It’s the episode I both have dreaded and waited for: the end of the first season of the best new show of the 2009-2010 season. Hopefully, it won’t be the end of the show for good (not if I have anything to say about it). But fittingly, at the end, we start at the beginning. This is the story of how Christopher Chance became Christopher Chance, and wow, is it a good one.
We begin with a bunch of wannabe sekrit commandos breaking into a building. It’s not just any building…it’s Chance’s warehouse. The bad guys know where he is now, and they’re here to get him. Talk about a rude awakening! But of course our guys won’t just surrender. Winston’s in hiding, gun in hand, ready to pop someone.
Flashback to six years ago, at what we now know is the beginning of Chance’s odyssey. Mark Valley in his best Boston Legal mode introduces himself to then-SFPD detective Laverne (as in and Shirley) Winston as Assistant US Attorney Conrad Hall. He tries to make small talk, vaguely making reference to how much he hates his job and is wishing he had another. It doesn’t go smoothly at first.
Winston: Yeah, I got a name that’s a girl’s name. I also carry a .45, have a history of disciplinary problems, and this isn’t my first drink today. You got another comment?
Back in the present day, the thugs are busy busting up the place when Chance drops in to bust some heads. Winston’s got the shogun, and Guerrero is joining in the fray as well. But it’s all short-lived, as there’s just too many bad guys. That’s when our heroes are captured and confronted by a mysterious stranger played by Psych’s Timothy Omundson. He trashes the conference room so he can interrogate Chance about the death of Katherine Walters. Namely, he works for the people that hired Chance to kill her. And we by now know how that went…
But let’s cut to the chase: the bad guys are looking for a book that used to belong to Chance’s old boss, and was last seen around the time of Katherine’s death. Either Chance tells them where it is, or they off Winston and Guerrero.
Six years earlier Winston susses out that Chance really just wants to use him to get close to Katherine Walters, who’s a witness to a murder that happened at the docks. He won’t talk, but Chance gets her location off Winston’s cell phone from a text message and goes hunting. He turns up at her place, schmoozes past the cops, and…meets a puppy we know will grow up to be Carmine. Awww.
But now we finally have a face to go with the name of Katherine Walters, and it belongs to Joss Whedon mainstay Amy Acker. Katherine is utterly normal. Sweet, unassuming, and really horrible at baking. Chance asks her about her job at the port and what the dead guy said to her when she found him, and even goes so far as to poison her coffee, but their brief conversation in her kitchen starts making him wary. He’s been told she knew the dead man, but she swears she never met him, only that he said something about ‘Leonore Fortier’and then died. He’s further swayed by the fact that she stopped to help rather than just flee from danger. It’s enough to get him to stop her from drinking the poisoned coffee and call his boss — played by Armand Assante, how cool is that — to ask them to reconsider. They won’t, but he’s made up his mind. He tells Katherine what he’s there to do, and that her life is in danger. She questions why he’d risk everything, and he confesses he’s tired of the life he’s been living. She’s just the last thing that pushes him over the edge. She can see the conviction in his eyes and is willing to leave with him. A short time later, Winston turns up to see the cops licking their wounds.
The two turn up at a safehouse, and try to figure out where to go from there. Chance has no idea who hired him, and Katherine insists she doesn’t know enough to be a target. Their only chance is to figure out what the dead guy was really telling her. Later that night, and not as if anyone can blame her, she has a bit of a breakdown realizing her whole life is pretty much destroyed. But hey, Chance is good for a hug.
Of course, these moments never last long. Their privacy is interrupted some time later by the surprise arrival of none other than Guerrero, who has been sent by the boss to figure out what’s going on. What follows is that Jackie Earle Haley finally gets a fight sequence to sink his teeth into — and it’s against Mark Valley, no less. It’s nothing short of amazing. Inevitably, though, Chance triumphs and is ready to shoot him. The only thing that stops him is Katherine. Guerrero lives to fight another day and eventually join forces with Chance, though how remains a mystery. Instead he gets dropped unconscious.
