BACKSTROM Pilot Recap: 'Dragon Slayer' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

BACKSTROM Pilot Recap: ‘Dragon Slayer’

January 22, 2015 by  

Hello BACKSTROM Viewers!

What did you think of this pilot episode? It immediately began by showing Portland Detective Everett Backstrom (Rainn Wilson) visiting Dr. Deb, and we learn (amongst various racial allusions from Backstrom) that the detective has been relegated to traffic duty for a few years because of his health. Deb warns him of the dangers of his physical eating and drinking habits and gives him an unusual prescription: make a friend within a week.

They are interrupted by Officer Moto, who takes Backstrom to a crime scene being worked by Portland’s newly formed Special Crimes Unit, including Nicole Gravely (Genevieve Angelson) and John Almond (Dennis Haysbert) and Forensics Peter Neidermeyer (Kristopher Polaha).

The corpse is hanging from a bridge, but Backstrom doesn’t believe it’s a suicide — he declares it a homicide, and is pleasantly surprised when Neidermeyer confirms it by saying the victim, college student Tobias Percival III, had heroin shoved in his face until he died. Backstrom immediately points out African American campus police officer Charles Turner as a potential suspect. The team is mostly horrified at the racial implications, but Backstrom is unmoved, tasking Almond with questioning the young man.

Meanwhile, Backstrom and Neidermeyer talk with the victim’s dad and figures out that the young man was in love.

The team works the case, leading them to suspects on campus (TPIII’s ex-girlfriend Alison), a local coffee shop (a rugby teammate), and a local bar where the bartender, Visser, is suspected of pushing heroin on the school’s campus.

Physical altercations ensue (go Gravely!), and she and Backstrom then try to figure out why TPIII had heroin and $1,000 in an envelope for “Cass,” eventually determined to be a stripper named Cassandra who works for Visser. She and Toby loved one another, and she says there is no way he could have been doing drugs — he was too good and pure. The lead seems to have dried up until Nadia tells them that Cassandra is Charles Turner’s sister.
Charles is brought in for questioning, and he admits that Cassandra was working with Visser to get money from Toby — she had to pay off her debts to Visser for getting her dance career started.

Throughout the episode, Backstrom talks with his barge-mate/undercover fence/sometimes amigo Valentine, who is able to get the information about Visser and how to deal with him.

Backstrom wonders why they hurt Toby and realize that the student figured out the truth and wanted to confront Visser, bringing a gun with him. Charles admits that Visser slammed the heroin in Toby’s face and then hanged him for good measure.

The Special Crimes Unit raids Visser’s bar and get him. Backstrom eventually shoots Visser, but as he is bad at gunplay also shoots himself (which he later blames Visser for — questionable at best). But Backstrom can’t let the case rest just yet — he wants to know where Toby’s gun ended up.

Neidermeyer dives under the bridge where Toby’s body was found and comes up with the gun. It was fully loaded, but had been misfired twice, on purpose — likely sabotaged. At the prison, Backstrom talks with Cassandra and accuses her of colluding with Visser. She insists she is innocent and that she didn’t know the gun was broken.

Backstrom laughs and asks her how she knows it NOW. She realizes she is caught and drops the sad girlfriend act, figuring she will get her way in court because of Backstrom’s behavior. But the team has been listening in, and it’s enough for Gravely to join them and make an arrest.

The episode ends with Backstrom back in the doctor’s office, having met his obligation of friend-hood. Dr. Deb agrees (despite being insulted again) and gives Backstrom a provisional approval on a weekly basis. They are interrupted again by Valentine, who informs Deb that without the job, Backstrom really won’t have anything to live (aka get healthier) for.

The Good

  • I like the “I’m you…” method of getting into another person’s psyche. Additionally, the whole “Cass” storyline, where Backstrom kept suggesting it was the name of new suspects, was funny.
  • Hart Hanson shows always have a nice balance of respect for people who are religious and those who aren’t, and John Almond is a perfect example of it. More Almond!
  • The small interrogation of the coffee shop employee/rugby player was funny.
  • I love the character of Valentine, and while I wouldn’t qualify it as a bromance with Backstrom yet, I think their chemistry has a brotherly feel to it. Also the “barge” setting for their living quarters is unique and creative.
  • The scene at the diner between Neidermeyer and Backstrom was nice; it was good to hear a little bit about Backstrom’s story with his dad, and I laughed when Neidermeyer was unfazed when B said he hated him, clearly taking that as a sign of feeling/affection.
  • The Nadia/Backstrom friendship will be fun if they continue to develop it.
  • I really also liked the score and music in the episode.

The Bad

  • Pilots are always so heavy on character development, usually resulting in traits turned up to 11, so to speak. Neidermeyer’s uber-Zen POV, Nadia’s “quirky woman not to be messed with,” and Gravely’s eager beaver/rules follower all felt over the top, but it’s not the worst ever. Good news is that it all evens out nicely in future episodes.
  • Gravely asks Backstrom if he really meant it when he said that murder victim’s deserve to be murdered, but I didn’t remember him saying that. Not a big deal, just something I noticed (or didn’t notice, if he in fact said it!)

The Backstrom

  • At this point, Backstrom feels like his own foil. The brilliance of his work ability plays opposite his vile comments. Meanwhile, the other main characters don’t have enough guff (yet) to match up with him — or aren’t on screen enough to have a strong enough presence. It’s probably the point — each one is a foil to one of his characteristics or facets, and while it’s nice that we don’t have another buddy “odd couple” crimedy, at the same time, having no true equal allows Backstrom to sort of plow through, his racism and sexism and general inappropriateness unchecked. Also troublesome is that he doesn’t even bother to hide his sarcasm when the team members are obviously wrong in their assessments of his behavior. This metaphorical hand waving doesn’t add any credibility to a team of detectives.
  • As I watched this episode (and others later in the season), I couldn’t help but wonder if the anti-hero character is a little outdated for network television. The landscape is saturated with the geek trope and superheroes (comic book characters and others like Leslie Knope or Sherlock Holmes/Watson). There’s a difference between a noble character who has a dark side (John Reese from PERSON OF INTEREST), and an evil person who sometimes does good. There are villains on TV for sure, but they are portrayed as such (GOTHAM, EMPIRE, HTGAWM, maybe even THE BLACKLIST). BACKSTROM (the show) wants Backstrom (the character) to be obnoxious, dark, but also the hero. But I don’t know if that’s possible. The show pulls on the ‘good’ characteristics of other characters, but there’s nothing that gels them together as a team, no defining moment that makes them keep coming to work — Backstrom being right is a higher-held value than justice.

If you’re like me and find Backstrom’s racist jokes unpleasant, take heart — future episodes seem to have toned down the shock value. I don’t buy into the whole “oh, he’s wounded and was abused, and so that’s why he’s so unpleasant.” No. Not to downplay the experiences of people who have been abused, but validating Backstrom’s actions with victimhood seems like a stretch.

Like I said in my previous review, there are differences between direct people who come across as obnoxious, people who gleefully revel in being obnoxious/shocking toward people, and people who are annoyed by ridiculousness and not afraid to say so (i.e. What would Backstrom think of the Kardashians? Probably a lot like many of us would think of them), and in future episodes, there’s a lot less shock value and more directness, which I found to be a lot more palatable. I would encourage viewers to watch at least one more episode to see the character develop a bit. I don’t want to spoil, but of the four episodes Fox released to the press, the pilot was my least favorite. I only say that to encourage you all to watch more to see the show even out a little bit.

Enough from me; what did you think? Were you surprised by the killer? Which characters did you like or not like, and will you be tuning in for more?

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