The End of 'Life'
I kept trying to make the last 43 minutes of Life go slower but I couldn’t. I’m sure Charlie Crews would have some Zen aphorism to say about that…that’s if he wasn’t occupied trying to save his partner Dani Reese from the clutches of psychotic Russian crime boss Roman Nevikov. We learn through documentary footage-a nice revival of the show’s first season motif of intercutting the narrative with faux documentary footage about Charlie and the people around him-that Nevikov took Reese hostage by orchestrating the whole phony FBI task force she’s been on for several weeks.
Roman is supposed to be in prison where Charlie sent him, but he has someone serving his time for him. I’m not sure how that works, but I guess when you’re as powerful and feared as Nevikov, you can get pretty much anything you want. I sure hope to be like that some day. Meanwhile, Charlie and Tidwell are going bananas trying to save Reese. I really like how the relationship between those two guys has developed in the last few episodes. They’re not friends and Tidwell doesn’t quite approve of Charlie, but there’s a mutual respect between them and neither is afraid to bend the rules a little bit to get the results they want and need.
So what does Roman want? Simple: He wants Charlie to exchange Mickey Rayborn for Reese. But isn’t Rayborn dead? After all, a whole crapload of his blood was found on his yacht. Yeah, blood…but no body. I’ve suspected for weeks that he wasn’t dead, and it appears I was right. Charlie has to find Rayborn, but the LAPD wants to lock him in a room and interrogate him about Roman and Rayborn. Tidwell and Seever help Charlie get out of the station so he can go do what he does and get Reese.
His first step is to go back to the FBI task force that gave him and Tidwell the cold shoulder when they asked about Reese last week. Tidwell asks him how he expects to get anything out of them after they got nothing before. Charlie gives him that Steve McQueen-esque, badass stare that Damian Lewis is so good at and explains that last time he talked to them like a cop, and this time he won’t. Hell yeah! Except that before he can get there, one of the FBI “agents” kills everyone else there. I guess Roman is cleaning house, and if he’s cleaning house, his next target is probably Agent Bodner.
Charlie thinks the same thing and drives his car through Bodner’s garage just seconds before the bad fed shoots him in the head. Awesome stuff. Bodner questions why Charlie saved him, and Charlie explains that he knows that he’s not working for Roman anymore since Roman had someone sent to kill him. If Roman hadn’t sent someone to kill Bodner, I’m sure Charlie would have taken him down. So now they team up to track down Rayborn. This is an awesome dynamic and further testament to the show’s extraordinarily talented writers: two former foes now coming together as allies. Almost as cool as when former nemeses Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed team up to whoop Mr. T’s ass in Rocky III.
This is an amazing episode that typifies everything that’s phenomenal about Life, particularly the wonderfully idiosyncratic rhythm that alternates between intense character work and surrealist humor. There’s a hilarious commentary on minivans, and it’s nice to see everyone pressed into action, working as one: Charlie, Ted and Amanda, Tidwell, Seever, and Bobby Stark. Charlie even gets an automatic weapon at one point! It’s just a kickass show, plain and simple.
I don’t want to ruin all of the developments for anyone who has yet to see it, but suffice it to say that this episode is so satisfying, it even goes back to the very roots of the show and the conspiracy involving Charlie’s frame up for murdering his friend Tom Seybolt and his family. It would have been nice to see Rachel in this episode, because she really disappeared midway through the season, but that’s a mild complaint. Charlie solves more of the conspiracy but by no means is it wrapped up. There are still things I don’t understand (and Charlie doesn’t understand), he hasn’t found everyone involved. There’s a satisfying cliffhanger involving Ted going off after Olivia, but we don’t get any scene between Ted and Charlie and that’s a shame. But to make up for it, Charlie pulls an awesome awesome awesome move against Roman that’s reminiscent of how Bruce Willis dispatches a thug in the third act of the underrated The Last Boy Scout.
Watching Life has been a true television highlight for me, and I’m really sad to see it go. I’ve lost a lot of shows over the years, but this one is right at the top of the list. I’m so in love with this character and Damian Lewis as a star and a great actor. The writing has been consistently exceptional and progressive….Life has revolutionized a genre that even I would agree has become rather stale, and I love cop shows and movies. I gotta hand it to NBC for giving the show a full second season. I don’t blame them, I blame America. I haven’t heard anything saying Life is coming back, so I assume it’s cancelled. But it’s really disheartening and I will always have a special place in my heart for the show and the creative team behind it. It has indeed been a wonderful Life.
Season 2, Episode 21: One (originally aired April 8, 2009)
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Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal, Trae Patton