My friend Jon Hastings pointed out a couple weeks back about how unlikely it would be that the SFPD would be the ones to track down a perp in a Colma graveyard, and I went through some heavy mental contortions to try to convince him that of course they have no jurisdiction, but in hot pursuit a case could be made and he begrudgingly agreed. But last night was such a mess of not-even-trying-to-get-it right that from now on I’m not even going to point out the geographical and cultural differences between San Francisco and the “San Francisco” in which this show is set, because they’re not really even trying.
And by “from now on” I mean “after this one.”
1. OH COME ON: Hauser has a thing for Lucy? And feels just as fondly for her 48 years later after he’s lived his life and she shows up again unaged? How’s he feel about Doctor Beauregard? He hasn’t aged a day, either. And what was with that most erotic offering of Altoids ever? And what does it mean Lucy offered Petty some mints with his drugged tea? I guess Alcatraz must have been a rougher place than even we had previously thought, since the psychiatrist is walking around with an open tin of Altoids for everyone saying, “No… really.”
2. OH COME ON, PART TWO: There’s no such place as “Pine Street Park,” and, if there were, it wouldn’t look like a warmed-over Scollay Square in Boston. And all that spectacularly-fake looking CGI smoke from the explosions at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid would be coming from Justin Herman Plaza, or Sue Berman Park. Point is, there’s no Pine Street Park. I know it’s a story point that “pine” is in the song lyrics, but why not just throw in a girl named Sue? You’re making up the song for the plot, anyway.
3. One of the things that’s really bugging me is Doc taking so long to find his feet. There was a glimmer of self-confidence when Bomb Squad steak Tanner asks him who he is and Soto lowers his eyes and does his best Hauser impression: “Soto. Civilian authority.” I gave a little squeee to myself because… finally! Jorge Garcia is getting a chance to display some balls. And then they undercut it in the next scene in the morgue, where, of course, this being Fantasy San Francisco and all, all the cute Quincys are nerd girls in soft cotton t-shirts with Golden Age Sandman art on the front to make all the boys tongue-tied.
I did like after he got all the stuttering and stammering out of the way, Doc basically invited her over to see his etchings at his comic store “over on Columbus.” This is probably a coincidence, but I let off another mild squeee at the thought that maybe somebody knew or had done a modicum of research, and Doc took over the Comics and Comix over on Columbus after Ross Rojek went to prison.
4. I’m starting to like the unapologetic amorality of Hauser… in that it’s practically a hallmark or signature move of the character to blithely approach the captured killer-of-the-week and nonchalantly shoot him in the leg. He’s done that what? in four of the five last episodes? They even seemed to nod to that tendency with Neill’s nearly deadpan delivery of the line, “Two things: you just killed a good man… and my legs hurt.” BLAM! I can’t wait until a few episodes from now when he walks up to a defenseless perp and says, “I had the fish and chips at the Beach Chalet for lunch, and Parks and Rec is a rerun tonight.” BLAM!
5. …but, boy, do they have to go through some contortions to tell each episode and have it maintain a sense of “mystery.” While you can get away with characters not asking each other obvious questions to move their situations forward when they’re crashed on a remote island, like in LOST, these characters are in a city. With infrastructure. Culture, and interaction. Petty sets a bunch of landmines in “Pine Street Park” and people are a blown up in a panic, and Inspector Madsen sees a guy in a 1960s pompadour but doesn’t find that suspicious until hey wait she does and then sees the guy bolt. As a trained officer of the law, does she yell for help from the approximately one million uniformed officers, paramedics, and other first responders as she gives chase? Of course not. Just a little one-on-one footrace until Petty has a minute to pull a mine out of his backpack and roll one down the street at her to get away.
And don’t get me started on Matt “Born to Die” Tanner, Madsen’s good pal we have never seen before, although she knows all his backstory and he ribs her about not having used up his nine lives, yet. Dude might as well have had a target on his shirt, a wife due to give birth to his first child any day now, two weeks to go until retirement, and just about to put a down payment on his dream bar in Nassau because he’s getting too old for this shit. Then, when he has to go save Hauser and outsmart the baddie-of-the-week, he calls the guy a punk and practically swaggers over to do the job. OF COURSE HE GETS BLOWN UP.
Once again, though, at a tense crime scene, where a Federal agent almost dies and a respected Bomb Squad member actually does, crawling with SFPD and County Sheriffs and FBI and whatnot, Hauser goes up and does his “Two things” soliloquy, shoots Petty in the knee, and not one person turns around. Although, in everyone’s defense, tense as the situation must be, hearing only one pop and a scream must be like hearing the phone ring to those guys. “Oh, that’s just Hauser plugging a guy in the leg again, nothing to worry about.”
6. When Soto and Madsen are being escorted to the Presidio graveyard and the keeper says, “I never wear the right clothes,” and leaves them to explore the underground crypts that Jon Hastings points out aren’t actually there, I’ll bet most people think that’s kind of a ham-handed way of getting the guy out of the scene and our two leads alone to move the plot along. Me, I’m not going to cast aspersions, because while it might not have been the most artful exit, I can tell you it is really easy to not dress correctly for the weather in San Francisco. We all have a joke that we can tell the tourists in the city, because they’re always the ones with blue skin and short sleeves and cut-offs in July, when anyone knows that’s when the jackets come out. Mark Twain’s famous line, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” isn’t just a glib line, it’s a fact.
7. The other most blatant bit of manufactured drama was the inclusion of Madsen’s squinting with hard thought about what OH GOD WHAT exactly it meant that the word “sunset” was a clue to the landmines’ location. There isn’t a police Inspector, much less someone who’s been in town more than four days, who wouldn’t hear “sunset” and think “Ocean Beach.” You know, what with that being in the Sunset District. The Sunset is so much a part of the western side of the city that there’s actually an Inner Sunset (where comedian Will Durst and Chris Issak and folks live) and the Outer Sunset (where we live). And yet Madsen wonders what “sunset” refers to. This is like a cop in Seattle having trouble with “needle” as a clue, or “bowl” in Hollywood, or “knish” in Boca Raton. This one popped my pop culture circuit breaker, so I’m just going to think this is TV San Francisco, where everything looks like Vancouver with cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge.