Thursday, May 7, 2015

Forever, Season 1, Episode 22: The Last Death of Henry Morgan

I’m not loving this episode title. Not loving it at all. Don’t do this Forever.

In an archive, a woman is checking a delivery, an ancient Roman Gladius (the weapon that killed Adam?). She cuts herself on it… and then we cut to her dead body being found by Jo and Hanson

And Lucas desperately trying to fill Henry’s shoes. Badly. Henry isn’t there because he’s at Abigail’s funeral - something Jo didn’t know

To that deeply touching funeral and Henry doing his best not to fall apart and declaring vengeance against Adam. Eternal vengeance. Literally. We also launch this week’s flashbacks to 1945, Henry and Abigail all happy - and Henry learning that Abigail had an abusive past before meeting them

So to the case and Henry does his Sherlock thing and they identify Blair Dryden who worked in an antiquities museum. To the museum and Diane Clarke, the head curator. Of course Henry goes as well, do we even have to pretend to be surprised by this point?

Henry does his investigating thing and discovers an old roman knife is missing - and of course he thinks of Adam. Hopes for revenge raises its ugly head. Henry runs to see Abe while Adam watches from a distance looking all ominous

Abe hears Adam’s theory about the weapon that can kill them - and quickly locks up Henry’s antique gun which fired the bullet that killed him. He’s also not that happy that Henry decided to keep that gun around - realising that when he is dead there’s a good chance that Henry would also kill himself. Coupled with Henry saying Abigail saved him, Abe repeats what he’s said before - Henry needs someone.

Hanson is all kind of geeky about ancient weapons calling himself practically an expert - though Reece would prefer a real one. And the real one would be Henry, of course. So it’s off to see a Mr. Griffin, an expert in ancient weapons who Blair spoke to. Also played by John Noble so everything just got 56% more creepy and 24% more sinister.

He reveals the knife that Blair found was one of the daggers that killed Caesar. And that it’s supposed to be cursed. Next step is Blair’s fiance, Duane, who they just learn about. Interviewing him they learn about a fake mugging (well… actual mugging) that Duane’s friend Xander pulled on Blair to steal the dagger (in that he actually did steal from her with violence it really is an ACTUAL mugging. Oh Blair, this guy was not a keeper).

When they catch up with Xander they find his body - naked, very dead and carved up in a way that points to torture. And the body is still warm - and alive. But not for long, while Henry is left alone Adam appears to tell Henry that Xander is past saving. Adam tortured him because he thought Xander had his dagger, but it turns out someone else got it first. He warns Henry off - and escapes Jo and Hanson by slashing his own throat and vanishing. Henry then has to clumsily explain to Jo why he pushed her out the way - since he was afraid of Adam killing Jo.

Henry shares his worries with Abe that if the investigation keeps going then Adam will kill Jo. Henry again decides to kill Adam but Abe doesn’t think Henry is a killer - nor should he be. To which we have a flashback - to Henry confronting Abigail’s abuser and getting stabbed for it. He vanishes in Abigail’s arms which is how she learned about the whole immortality thing.

In the present Henry does his best to try and unfocus the case from the dagger and Xander - which fails dismally because everyone else isn’t terrible at their jobs.

Back to the museum with Henry constantly on alert in case Adam shows up. To keep Jo distracted he separates from her while pursuing a suspicious guard which gets him beaten, rescued by Jo - and Jo being increasingly suspicious. She realises Henry is lying and trying to sabotage them.

They bring in the security guard, Henry diagnoses him with kidney disease and Jo plays nice after Hanson tries to be more of a hard case. And Henry poisons him to get the location of the dagger.

Jo isn’t fooled and checks the cameras of the guard’s “heart attack” (after checking the doctored coffee that Henry gave him) to see what actually happened. She tracks Henry on camera

Who has gone to see Griffin (John Noble had to have a bigger role, of course he did). He wanted the dagger because he’s found Mengele's journal detailing his experiments on Adam. He also has guessed that the knife is considered cursed because Adam is killing people - and he’s willing to risk that just to prove that there is “something else out there.”

And Henry’s paranoia almost ends up with him stabbing Jo. He tries to get her to leave the knife, asking her to trust him - but that trust has been too badly damaged.

Jo asks him what she is to him - and he gives a very professional and positive but neutral answer. Her “you made me feel again” is far less neutral. Then she kicks him out of her car.

When Henry talks To Abe about his worries for Jo, it’s clear he cares about her even as he dismisses his feelings as irrelevant.

So Henry tries to get the dagger at work - only to find Jo has already told Lucas not to let him have it and Lucas even orders him to do his paperwork. It’s a nice moment - especially when it turns out Lucas has sneaked the knife out for him (and we have an awesome moment about what Henry means to Lucas).

