October 14, 2008

My Own Worst Enemy #1 "Breakdown" (2008 episode)

Directed by David Semel. Written by Jason Smilovic. Created by Jason Smilovic.

Edward is an operative for a top secret branch of the government. He's ruthlessly efficient with absolutely no qualms about using people before taking them out. 19 years ago, he volunteered for a program where chips were implanted in his brain to create a cover identity: Henry Spivey, an average joe in the suburbs with a wife, two kids, and a boring desk job.

One day, the chips glitch and the two personalities wake up in the middle of each others' lives.

It's great having Christian Slater back. He's at the top of his game, keeping the differences between the personas subtle instead of broad. The way they walk, the depth of their gazes, how one flinches in the face of a moral dilemma the other would just barrel through... he brings so many tiny, little moments to each character, yet keeps them quiet in a way that blurs the lines between the two.

The organization is a little too typical in that Edward/Henry is just a commodity, albeit a valuable one, they're willing to terminate should the situation progress. Adding to the typicality is Alfre Woodard as Mavis Heller, the commander of the operation. Though there's the tiniest fraction of hesitation on her part when the option of deleting Edward comes up, she's pretty much the standard stern leader with secret objectives and unknown motivations. We'll see where she goes.

Better is Henry's coworker Tom, who doubles as another agent named Raymond. I've been a fan of Mike O'Malley since Guts, so it's great seeing him in an against-type role where he gets to bust out the acting chops. He keeps the mysteries of his performance just as close to his chest as Slater, to the point where I honestly can't tell if he's just faking a double life, or if he has the same mental implant.

The plot is great. Instead of just using a throwaway encounter, we get a villain with close ties to Edward's past, a character who could easily have been a recurring menace. It's a nice way for us to see Edward's world before, in a surprisingly believable fashion, it starts to intrude on that of Henry.

I really like this show. I wasn't sure what to expect from the ads, but I was surprised by the skill of the plotting, the depth of the personas, the way tiny moments of wit cut into extremely tense, dangerous scenarios. If there's one problem, it's that I don't see how this will play out over the course of multiple television seasons. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful story they've set up here, but it's one that could easily be wrapped up with just another episode. I'm worried it'll get stale if they settle into a formula and just loop it over and over and over again.

I'll reserve those minor reservations for now until I can see where they go in the next few episodes. Even if things start to hit a lull, My Own Worst Enemy is off to such a great start, I'll probably keep watching regardless.

My review of My Own Worst Enemy #2 "The Hummingbird" (2008 episode).


Anthony Williams said...

Glad to see Slater back in the game. He's such a good actor. You won't be surprised to hear that I didn't watch it, but I thought it looked promising. An interesting spin on the whole 'Bourne Identity' or 'True Lies' story.

NoelCT said...

I figured you had football. You can watch these things online, you know.

I must say, I was surprised. I'd seen several reviews that raked it through the coals, but I have to wonder if they saw an alternate cut or something. What I watched was really good. Neither fantastic nor great, but really quite good.