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FBI: Most Wanted - Ghosts & Predators - Double Review

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In many ways, these two episodes represent both the best and the worst of the criminal procedural genre for me. Also the best and worst of FBI: Most Wanted, so it is interesting that they ran back-to-back. Ghosts was directed by Rose Troche and written by Gina Gionfriddo and Jerome Hairston. Predators was directed by Fred Berner and written by Elizabeth Rinehart.

Ghosts is by far the superior episode for me. It starts out fairly typical with a crazy man shooting a police officer serving an eviction notice, but by the time the episode ended, I felt like I had run the whole gamut of emotions. The wanted killer this time is Reg Waters, a member of the Mohawk tribe and general rage-o-holic, or at least it seems that way at first as he kills and assaults anyone in his way. He’s on a mission to find out what happened to his missing twenty-something daughter and heaven help anyone who doesn’t have the answers he wants. Even his daughter’s ex, who seems like a standup guy just trying to help, gets beat up. However, as the show progresses, it peels off layers to reveal what is behind his rage.

While I can never feel sorry for someone who takes their rage out indiscriminately on people, he has good cause to be angry. The police barely looked into the case, assuming that Reg’s daughter was a prostitute or junkie. In a 6-month investigation, the file is at the bare minimum and little effort was made. They didn’t even check to see if she was dead. It’s shoddy at best but the show strongly implies that it is racist as well, since the victim was Native American. A private investigator Reg hired was even less useful, basically taking his money to go on vacation under the guise of working. Reg is a man defeated by the system and ready to take things into his own violent hands.

In many ways, Ghosts works best because of the slow reveal into Reg’s psyche and its focus on an underrepresented, tragic part of American history. See, it wasn’t just his missing daughter that created the maelstrom in him. He had a poor relationship with his daughter because of his poor relationship with his father, which led to alcoholism. His father, in turn, was suffering PTSD from his experience at an Indian residential school. Up until the early 1970’s, many Native American children were removed from their families and raised in boarding schools, whose main purpose was to remove everything about their culture and assimilate them into “white” culture. For many, their boarding school days were filled with systematic abuse on all levels. This episode was a brutal reminder of how long the scars of cultural abuse remain. Like Reg said, the scars were “passed down from one generation to the next.”

Few shows touch on the Native American experience in post-western TV so this focus kept the episode feeling fresh. It also gave them time to focus on Clinton. I like how many of these early episodes center around a specific team member. It allows us to become more attached to the characters without overwhelming the plot. In many ways, it reminds me of the show Brave, which ended too soon. Ghosts allows the viewers to hear about Native American abuse more authentically, since Clinton also had relatives who went to these residential schools. He could document how it affected his cousins, while being grateful that his parents remained untouched by the process. It also segued into Tali learning more about her mother’s traditions. All in all, Ghosts was powerful, heart-tugging, and well-paced….

Which only made Predators seem worse. The crux of this episode is that a psychopath (Bishop) and his brain-damaged but equally horrible girlfriend (Raylynn) are on a spree, killing and raping as they go. This time, however, it is Mommy issues at the root. Bishop’s mom is a prostitute, who often conducted business in their home, scarring him for life. While it is implied that Bishop was probably sexually assaulted in one of these encounters, it never digs deeper into that. So here’s where the two episodes diverge. Ghosts takes a hard look at the why, but Predators often seems to rush that part of the story to spend more time dwelling on the horrors of the rapes and murders.

To me, it felt like they lingered overly long on the brutality at the expense of the story. I realize that the writer was attempting to sell how hard this particular job was on the team, but it generally fell flat for me. One of the things that makes FBI: Most Wanted different from other procedurals is the great characterization of the Wanted of the Week. Here, all the one-off characters were horrible...well, except for the ex-fiance. He rocked. Everyone else just tried my patience. Crazy for crazy’s sake gets old quickly and the character motivation seemed underdeveloped. Stopping at the places where his mom was arrested seems more like a writing device to help the good guys track him than a criminal plan. Likewise, the big twist for me was that Bishop’s endgame target was not a man who abused him but a man who got tired of his mom. After the interview with her, I don’t blame him. She was awful. Finally, I didn’t buy the Bishop and Raylynn relationship from the details given. It felt like their backstory scene got edited out in the final cut, leaving big plot holes, even though the actress who played Raylynn was chillingly good.

Another issue was its similarity to far too many other procedurals. There was nothing new about the plot. In fact, it reminded me of 2 episodes of Criminal Minds: The Thirteenth Step (6.13) and Elephant’s Memory (3.16), both of which I liked better. I do watch a lot of procedurals so episodes and shows sometimes overlap but nothing about this episode grabbed my attention.

Grade: A-

Best Scene - Clinton talks Reg out of committing suicide
Best Reason to Watch - Native American focus
Best Character - Clinton
Best Character Interaction - Reg and Rickey

Best Quotes:
1. Rickey: “What are you doing?” Reg: “I’m making an offering.” Rickey: “For the ghosts?” Reg: “This one’s just for us, for our family. All the bad stuff that happened here. They hurt our father so bad, Rickey.” Rickey: “Did they hit him?” Reg: “They beat his body, yeah, but they beat his soul too. Told him his people were low and dirty. They made him ashamed until he hated himself.” Rickey: “Is that why he’s so mean?” Reg: “He’s mean because he didn’t have parents to love him, not the way I see your Mama loves you. This place filled him with rage, rage he passed on to me, but I won’t let it happen to you. Our family’s been passing the hurt in this place from one generation to the next, but that stops today. I make this offering to free this boy from the curse of this place.”
2. Clinton, in a mixture of Mohawk and English: “This isn’t right. You’re gonna feel that boy with pain.” Reg: “Who the hell are you?” Clinton: “Agent Clinton Skye. I’m Kahnawake. I saw your offering. You broke the cycle of hurt. Don’t start another one.” Reg: “There’s nowhere for me to stand anymore. Everything’s gone.” Clinton: “What about your little brother? He needs you to show him the way, help him stay on the Red Road. That’s a good place to stand. That he might walk a good path.”
3. Reg: “Those kids are all here now. They’re ghosts and we’re gonna do something for them. Here, write his name over that number. Write our father’s name.”
4. Sheryll: “I get his MO. Speak softly and carry a big shotgun.”
5. Jess: “She went out fighting. Now we can fight for her.” Clinton: “Let’s bring her home.”

Grade: D+

Best Scene - Sheryll tells Jess to open up with the others about the case
Best Reason to Watch - home scenes at the LaCroix house
Best Moment - Bishop’s death
Best Character Interaction - Jess and Tali

Best Quotes:
1. Jess: “Did you know we have a junior Georgia O’Keefe in the house?” Nelson: “Tali? Oh, yeah. It’s a real nice painting too. I guess she must have got her talent from Angelyne. The only thing you can draw is your gun.”
2. Sheryll: “I’m guessing that snowflake had a longer lifespan than their engagement.”
3. Jess: “How are you doing with this case?” Sheryll: “The rapes and murders are bad enough, but it’s the pleasure that Bishop and Raylynn seem to take in it.” Jess: “I get it. It’s upsetting as hell.” Sheryll: “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. The others might like to hear it too.”
4. Jess: “These women might have been random - wrong place, wrong time, but they’re not random to Bishop. He’s raping and killing the same person, over and over.” Kenny: “Like Groundhog Day from hell.”
5. Jess: “Sometimes this job feels like it asks more than you have to give, like this case. Just know that whatever you’re feeling, we’re all feeling the same way. We’ll get through this together. You’re all doing good work.”

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