob and this is all a front. Not only does it make Chance look foolish and distracted, but it’s just such a strained way to get a point across about what love actually means.
However, amid all that, “Kill Bob” includes some really good moments. Like I said earlier, separating the men from the women unfortunately shows the difference in quality that the series had last year versus what it is working with now, and Chance’s solo missions were especially strong. I do like the three of them working together, but I’ve found that the best parts of this season have involved Chance on his own doing crazy stuff while Winston or Guerrero maybe chimes in over a radio or something. Chance’s fight with Bob’s girlfriend and their final “shootout” are two of those kind of moments.
In general, I’m just sort of confused on what the intention with the new characters and the season’s arc were. It’s revealed in this one that Ilsa’s husband was with some mystery woman just a few days (hours?) before he died, something Chance tries to hide but ultimately cannot, but I don’t know if there’s anyone watching who is invested in that moment as much as the series wants us to be. I’ve been more receptive than Ilsa than just about anyone, but what does her experience of murdering someone have to do with her husband’s past, if anything? And what about Chance? This episode really tries to present the fact that he can see love but not understand it, but I’m not sure that really matters because the series hasn’t discussed it up until now and any sort of payoff is thus going to be fairly hollow. I’m not asking for Human Target to blow me away with some sort of thematic explosion, but Miller and his writing staff were apparently trying to do something and I just don’t know what the heck it is.