Our computer expert eventually wakes up, having been found by none other than the best bad guy, Baptiste. Guerrero explains what happened and tells Baptiste he wants no part of it, knowing Chance could have killed him but chose not to. He respects that. It leaves Baptiste, who tries to plead with the guy upstairs on Chance’s behalf, but the boss will have none of it. At least partly because Detective Lassiter is breathing down his neck.
On the road, Chance explains to Katherine how he got to where he is, and how this is all he knows, but that he’s been having a crisis of faith for the last few years that’s now come to a head. His next option is to take her to the one person who’s ever beat him…who happens to be in the warehouse we now know to be Chance’s home base. Except the man in it now is a shotgun-wielding Lee Majors, who introduces himself as Christopher Chance. He’s not the first to call himself that, and we know he won’t be the last.
Chance and…well, Other Chance debate what to do next. Chance confides that Other Chance sparing his life and telling him ‘Nobody deserves to die’was the moment that made him rethink his life. Meanwhile, Katherine is dumb enough to answer her cell phone. Thankfully, it’s just Winston, telling her that he’s found out Leonore is actually a ship. Although they won’t take his help, Chance and Katherine realize they have to get to the docks and find the ship, and whatever’s on it that was worth having her killed for. Chance goes off to get into the office, making the crucial mistake of leaving Katherine on the boat, thinking she’ll be safer there. Of course, this moment comes with the obligatory kiss and promise that everything is going to be okay, which we know already is a lie.
Katherine walks Chance through how to use the office computer, and they come to the realization that the dead guy was referring to container number 40-A and whatever was inside. He gets the location of the container and goes off to find it. But like any great bad guy, Baptiste is hot on their trail, and already there.
I’m laughing at the commercial for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, since it also stars Jackie Earle Haley. There’s good ad placement for you.
Chance opens the container to find there’s just one thing in it: a small case which contains the now-infamous book. Baptiste and Chance confront each other and Chance insists that the book will screw up whole nations, but he’s willing to give it up for Katherine’s guaranteed safety. Of course, Baptiste won’t bite, and this leads to the inevitable gunfight between former colleagues. The two finally come to blows in another impressive fight sequence on top of some shipping containers…just long enough to knock the case off and watch it disappear into the water. Oops.
With the book lost, Baptiste decides he’s going to blow up Katherine for measure. Chance realizes he left her alone, and is left to stand there horrified as the boat goes up and she goes with it. Everything he’s just worked for is gone. Baptiste is ready to off him, but not before Other Chance saves his life with a well-placed bullet. This earns him a fatal blow from Baptiste, and Chance watches his mentor die, but not before Other Chance asks him who he wants to be.
Back in the present day, Lassiter tells Chance that the book was never recovered from the channel. Then he wonders why the police never noticed all that commotion. We flash back to see that Winston was there and called them off. He’s sure now that Winston has the book, not that Winston is going to tell him that.
Meanwhile, Chance talks to Random Commando about how Other Chance taught him his basic philosophy. We see that Other Chance used to hide weapons all over the place. We also realize Chance is just talking to buy time as he subdues the guy, grabs a gun, and starts shooting. He’s too late, as Winston has been kidnapped. He’s also about to get blindsided again before he’s saved again — this time by his old boss. The boss says they get Winston back when he gets the book. Everyone wants this freaking book, so it must be damn important.
Flash backward again to see Winston having found Chance in the warehouse. He tries to convince Chance that Katherine’s death wasn’t his fault, and that he can do some good in the world if he puts his mind to it. It’s Winston who pushed Chance to become the Christopher Chance we know and love. In that moment, Chance tells Winston his name is Christopher Chance, and thus begins the adventure.
Present day, Chance and Guerrero are separated as Chance gets on a helicopter with his old boss, heading for parts unknown. And that’s where we leave our hero, out to face his past in the interest of protecting his future.
