Thursday, February 5, 2015

Forever Season 1, Episode 14: Hitler on the Half-Shell

Abe is getting a medical for his life insurance – and the nice doctor offers Henry a deal as well. Henry is not really in the market for life insurance (Abe finds it immensely amusing). More poignantly, she asks about Henry’s family’s medical history and he tells her his parents died when he was born and she sees the numbers tattooed on his arm in the Nazi concentration camp. This leads to a classic Henry monologue, this about apologies and old wounds, some of which never heal.

Henry offers again to search to see if there are any records of Abe’s biological parents, but without a last name there’s little they can do.

Murder scene time! And Henry is captivated by art much to Hanson and Jo’s wry amusement. The murder victim is a Karl Hass, an art dealer who has had several paintings stolen as well. He was bludgeoned by a heavy object marked with a swastika. The same swastika as is on the bottom of the statue Henry was admiring – the murder weapon.  And it’s a genuine, precious piece of art stolen by the Nazis.

To the morgue and Lucas realises in horror, by means of a quip, that the brilliant Henry has never heard of Indiana Jones. Hanson and Jo find that Hass’s father was Otto Heidrich, a high ranking Nazi in charge of stealing art across Europe. Hence the art collection which Otto managed to flee Europe with.

They interview Karl’s son – who is apparently completely ignorant of his family history (and not very close to his dad, either). Which makes for an awkward revelation – and Karl’s desperate protest that his dad and granddad were good men.

Which segues into a flashback of Henry back in 1812 confronted in a very posh gentleman’s club about his family’s participant in the slave trade. Henry protests that his family would never do such a thing! But it’s clear that everyone there knows his family is involved.

Which moves onto the present where Henry says how hard it is to accept your family has profited from the death of millions of innocents.

They follow some clues to a jeweller who tells them that Karl gave him a painting – a Monet, Waterlillies. The priceless painting belonged to the jeweller, Spehr’s, family before the war and Karl, a complete stranger, gave him the painting for free. Karl wanted to return all of his father’s stolen art to the rightful owners. He recites a quote “a good man apologises for the mistakes of the past, a great man corrects them.”

At breakfast Henry tells Abe about Karl – a man who spent his whole life trying to return his father’s stolen loot. Abe notes you only carry your own sins in the world – and snarks about having to carry around Henry’s 200 years. Though Henry calls himself “sinless”.

Next plot twist – a blood sample at the scene is linked to a Max Brennan – who makes a difficult murder suspect since he’s been dead for 20 years. But Henry points out it’s an incomplete profile of a male relative of Max’s. To his son, Sam Brennan, busily chainsawing animal carcasses in the name of art. There they find another painting with a swastika on it

In questioning Sam claims it belonged to his grandfather and Karl refused to return it. Far too early for a reveal so Sam is clearly innocent of more than breaking in and stealing – but he does know that Karl was arguing with someone on the phone in German that night.

They follow up the call to a Swiss bank and auctioneer and he has a large store of stolen Nazi art which he claims they were trying to find the true owners off – and were helping Karl do the same. Karl kept most of his art with them – only art he was ready to give back was in his flat to protect against theft – the banker is shocked and appalled what things people will do for money

Which leads to a flashback of Henry confronting his dad about their involvement in the slave trade. His father tries to excuse why he did it (because of debts) but doesn’t impress Henry – his father’s opinion that the slave trade is wrong is meaningless next to the actuality of his involvement.

More science presents the banker, Julian Glauser, as a suspect. Returning to the vault, they find Julian has cleared it out. Jo suspects he’ll be fleeing the country by boat with the large art shipment – and pressures Hanson to get them access to the docks (they don’t have enough evidence for a warrant) by calling his brother who works there.

They have some wonderful sibling snark before finding the container full of art. It also contains Julian’s mutilated body.

Meanwhile, a creepy man visits Abe’s shop to have a silver platter valued – and he’s creepily interested and creepily knowledgeable about Abe’s Auschwitz tattoo. The creepy man is Lewis, Henry’s immortal stalker. When Henry returns, Abe asks him to authenticate the tray – and he realises it belonged to his family and who Abe’s customer was. Henry doesn’t tell Abe.

Henry meets Lewis (and really threats are so useless against an immortal). He’s trying to make nice with Henry and reveals he knew Otto Heidrich, because he was also a prisoner in the camps. When his immortality was discovered, the Nazis (Dr. Mengele) experimented on him. He wants Henry and Abe’s help in recovering something the Nazis stole from him, a Roman Dagger from 44BC. Henry isn’t exactly eager to help.

We have another flashback scene of Henry and his dad on his dad’s deathbed – after they’ve been clearly estranged and his dad gives Henry a watch that has been passed down the family. It’s the one we’ve seen him carry in the present. His dad talks about learning from his mistakes and raising a good man.

More science and emotional turmoil and Henry realises the person who killed Karl was probably his son, Eric. Jo questions Eric and it turns out Eric is having financial trouble and was enraged to see his dad giving away priceless art – he killed his dad in a rage. But not Julian, he was using Julian to sell the art.

An examination of skin from Julian’s killer shows that the killer had antibodies against plagues that no longer exist (is that an immortal thing? Because I thought antibodies has a certain shelf-life before they faded without further exposure – hence boosters). And yes, that means Julian’s killer is probably Lewis.

Of course Henry has to cover this and tells a shocked Jo and Hanson that he’s stumped about who could have killed Julian. He brushes them off and runs off.

In Abe’s shop, Lewis visits again to sell the tray and leave a package behind. Inside which is a Nazi record book – a lost record book from Auschwitz that contain details of Abe’s parents. Henry realises who it must come from and he tells Abe that it was Lewis/Adam (Henry uses “Adam” to refer to him). Henry realises it’s a gesture of apology from Adam – though it doesn’t redeem him or excuse what he did; though Abe does note Adam’s victimhood

Abe looks up his parents history and their preserved possessions, including a photograph of them.

I’ve said before that I’m discomforted with real world atrocities being appropriated for supernatural entertainment purposes – and the holocaust and slave trade most certainly count. (“Otto Heidrich” is also creepily close to “Richard Heidrich” and, of course, there’s the near mandatory mention of Mengele).

But I don’t think that applies here – because there’s no sense of exploiting or using these atrocities, there’s no implication that magic or woo-woo of any kind were behind or involved in either atrocity. These atrocities existed, as part of history and as part of the history of their characters; it doesn’t try to twist, lessen, justify or deflect from them.

The concept of atonement and the difficulty of being the child of someone who commits such atrocities is also addressed with some complexity; Abe clearly acknowledges that they’re not responsible for the sins of their fathers. But both Henry (who became a doctor on a slave ship and, ultimately, died to try and protect one of the slaves) and Karl had benefitted from their fathers’ atrocities, had benefited from the wealth they both earned through their atrocities and both felt a need to atone for that to make some redress for that

This reminds me a lot of Martin Adolf Bormann, son of Martin Bormann, godson of Adolf Hitler who spent a large portion of his life talking about the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

There's also the complexity of Adam and his gesture for redemption. His evil is clear, but his peace offering is so very thoughtful and touching and completely meaningful. There's also Adam's understandable hatred of profiting of Nazi wealth. Also while Henry is unreservedly condemning of Adam, Abe can identify with Adam's pain and victimhood

It's a very thought provoking episode.