INTRUDERS 1.02: “And Here… You Must Listen”

intrud201On the plus side, BBC America’s INTRUDERS director Eduardo Sánchez and scripter Glen Morgan seem a bit more interested in telling a story rather than obfuscating their tale this week, but on the negative side, the narrative was too on-the-nose this time. Unlike last week’s premiere, The episode may have been packed with exposition, but it was given to us via info-dump dialogue and voice-overs, which is amateurish and, frankly, beneath longtime THE X-FILES producer Morgan and former DOCTOR WHO producer Julie Gardner, the braintrust behind INTRUDERS.

I know, I know, I’m having a very hard time getting into this series; maybe you aren’t. But forget about a secret society of people trying to return from the dead; I believe this series was rushed to air way before it was ready. The scripts are obtuse and wildly meandering, and the characters are complete ciphers – and that’s a major, major shortcoming in a series which depends on the viewer recognizing that people are acting out of character. How the hell should we know if Amy speaking a foreign language or dancing to jazz is unusual for her? Oh, her husband just tells us it’s strange. Bad storytelling!

Madison (Millie Brown) finds herself in Portland, Ore., staring at a clock. As it strikes nine, a change comes over her. She checks her pockets and finds hundreds of dollars in cash, a key, a bus ticket, a train ticket and the 9 Book. She remembers visiting Mrs. Ng (Grace Fatkin). The book is inscribed, “In the beginning there was death.” A male voiceover (Connor Dunn) narrates the book, saying only “Qui Reverti” can understand what’s being discussed. Holding the book proves that death is not the final punishment of an angry god. However, an angry station agent won’t let the 9-year-old get on a train to Seattle alone. Meanwhile, Tim Truth (Toby Hargrave) takes over for the murdered Oz Turner, broadcasting/podcasting about the murder of Bill Anderson’s family and mentioning the secret society Qui Reverti.

Jack (John Simm) visits Amy’s (Mira Sorvino) Seattle office, but her boss, Todd Crane (Andrew Airlie), said she hasn’t been around. Later, Jack has a dream/memory of Amy sleepwalking and speaking Russian. Jack notices he’s being watched. He gets a call warning him to go home; even if he finds Amy, she’s gone. Jack locates George Brackett (Peter Bryant), the cabbie who found Amy’s phone. He said Amy creeped him out by claiming to live in Russia, be with the Czar’s secret police and having assassinated a labor leader in 1883. George takes Jack to where he dropped Amy – and a man – near her office building. Jack locates a nearby building from a photo on Amy’s phone and stakes it out. He sees Todd arrive. Later, a pair of goons attack Jack and George, and one thug stops the other from shooting Jack – apparently on Amy’s orders. George flees, and the Jack gets a call from Amy saying she’s at home and wondering where he is.

intrud203“FBI Special Agent” Shepherd (James Frain) goes to Portland, where he busts in on Mrs. Ng, who noticed there was something wrong about Madison, and says, “There was no book made for Marcus Fox. He won’t understand it.” Shepherd kills her and goes to the train station. Madison spots Shepherd and bolts, but he is on her tail. She offers Karen (Rukiya Bernard) $400 to take her to Seattle. As she rides in the car, the voiceover narrating the 9 Book explains, “We do die, but we can return.” Certain individuals, ones with sufficient will and determination, “the self-chosen ones, the Qui Reverti,” can come back from death. The book will guide her “out of the prison” and back to “freedom.” As he says, “Welcome back, Reverti. Welcome back, again,” Madison looks directly at the viewer.

It was at that point – that ludicrous last-minute shattering of the fourth wall – that I decided I will be hate-watching INTRUDERS from now on. What possible reason, story-wise, could there be for Madison to look directly into the camera at that portentous moment? Is this going to be a metashow, one that invites the audience into the story? Shame on the script editor for signing off on this nonsense! Shame!

How could Shepherd have been so lucky as to take the exact same route out of the train station and down the same random street that Madison did? That kind of “coincidence” ruins the viewer’s willing suspension of disbelief and reminds us that we’re watching a contrived work of fiction. And one so poorly written that it depends on coincidence to keep the plot moving. That’s the worst kind of writing a mystery can have. And why did Shepherd waste time with Madison’s parents if he knew exactly where she was going (Portland) and whom she was going there to see (Mrs. Ng)? Again, atrocious writing.

However, giving credit where it is due, it was totally realistic that George didn’t easily recognize Amy or Todd; cabbies see hundreds of people every day, and at the time there was nothing remarkable about Amy, so why should he remember her? Bravo for that.

As for the secret society Tim called Qui Reverti, I consulted a Latin translator and got the phrase “He came back,” so this could definitely be the name used by a group of people who are trying to come back from the dead.

But what is the mechanism for the resuscitation? It certainly doesn’t seem permanent in Madison’s case; Amy’s situation remains to be seen. Perhaps Madison’s transformation is screwed up because it’s necessary to kill the host body – and Shepherd botched things when he didn’t murder the Madison identity to make “room” for Marcus. But all the Madison situation does is muddy the waters at the moment.

intrud202Once again, DVRs seem to have a role to play in the “second soul” taking over the living body, because the light goes on just before Amy’s Russian interlude. And the dilating pupil seems to signal something – but what? The “second” soul giving up control or the first? Madison seems to always act surly and mean, so who can tell whether it’s her or this Marcus dude in control? Which brings up yet another flaw in the storytelling: Why did we spend more time with Donna in the first episode, only to have her disappear, but no time with Madison before Shepherd showed up with the sand dollar and a gun? That’s just sloppy storytelling.

And, jeez, again with Brud (Tom Butler) worrying about his car? (There’s something about him. He’s not on the level.) But what kind of knucklehead is Jack? Why not simply rent a car? (You can do it online, dude!) Jack was behaving like it was the turn of the 20th century and the “horseless carriage” was a newfangled device, and Brud had the only one in the whole county, so Jack had to borrow it. And I swear, if the engine mounts don’t fracture at a key moment and screw things up for Jack, I’m throwing my TV out the window!

NOTABLE QUOTES

“Yes, Amy’s all right, because in the beginning there was death.” – Amy

“It’s an absurdity on par with the Warren Commission.” – Tim Truth

“You’re not sorry; but you will be, asshole. What goes around comes around.” – Madison

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Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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