What a season finale. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. I have just a few minor nitpicks about it. The first is in the person of Timothy Omundson, as in, what is he doing in this show? He has his Psych reputation that precedes him, but that aside, even then I still can’t buy him as intimidating to Mark Valley and Co. at all (regardless of the beard). I would have appreciated the part more if it was someone who legitimately put fear in the characters and the audience. Adam Baldwin was probably busy doing Chuck, but was Neal McDonough busy? Either of those two would have been a better call. I’m also not totally sold on Amy Acker as Katherine Walters, though she did grow on me after a second viewing. I just don’t feel chemistry between her and Mark Valley. Maybe it’s because she’s just too cute.
Also, some things were a bit clichÃ©, if somewhat necessary: you can argue Chance and Katherine had to fall in love somewhat for her death to have the maximum impact on him, but it still seems like ‘oh, god, not this again’since it happens all the time on TV these days. Likewise with the death of Other Chance, though if he didn’t die we wouldn’t have Chance. With that in mind, I can forgive the episode its cliches, as much as I dislike them. That said, there’s already some speculation that Katherine may have survived the bomb blast, and that would be unforgivable. I hate shows that talk about dead characters and then have them come back from the dead for alleged dramatic angst. Resurrecting Katherine would lessen the character impact of her death and be just plain ridiculous. Leave her in the ground…or I suppose, water.
Yet now that we’re past my few minor foibles, let’s talk about the good, and there is a lot of good. This is a great character study piece, and probably my second-favorite episode behind ‘Baptiste.’The fight sequences are amazing, as they always are on this show, and even though we know how things will end, the script does a great job of keeping tension and interest regardless, without going into melodrama. It’s great to see a pre-good guy Guerrero, the return of Lennie James as Baptiste, and what casting coups in Armand Assante and Lee Majors! Yet in the end, this isn’t an action episode, it’s a character piece about how Chance becomes Chance. It becomes clear, and logically so, how he made the decision to switch sides — and happily, it’s not because someone magically flips a switch, but we learn (even if we’re not shown) that this has been brewing for years. That makes it believable. Each step of the episode, as we have been each step of the season, we can see the wheels turn in Chance’s psyche and see how he thinks, feels and develops into the man we know and have embraced. The backstory laid out in this finale matches the backstory laid out throughout the season. It’s the last piece of the puzzle. We’ve seen bits and pieces in every episode, and this is the logical and well thought out conclusion. This is where the story was going all along.
I’ve always been wary with shows when they choose to reveal their smoking gun that seems to be the spine of the show at the end of the first season (like with White Collar), but Human Target is different. This is where the show was always working toward going. It’s told its tale over the course of the season and it’s put itself in a place where there’s another story to tell next season. The arc was perfectly played, and that’s commendable in a sea of shows with muddled mythology or stories that drag out too long. There’s still questions to be asked, and a future to be had, but audiences can walk away from this season feeling like they’ve been told a full and complete story, and that is pretty darn neat.
As I write this, Human Target’s future is up in the air. We might see the next chapter, and we might not. Therefore there are two things I want to do. The first is to thank everyone who works on the show for a great season of work. From Jonathan Steinberg, to the cast in Mark Valley, Jackie Earle Haley, and Chi McBride, and everyone else on down, it’s clear everyone who’s worked on this show is dedicated and passionate, and I want them to know their work was appreciated. This has been the best ride of the new TV season, and it’s because they love this show as much as we do, and have thrown everything they have into it, much like Chance. They’re amazing, and I want to say so publicly.
Now, with an eye to the future: this show deserves a second season. I know the fans are out there. Amazon’s pre-order listing for the first season Blu-Ray just went up today, and it’s already at #620 in Movies and TV, which considering how many movies and TV shows Amazon sells, is a heck of an accomplishment. But there are no more episodes left. The creative team have done their part. Which leaves it to us, the fans.
So I’m throwing out a challenge: make yourselves heard. Leave a comment to this recap, letting us know how much you love Human Target and want it back for a second season. Let’s see how many people we can get to comment and show our support for this amazing series. And hopefully, I’ll be seeing all of you for season two!