Friday, January 14, 2011

Undercovers: Funny Money (1.10)

There was a moment in Funny Money where Steven and Hoyt manipulated the bad guy of the week into saying the seven-digit code needed to open up his secret vault. What made the scene even more fun was the use of on-screen graphics which appeared every time a new number was spoken. It was such an odd moment of visual flair that stuck out like a sore thumb in a series that has lacked any kind of visual identity. Sure, you can see that expense has been poured into the sets and the various international locations the show has explored, but visually the show just hasn't been memorable. I guess the travel-card location titles were interesting, but paled in comparison to the floaty 3D wording on Fringe, or the comic book typeface on Heroes years ago. But, man, the password scene here was pretty darn great, and a step in the right direction.

Character work proved to be the episode's saving grace. Is Lizzy actually gone for good? I'm not complaining (since her character was entirely redundant), as it shows that the writers were attempting to fix the numerous problems plaguing this show. What made Francie and Will so important on Alias (and made the show suffer when they were both written out) was that they were physical embodiments of Sydney's dual life. Here were these two mundane, caring people she hung out with in her down-time. And it was fun to see Francie's boyfriend troubles being her biggest problems in her world, compared to Sydney's international espionage issues. With Undercovers, Sam and Steven's everyday life just isn't interesting in a character context. We were only ever given indication that they wanted out from the dullness, so a series regular existing solely within that world was pretty unnecessary. And the thin AA characterization was lazy and ill-thought. I liked Lizzy's scenes with Leo here, especially his ability to turn into a compassion confidante all of a sudden, but I'm not saddened by her exit...

Then we have the tension between Steven and his brother. I didn't really understand what the show wanted us to think, since Gary's buzz-killin' ways ended up being the more effective. Steven goes in full-guns-blazing and ends up with squat, while Gary's calm approach proves more successful. I don't really get Steven. He's so violent with the bad guys on this show; he's like some coked-up Jack Bauer. Meh.

Elements of the mission were successful. The lengthy break-in to the vault was a lot of fun (as previously mentioned), but the story still fit a familiar pattern. We have an array of obstacles for the Agents Bloom to navigate their way through, and a MacGuffin to rescue in the end. It's just so "blah".

The show is clearly working to improve, and it's pretty evident here, but there's still a flat quality to the proceedings which make Undercovers' cancellation all the more understandable. Rating C+

Guest stars Gene Farber (Henchman); Enver Gjokaj (Novak Hincir); Harry Lennix (Gary Bloom); Henri Lubatti (Goran Hincir)
Writer Tracy Bellomo Director Jonas Pate

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