Note to Bionic Woman: I know I’ve been harsh on your show, and I know that you’ve gone through a dozen or so show-runners to even get us through the first third of your inaugural season, but please, whomever is running the show now, let’s keep it this way. Pretty please, with bionic sugar on top. While still not “great,” there was a lot of “very good” sprinkled across this episode, and marked the best non-Sarah Corvis episode of the show to date.
It helped that this week’s episode featured both the best plot (protect the morally problematic leader of a Darfur-esque country) and the most dramatic event (a major character’s death) since the premiere episode. Having my wife watch this episode with me helped me telegraph further events with greater ease (”The sniper’s wearing mascara!”), but I almost enjoyed Antonio’s lectures to Jaime even more due to their irony. Clearly this was a man who once loved, and clearly this woman would be the object of said long-ago affection, and clearly the scars informed his character to this day, but know what? Sometimes such clarity comes through strong narrative and strong performance, and Bionic Woman and Isaiah Washington had both in spades.
Antonio’s death may also mark the death of the insanely schizophrenic nature of this show to date. As I mention on an almost weekly basis here, the show seems different nearly ever time I watch it. It’s almost as if there’s a “Genre Wheel” in the writer’s room, not unlike the big Price is Right wheel, and they spin it each week to see what type of show they will produce. His death might have marked a potential turn towards the serious on Bionic Woman, a change I’ve been hoping for all along. I already have Chuck to fulfill my whimsical spy show needs: I want something with a little more meat on its bones, and the show wore the gravitas served up in tonight’s episode well.
Take her relationship with Tom (please!), as an example. Last week I spent the majority of the episode banging my head against the wall as they acted like kids from Degrassi Jr. High while on a mission. This week started off no better, with him calling her mid-mission to ask what she was wearing, but by the end of the episode, the cutesiness had all but worn away, leaving behind a relationship still fairly unbelievable but ringing a lot more truthfully by episode’s end. And yes, I’m talking about realism in a show with a bionic woman, but the human emotions in a show such as this still have to remain fairly grounded, no matter how high concept the show might be. And by episode’s end, the stark reality of what had been a teenage crush finally seemed to hit home for both of them. And not a moment to soon.
That’s not to say the show’s grown completely up. I’m just about ready to invent some bionic duct tape so I can stop Nathan from rambling on scene after scene. I get it, Bionic Woman: you want a version of Marshall from Alias, and I like me some Marshall too, but occasionally, it’s OK to simply show him buckle down, get on mission, and help Jaime out. I understand his role provides a chance for humor each week, but there’s a fine line between “clever” and “really annoying.” And the subplot with Ruth’s plant seemed completely out of left field. Then again, quite frankly, Ruth herself seems out of place on the show right now. And Berkut Group? If I may? You invested $50 million into her bionics: how about springing $100 for some running shoes for her? If I see her run after someone in high heels again, I’m driving to the nearest Foot Locker and buying her a pair myself.
But minor quibbles all. I’m not going to overly hate on a show that was remarkably watchable for the first time in ages. The mission felt right, the stakes felt right, and the tone felt right. I’m not asking for a relentlessly dour hour of television (”Dour Hour TV” doesn’t have quite the ring as “Must See TV,” does it?); but I do enjoy the show more when it takes its fantastical concept seriously, applies it to real world situations, and then produces drama and action plausible with our version of that reality. This week’s episode did that most ably, and I look forward very much to seeing if they can repeat it again in the near future. And so, a tentative “thumbs up” for the future of the show, with final judgment reserved until further evidence is produced.
What did you think about this week’s episode: a step in the right direction, more of the same, or a step backwards? Should Tom remain on the show, or go the way of Will and Antonio? And when will we see a Bionic Woman/Extreme Makeover: Home Edition cross-over episode, during which Ty Pennington and crew remodel the Berkut Group’s headquarters?