Bionic Woman: “Faceoff”

Expiration Date

By Sarah Stegall

Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall

Bionic Woman

NBC, Wednesdays, 9 PM


Written by Robert Ravner & Jon Cowan

Directed by Paul Shapiro

Maybe the early shakeups at the studio have settled down, or we have a writing team with a better handle on their subject matter, but this week’s Bionic Woman was one of the better episodes so far. There was an actual theme — lies and the truth behind the lies — and much better action sequences. It’s still not as good as it ought to be, but Bionic Woman has improved. A little.

Jonas and Antonio (Isaiah Washington, Grey’s Anatomy) pull Jaime in to show her a video from terrorists in Paraguay (are you kidding me? Paraguay? Why not Antarctica?). They are holding Dr. Mark Stevens (Brian Hallisay, Bones) and threatening to behead him if Stevens does not decode a flash drive he has acquired, which holds secrets about the bionics in Jaime and Sarah Corvus. It must not hold a whole lot–is it really feasible that the entire database of bionic engineering secrets would fit on a 2 GB drive? Jaime accepts Antonio as her partner, and flies south. I loved the fact that Jaime the Bionic Woman is afraid of flying, but the “you can trust me, I’m your partner” speech from Antonio on the way down was a dead giveaway. When your partner feels compelled to give you long speeches about trust, it’s time to start watching your own back.

Sure enough, Antonio waits until Jaime has disabled a fan straight out of Galaxy Quest and then triggers an alarm, which brings the terrorists running. And since when do “terrorists” look like a S.W.A.T. team? Jaime allows herself to be tied up and almost executed before finally getting her bionic on and literally kicking some major terrorist ass. I was so glad to see a fight scene in which Jaime actually won the day, and with both hands tied behind her. Jaime has finally figured out that Antonio is operating out of a different secret agent handbook, and when Antonio proposes to kill Stevens in order to preserve the secrecy of the data, she takes Stevens and runs. As they are leaving, she’s shot by terrorists during a spectacular leaping sequence. Finally, these bionics are starting to show up on a regular basis. Too bad Jaime still hasn’t learned that nobody, not even a Bionic Woman, can run in those heels.

Stevens takes the bullet out and bandages Jaime, and reluctantly reveals that her bionics will wear out in five years, and she will die. Whoops. We now have confirmation that this series is, in fact, the television adaptation of Bladerunner and Jaime is a replicant. When Antonio shows up to recapture Stevens, Jaime shoves the doctor into a hiding place and hands him the flash drive. She disables Antonio (yeah, that’s gotta strain a partnership) and then discovers–to no one’s surprise but hers–that the doctor has run away with the flash drive.

Sarah Corvus, who owned the last two episodes, is literally more restrained in this one. Discovered at a poker game by Jae, she allows herself to be taken into custody in the hopes that the Berkut folks can find a cure for what ails her (so tell me again, why did she shootWill Anthros, the only man who could have helped her, in the pilot?). But rather than give her to the snarky tech who fixed Jaime’s broken bionic toe in the opening sequences, they hand her over to the psychologist, Agent Ruth. While I love Agent Ruth, I fail to see that swapping sayings like “Between a rock and a hard place” will either cure Sarah or tell us much about her. What a waste. It becomes clear through several scenes in which Katee Sackhoff lies strapped to a gurney that nobody at Berkut can help Sarah, so she finally breaks her restraints and escapes to the nearest bar. Of all the characters in this show, she’s still the one I’m rooting for the hardest. Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse, Sarah.

Jonas got more and better screen time in this episode. His sparring with Sarah Corvus includes the only wit in this episode:

Sarah: Kill me or let me go.

Jonas: You know, I tried that once before. It didn’t work.

We learn more about Jonas and his role in this melodrama than we have to date. Also, it’s always a treat to watch good actors sparking off one another in a scene. Hallisay is convincing–too convincing–in his role as the kidnap victim, Dr. Stevens although his character is poorly conceived: Steven’s conscience is supposed to be so tender after he contributed to a bombing raid in Iraq that killed civilians that he has dropped out of the world to minister to the needy, yet he still does favors for the CIA? And he doesn’t see a moral discontinuity there? The writers could not have telegraphed his eventual betrayal more effectively if they’d had “traitor” tattooed on the guy’s forehead. Hallisay still managed to come across as warm, smart and sexy; good work.

We’re still getting clunky dialogue and wilted action. The terrorists call themselves “Sons of the Red Sand”–seriously? What is this, a Fu Manchu movie? The writers really, really, really need to stop giving Michelle Ryan lines like “To get to X, you’re going to have to go through me.” That line would be a tough sell for Clint Eastwood; giving it to Ryan is a joke. Jaime Sommers still hasn’t figured out how to be a surrogate mom to her younger sister, or that parenthood is not about fairness and balance, it’s about raising a child who isn’t mature enough to handle the real world yet. Becca’s personality has undergone more changes than a chameleon, I’m confident that next week Becca will have a completely different personality. Again.

Despite some improvements, Bionic Woman is still not out of the testing stage. Except for the Sarah Corvus character, this show still has not grabbed my attention. It still has not shown me anything new, or even interesting. The only reason it’s better than Journeyman is that the writers are actually using their SF plot device now and then. Otherwise, there’s too much melodrama, too little action, and downright ludicrous plots. The idea of a bionically enhanced human is too good to be wasted like this. Unfortunately, with the audience eroding further with every episode, (Bionic Woman is down to a 5.5 share, coming in third this week), there may not be time to repair this cyborg.