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Life: A Life of Mall Madness

First off, I have to congratulate NBC on being smart enough to know that they have a really rare beast of a show oozing with special qualities in Life and having the fortitude to look past struggling ratings and give the show time to find an audience.  They answered my prayers and ordered the back nine for the second season, so at the very least, Life fan(s) will get a full dose.  I was really surprised, elated, and impressed to read that NBC didn’t can the show.  Congratulations, guys.  It was the right call to make, as this latest episode confirms.

Crews and Reese are charged with determining whether a man with a broken neck “fell-slipped, fell-pushed, or fell-jumped” (as only Crews could put it).  The catch is that the crime scene is a gigantic shopping mall mere minutes before it opens for Black Friday…the biggest shopping day of the year, when malls become hellish combat zones and wars are waged between hordes of psychotic shoppers and their purses.

Crews and Reese try to get mall security to lock the joint down before the masses push through all over the crime scene but are too late.  In the confusion, as the detective duo try to suppress the throngs of people, the body of the dead mall employee disappears.  Crews suggests that maybe it’s a Christmas miracle, but Reese can’t be swayed into thinking that a dead body could pick up and go on its own.  That leaves one other solution: somebody stole it.  Maybe thieves will steal anything these days.

The mall is such an absurd freak show on any normal day, but it’s a whole other realm of madness during the holidays.  As such, it is the perfect setting for a Life investigation.  Crews thrives on absurdity and oddity, so watching him interview mall employees is like watching a fish take to water.  Hilariously, and much to Reese’s chagrin, he even finds time to go shopping as he investigates.  After all, it is the biggest sale day of the year.  The plot thickens when they find a 17-year-old kid living with his kid sister in the mall’s basement.  Their parents are dead and they are hiding from child services, who would have split them up.  But are they actually involved in the murder?

On the conspiracy front, Crews has now fully resurrected the conspiracy wall from last season (which is such an awesome visual) and is pursuing new leads.  Jack Reese is still MIA, but Crews decides to learn more about Mickey Rayborn, an ex-cop who was in the photo with Reese that Crews received earlier in the season.  Like Crews, Rayborn is loaded, but something tells me he didn’t earn that money fair and square like Crews did.

Ted does some digging and learns that he owns land all over the city, three hotels, a fighting franchise, and is essentially being given the keys to the city by the mayor.  This guy looks to be a formidable new foe for Crews.  And as an added bonus, the actor that plays him is William Atherton, the guy that played the arrogant sleazeball reporter Dick Thornburg in the first two Die Hard movies!  You just know he’s going to be another sinister slimeball on Life, and I can’t wait to see Crews lay the smackdown on.  Of course that will be easier said than done, as Crews learns that Rayborn is being investigated and/or protected by an FBI agent who also seems more than a little shady.  He warns Crews that if he goes after Rayborn, he’ll find himself back in prison.  On the bright side though, he does offer Crews a stick of tropical fruit gum, which Crews happily accepts.  The showdown is on.

The episode finally brings a sort of closure to the old feelings between Crews and his ex-wife Jennifer.  I so want to hate Jennifer for having abandoned and divorced Crews when he was in prison and marrying some tool and having his litter, but the writers and Jennifer Siebel make her come off as vulnerable and sympathetic.  Tidwell and Reese have a lover’s tiff, although since they’re not quite lovers yet, I don’t quite know what to call it.  They probably don’t either.  The bottom line is that Life is going strong as ever, and at least it’s safe for the rest of the season.  Guess I can’t ask for much more.

Season 2, Episode 8: Black Friday (originally aired November 12, 2008)

For another take on this episode, read Elma Rahman’s review here.

For more on Life, click here.

Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC
Photographs courtesy of NBC

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