I know, it's a downer that tonight's Human Target is a rerun (both of them). Don't worry, though, as I have a cure for you: a sneak peek at next week's two all new episodes, "A Problem Like Maria" and "Communication Breakdown." The episodes comprise a two-part event, the first for Human Target.
If you didn't guess it from the title, "A Problem Like Maria" involves the return of Chance's ex-flame Maria (Leonor Varela), last seen in "Salvage & Reclamation." She needs his help dealing with a South American dictator who's kidnapped a friend. (Not unlike the general premise of "The Return of Baptiste.") If anything, this episode shows us that Chance shouldn't date. Normal women can't figure him out, Ilsa complains that he's late for a scheduled business meeting, and Maria is as abrasive as ever; she still doesn't quite pop with him (which makes it all the weirder that they're making out by the end of the teaser). My opinion of her actually worsens this episode, as she continues to prove that she has little ethics when it comes to personal relationships. It's a little too much of a coincidence that Maria's kidnapped friend happens to be someone Ilsa worked with, but I'll call it dramatic license. I just hope it's the last we see of Maria. She goes from someone I was apathetic about to someone I honestly don't like.
Female problems aside, "A Problem Like Maria" is nifty because in bringing back Maria, it's almost as if Season 1 gets to meet Season 2. Our new characters aren't familiar with Chance's past, and Maria's not familiar with the way he does business now. It's an interesting contrast and it allows the audience to almost gauge how the show has changed since it was retooled. Although the episode does get bogged down in her associated drama, it's still Human Target - the basic premise that would be simple enough for most shows changes completely by the end of act one, which is capped by Chance perhaps as angry as we've ever seen him. The plot changes give Mark Valley an opportunity to remind us that he's a talented actor, not just an action hero. Chance's put through the wringer in this episode, and we see it, but he never gives in. When the chips are down and everything is out of control, we can take solace in the fact that Chance remains unbothered: "It's an issue. We'll deal with it, 'cause I've got a plan," he says at one point with a casual shrug, and damned if I don't have complete faith in him.
Plus, I'm all for any episode that involves a rocket launcher.
The second half of the arc, "Communication Breakdown," picks up exactly where the first part left off. While Chance and Ilsa are still in South America, Winston, Guerrero and Ames deal with a pest of their own in the form of a hapless PI named Harry (Arrested Development's Tony Hale). The show finally moves the Ilsa Pucci character out of the business element, and shows us just how unfit for Chance's world she really is; she spends the first few moments of this episode in downright hysterics. The two argue for large parts of the episode, but honestly, they really need to, as we're exploring how disparate their philosophies are. They've needed to have it out from the moment they entered into this bizarre partnership, and now they finally do.
With Chance out of the picture, we're treated to more of the great relationship between Winston and Guerrero, and how they are equally as capable of stepping up as he is. Their dialogue is particularly sharp this episode, which isn't surprising given that it's written by original showrunner Jon Steinberg, who knows these characters better than anyone short of Len Wein. Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley continue to be both hilarious and effective, often at the same time. McBride, in particular, is at his cranky, blustery best.
Steinberg is always a master at really digging into his characters, and "Communication Breakdown" does that in spades. Free of the Maria drama from the first part, it restricts the scope of the action (compared to most Human Target episodes) in order to focus on the relationships between the characters, and force them to confront each other. It's the equivalent of locking two people who are fighting in a room together until they stop, and honestly, it's what Human Target needed after raising so many questions in the earlier episodes about who these people are and how they fit together. By episode's end, Ilsa Pucci is drastically changed by what she goes through, and as a result, your opinion of her will drastically change as well. The final minutes of this episode are the first time I've ever felt like the character of Ilsa belongs on this show, and the finest work Indira Varma's done yet.
If there's one thing that's absolutely maddening, it's that said brilliant final minutes have yet another needle drop laid over them, when they can speak powerfully enough on their own.
Don't miss the Human Target two-part event next week, starting at the show's regular time of 8 PM EST/PST. You'll get your fill of action in the first hour, but almost more important than that is the second half, which stands to be a season changing event. It's worth the two-week wait.
Until then, you can catch up with Human Target in the Human Target category at my blog, DigitalAirwaves.net.