Henry goes to meet Adam - and Jo tries to follow. Adam has some nice villainous exposition - once he was also a decent man. And this is what happens to a decent man after 2,000 years. He gets ready to fight but Henry doesn’t attack him - just hands over the dagger. Adam is outraged that Henry won’t play and taunts him with Abigail. When that doesn’t work he pulls out the ancient gun and fires it at the ceiling. Henry mocks him - he doesn’t fear death but Adam counters that Henry does fear anyone learning his secret - and shoots Henry knowing Jo will have heard both shots

Adam points out, Jo will find him dead or will watch Henry disappear. Either way ending his life. With his possibly dying breath henry says he isn’t a killer - and injects Adam with a syringe. He’s doctor

We have flashbacks, we have Henry dying, we have Abraham waiting at the waterside for his resurrection

And Jo finding Henry’s pocket watch as she did in the pilot - but not Henry’s body because he’s naked in the river

Adam staggers out of the tunnel to collapse - when moved to a hospital the doctor explains that Adam suffers from “locked in syndrome” complete paralysis of his body. His brain is active but he cannot move a muscle - and the condition could last forever.

Uh, I don’t think you get to claim “I’m not a murderer” as some kind of moral high ground after that.

Some closing exposition and flashback as Henry explains the most painful thing he ever had to endure was loneliness - and the flashback of Abigail finding him resurrected when he came back to see Abraham.
And Jo returns Henry’s pocket watch - and ancient photograph of Abigail, Henry and baby Abraham that Adam had. Abe tells him to tell her.

And the episode ends.

What? Nononono no you do not get to end there! You can’t end there?! Is this some kind of cruel punishment for the poor ratings that means this show is very unlikely to be renewed?! No no no no, bad show! Naughty!

AND the show got me. It actually got me. I almost thought Henry died. Bad show! Very very bad show!

Damn it - we’ve been waiting for Jo to learn the big secret since episode one - this is the absolutely worse time to end the season finale. Shame on the writers! Shame!

Other than that, this episode had a lot of awesome, bringing together a lot of plot lines and generally returning to both the meta that had been nicely growing AND the supernatural elements which seem to have been neglected lately

I am giving a critical eye to the comment “Mr Griffin never goes out” followed by a quick camera close up on Griffin’s wheelchair. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t make you a hermit or a shut-in.

The show in general I actually really liked, despite my early reservations that it was too generic and too lacking in anything original in its gimmick to differentiate it from any of the bazillion shows of its type. Sure, it is very like them, but just because it’s like a lot of other shows doesn’t mean it’s still not fun to watch (things are popular and repeated for a reason after all)

But I do think it made several mistakes. It was far too late in introducing/developing/expanding on Adam and even Henry’s flashbacks and making them a more compelling and relevant part of his story. Even his immortality was very lightly touched upon and having a super memory/being a genius would have done as much - too generic. I think the failure to develop its original elements and characters early on likely led to many people turning away from the show. They had the ingredients to make it compelling and they didn’t go there

Another way they failed, I think, was in making this far too much the Henry show. Abe, Jo, Hanson, Reece and Lucas were all really good characters. I liked all of them, I was interested in all of them, I wanted to learn more about them, I wanted to see more of them, I wanted them to be more involved

I wanted them to be more than the Henry cheerleading squad. Henry was just too perfect. He was too good at absolutely everything and he rendered everyone else completely obsolete. Early on, no-one even raised an eyebrow about Henry questioning witnesses or following up leads and even the old trope of the hostile boss wasn’t there to keep him back because Reese supported him (and I loved that this trope was shelved, I really do - but there was nothing stopping Henry completely overwhelming every moment of every episode). There was no real attempt to give any of the characters anything - no real backstory, no real developed storylines not even a role in the cases they were investigating - and they had a chance

A classic example is this episode - there’s no reason why Henry would be an expert on ancient edged weapons, let Hanson have that. Or when we had two episodes about music (Jazz and Punk) make another character’s expertise in these areas count more. Don’t make Henry know everything and don’t make his ignorances irrelevant. Let someone else share a teeny tiny sliver of the limelight.

Which is a shame because they’re good characters with great potential who I really like. They bounce off each other really well - they needed more.

What’s even more of a shame is that the cast was quite diverse - Abraham was Jewish, Jo Latina, Reece Black and while I think Hanson was Italian I can’t say that with certainty. Isaac, another terribly underused character, was a Black man and a number of the side characters for the episodes were POC. But only Abraham really had any real examination of his history, culture and what that meant to him - and even that was primarily through Henry’s lens for comparisons on his own growth and conflict with Adam.

And that growth was excellent with some really great analysis of class and atrocity and advantage and privilege through the Nazi/Slave trade episode and others. Which again makes me think they were so capable of doing so much more.

Other shaky elements is the complete erasure of LGBT people from the series (and New York, it seems) and I still have reservations about Abigail. They repeatedly depicted Henry’s love for her - and it was epic and powerful and wonderfully portrayed - and his grief over her loss was heart breaking. But… he spent decades with her but very few of the flashbacks were of that period in their relationship. When Henry remembered Abigail, it was always young, newly-wed Abigail and I think we missed something with that to say nothing as casting Abigail as only especially memorable when she was young or when she was leaving

The ratings point towards this show not being renewed - and I really will be sad about that