Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Forever, Season 1, Episode 3: Fountain of Youth

In the shop we see Abe and Henry’s completely different views of his condition. Henry is excited with the chance to die, while Abe would quite like Henry to be able to pass his immortality on – especially since Henry isn’t appreciating his eternal youth while Abe has to deal with his aging body. It’s quite a nice conflict laid out in just a few lines.

Henry has prepared a whole study on how he dies, where he dies, when he dies and how quickly it takes him to be reborn (or awakened as he puts it) and discovered different deaths may take longer to be reborn from. Abe finds the whole thing kind of depressing (his dad is effectively talking excitedly about suicide). They have a full argument about whether Henry wants to die that badly and Henry romanticising the idea of growing old and Abe’s basic frustration that Henry is wasting the amazing life he could lead.

To the death of the week – a man chases down someone who steals his briefcase, catches him, smacks him around then dies of an apparent heart attack. After Henry’s terrible social awkwardness with poor Lucas, they examine the body and, among other things, they find that this 67 year old has an incredible physique for his age. But, when Detective Martinez – Jo – arrives he reveals that the man’s brain had a gazillion problems and that was what killed him. He says the man had an ancient brain and a young body which I’m sure is very unsubtle flagging for the plot. Possibly caused by a weird stuff he was drinking

They talk to the dead man’s son (yes Henry as well for some reason) who says his dad changed dramatically after his wife died; forgetting his family and focusing on physical fitness and partying. They also learn that the old man had no reason to be in Chinatown (and hated downtown) and find a business card for some kind of healing clinic and a large sum of cash in his briefcase.

To Chinatown and yes Jo brings Henry because these shows never let medical examiners stick to their actual role and Henry uses his Sherlockian powers to track down where the old man, Bill, was attacked. There they see an expensively dressed woman in high heels and decide that, like Bill, she’s out of place so they follow her to a place with the same Ouroboros symbol on the door as was on the business card they found

Inside they find a very expensive, sterile clinic for “Aterna” run by Dr. Gardener who talks about living forever on his little TV advert in the waiting room. Talking to the man himself who basically tells them Aterna is super expensive and makes you feel young again – or even better than when you were young. Gardener is unwilling to give up a sample of the product, of course.

Henry notes that Gardener has had plastic surgery (which he can see it seems) and remarks that one treatment was to make his nose longer and the other to “feminise” his jaw, which he considers unusual choices for a man to make through vanity. But possibly ways to try and change his appearance

Through nefarious means, Henry steals one woman’s Aterna while Jo subtly gets Gardener’s prints. Nice to see everyone’s being honest and legal here.

Time for a flashback of Henry back in the 1900s complaining to his friend James about a peddler of fake cures preying on people’s desperation. That friend then takes quack therapies out of that desperation when he becomes ill with tuberculosis.

To the present and after a night of experiments Henry discovers Aterna uses cheaper versions of the compounds the doctor said was in it, cutting corners and Jo finds out Dr. Garner is actually Harold Price with no medical training and a past history of running a clinic in which people died.

Time to see the not-doctor in the Hamptons with a huge swimwear party - and Henry and Jo almost flirt. In which Henry scientifically analyses what makes Jo attractive in mathematical terms. Not exactly romantic (but there is a nice moment of gently chiding Jo for casting scorn on women who use plastic surgery when she is naturally attractive. She also points out that, as a detective, her looks are not an asset).

The doctor protests lots of innocence which Henry accepts – Harry isn’t educated enough to make Aterna, they want to know who does. While waiting for him to dress, Henry meets one of the women he saw at the clinic who is disorientated and has memory problems. More worrying, Harry is stabbed when he goes to get dressed and dead when they find him

Stabbed with a scalpel no less. Back at the medical examiner’s office they also confirm that Harry’s brain was being affected by Aterna as well. Henry also has a revelation about what Aterna is – it’s filled with prions from infected tissue (like BSE) which is destroying the patient’s brains. Which is also what the patients are drinking – brains, human brains. I’m not sure how Henry made the leap but run with it, especially since a teeny tiny b plotline has been Lucas freaking out because he’s lost two bodies. They go to see Lucas (personality quirk – Lucas never loses anything because of a bad childhood experience and is now freaky and obsessive about it) who confirms 12 bodies have gone missing. Burrowing through Lucas’s experiences and revealing that Henry knows waaaaay too much about Lucas they discover who is stealing the bodies.

They arrest him and catch him red handed removing pituitary glands from a human head, they question the man and Henry trips him up exposing that he also doesn’t have the science background to create the Aterna. The police also pull up a list of patients for Aterna

Henry runs home, because Abe is on that list. They talk and have a big emotional moment – Abe is worried, he wanted to take the Aterna not to be young, but because he worries how Henry will manage without him. Also of course Abe didn’t take it – he’s a doctor’s son (which may be the first overt labelling of their relationship as father/son) and he asked so many questions they had to bring out their chemist to explain it to him – which means he met the chemist and he can describe her.

Which he does – she’s the sister of the morgue attendant. She’s also Dr. Gardener – Harry’s – girlfriend. And Abe coincidentally spots her on the subway and decides to follow her, even though Henry says not to.

They confront her by the subway platform and she tearfully tells how she had no choice (Harry threatened her immigration status, she’s Ukranian) and it wasn’t her decision to use cheap ingredients – she has lots and lots of guilt and tries to jump in front of a train. Henry stops her.

Case solved, time for more Henry/Jo flirting with Henry noting what a workaholic Jo is

We close with a voice over of Henry calling life precious because it’s finite (he told the chemist she was too young to die, he sees Jo as wasting her life and even remembers fighting to save James even when he gave up hope – while he doesn’t value his own life). He also talks about being immortal means missing what’s good and worth living for.

We have a lot of musing about whether Henry is wasting his life by constantly obsessing about a way to die (and comparisons to people who waste life by constantly trying to find a way not to die) and some interesting and necessary debates

On the one hand I like this because I think far too often we see the “tragic” immortal on TV and in books with very few people realising the awesomeness of it – or the gall of immortals whining about how bad it is to be immortal to short lived people in aging bodies. So I’m glad there’s a call out. And these issues are needed to give the show some depth behind “crime of the week”. But I also feel like it’s a little forced that we’re having these discussions in a very overt, convoluted way rather than addressed over time. It’s not the discussions – the discussions are great – but it’s having the discussions and then having the voice over repeat the discussion. It’s like the writers wanted to check we caught on to the theme in case we’re too stupid to catch it. It’s heavy handed.