By Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 2008 by Sarah Stegall
Thursdays at 10 PM ET/PT on CBS
Written by Mick Davis
Directed by Clark Johnson
Maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of The X-Files and Fringe. At a crucial plot development in “Cardiac”, rather than draw the obvious conclusion that Dr. Jacob Hood comes to, I thought “Aha! Last week’s clones are back!” The actual point revealed was so prosaic, it belonged in an episode of CSI. Which may be where this show is aiming, but it’s not where it’s ending up. I understand that the concept of the show is to showcase more scientific investigations than CSI does, and to expand the playing field to, well, anywhere but Las Vegas. But the creepy stories and oppressive atmosphere, so far, remind me more and more of X-Files and Fringe. That atmosphere does not match the very ordinary story that played out tonight. Yes, there were good twists and turns. Yes, the final answer hinged on a knowledge of what is now obscure science (more like science history). And yes, the murderer was not the person I first suspected. Those elements should have added up to a good hour of suspense and entertainment, but they didn’t. It wound up being fairly lukewarm.
The chief reason for this is the plot. “Cardiac” recycled The Name of the Rose through Our Town, bringing a method of murder once used by the Medicis into a small Georgia town. We start with an otherwise healthy 11 year old boy falling dead of cardiac arrest–the third to do so in a small Georgia town. Jacob Hood and his partner investigate, and find the usual powder-keg small-town politics hampering them. I was pleasantly surprised at the introduction of a homeopathic pharmacist as the village witch, but this felt like a clue revealed too soon. As soon as math teacher Sam Tewsbury (Henry G. Sanders, Joan of Arcadia) opened his anonymous gift book and started turning pages, I knew how he would die. And that the murder would be motivated by arrogance and pride. While I liked the fact that the murderer was one of the last suspects I would have picked, I really didn’t like the way his guilt was revealed–Dr. Hood can look at a set of DNA gels and immediately tell not only that the lab was pulling something strange, but that all the gels belonged to the same person? Better yet, a prepubescent boy? Someone better versed in DNA, please explain to me how DNA can tell the age of a subject. I will admit, however, his motive for murder–support for the No Child Left Behind Act–to be a new one, at least.
Jacob Hood rescued this episode for me. From being the nearly omniscient being of the pilot, Jacob Hood comes down to earth very fast in this episode. I liked his crawling through crawlspaces and his extempore explanation of carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as his ad hoc blood test for CO saturation. I loved his knowledge of Medici poisons and medieval herbology. His delight in tracking and catching a toad, his explanation of its toxic qualities, and his straightforward address to the math class at the end went a long way towards humanizing what otherwise might come across as a cold, bloodless scientist. I just wonder how many branches of science this polymath is supposed to be versed in. So far he has been a geneticist, a student of medieval/pre history, a biologist, and now a specialist in dark matter (with a touch of poetry). I fully expect him to be a world-class chef, movie trivia expert, and master of network engineering-fu next week. He’s a geek god!
I am profoundly grateful that there are no sparks, no chemistry, nothing more than gentle, comradely teasing between him and his babysitter/minder. I am sure that, if the series goes on long enough, there will be plenty of sparks between them, but if they take a couple of years to get around to it, I’ll be happy. One of the strong suits of CSI, at least in the early years, was the lack of soap opera romance between the members of the investigative team. Here’s hoping Bruckheimer and his writers opt to go that road. I got more delight out of Hood’s mild flirtation with the herbalist than I would have out of a full blown romance. I do hope, however, that Rachel Young soon turns into something more than a nanny with a gun.
The best thing about Eleventh Hour, so far, is the utter and complete lack of conspiracy. No alien abduction scenarios, no “Pattern” full of ex-Illuminati pulling the strings. Just science. I like that. I hope the show continues to eschew the paranormal; real science is just weird enough to be entertaining all on its own. In this respect, Eleventh Hour will be going head-to-head against Fringe. It’s the battle of the network geeks! Fringe may be the better, edgier show, but I know better than to bet against Jerry Bruckheimer.
This episode of Eleventh Hour improved on last week’s good numbers, pulling in 7.9 million viewers for a 13 share. Given that CBS won the night, this bodes well for the survival of this British remake.