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INTRUDERS: Mr. Harvey Just Sighs and Shakes His Head…

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IntrudersLogo_Black_Small
Episode 4: “Ave Verum Corpus”
Episode 5: “The Shepherds and the Fox”

[Photos: Cate Cameron, © BBC Worldwide Limited]

I want to like Intruders, I really do.

The Intruders
And yet, I suspect that your review is going to be the reason I look like this, isn’t it?

There is so much talent involved with this series, so many actors I really love to watch, but the blasted story keeps getting in the way. And great googley-moogley, the story…

There is, as I’m sure you know (but just in case you don’t), a thing called the “infodump”. This would be where the writer of the book, TV show or movie, needs to give the reader or audience a lot of information, usually in an incredibly awkward way that draws attention to itself. Sometimes it works quite elegantly like, say, the opening scroll of Star Wars, where you get a lot of setting info, so you don’t need characters telling you where you are or what’s going when the Rebel Blockade Runner appears.

Most of the time, the infodump is a bloody mess.

A variant is the “As You Know…”, which goes something like this: “As you know, Bob, we’re being chased through the forest by the radioactive mutants, Susie’s leg has been clawed by said mutants, and if we don’t get out of the forest by midnight, the Feds are going to drop the bomb!”

This is also not ideal, but it’s actually a recognized style of storytelling that used to be hugely popular. In these days of long story-arcs, you can usually get that info from a pre-credits recap of previous episodes, but every now and again, you get something like the first of these two episodes, where not only do we get the pre-credits clips from the previous episodes, but within the first 5 minutes, we get Jack (John Simm) and Gary (Tony Kittles) having an “I told you…” (As You Know) and a monologue that gives us an infodump. They almost work, but then you factor in the last words Gary said to Jack about Amy being tied into a group of murderers, and the whole scene just feels… awkward.

It continues the rather odd series of dramatic, disturbing and bizarre things that Jack really isn’t reacting to in any kind of normal way, and as one of only a handful of the characters that we’re dealing with here who aren’t in on the Big Mystery, and one of the main characters of the show, it’s kind of driving me nuts.

And ultimately, that’s the real issue I have with Intruders: The only “normal” characters who are acting in any realistic manner are the parents of Madison, who are terrified out of their minds. The Bad Guys are all acting in ways, well, more or less, that make sense, at least in context of who and what they are…

And then there’s Jack.

In “Ave Verum Corpus”, Jack and Gary begin to investigate the strange consortium that includes Gary’s employer, who has been acting strangely; and Amy, Jack’s wife, who has been acting beyond strangely, and who seem to be behind the death of inventor Bill Anderson and his family. Meanwhile, Madison, possessed by Marcus, makes her way to Seattle while Amy listens to 20’s music and assaults televisions in the midst of bloody flashbacks. Gary’s infodump about his bosses’ odd financial behavior reveals that Amy is connected to him and a mysterious building for which Amy is a trustee.

Of course the building is empty, and Jack’s in denial, despite the evidence and Amy’s weird behavior. He also isn’t paying attention to the anonymous phone calls from a “part-time friend”, so he breaks into Bill Anderson’s house and gets his oblivious ass arrested. This leads us to more vagueness about the three men he killed while he was still a cop, and the dodgy-at-best relationship he has with law enforcement. The same “part-time friend” has also called James Frain’s Shepard, where we learn that Anderson is still alive and the friend has a name: Rose.

Meanwhile, Madison/Marcus are kind of at war with each other, but the kiddo is losing, and Marcus has effective control, so when Madison breaks through enough to try and call home, Marcus makes her knock herself out. Thankfully, no one in Seattle notices a small white girl beating herself unconscious and lying on the street by one of the last payphones in America.

INTRUDERS
Yeah, well. I know you are, but what am I?

Apparently there is one good cop with a functioning brain on this show, and while he tries to get some answers from Jack, Gary comes along to bail him out. This leads to an odd phone call with some sonic properties that will likely lead to some plot twist that will tick me off later. Anyway, Madison/Marcus pays a visit to Todd, who was supposed to be Amy’s boss, where we get to watch a child actor play an old man who is clearly a monster, and feel like we need a shower later. Todd realizes who he’s really talking to, and is not going to cooperate in connecting him to Cranfield, the guy who is also Gary’s boss. Of course the revelation that Marcus is… well, alive seems to be not exactly the right word, does it? This news will not be a good thing for Shepard.

And then we get the moment I started beating my head against the table.

The Intruders
Dude. Stop. That looks painful.

Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica, (Alessandro Juliani) turns them away from paying Cranfield a visit, raising the question as to whether or not he stopped by for a daily rate or if he’s about to be a new player, but all that is left behind when our heroes jump a a fence and observe… Jack’s wife Amy and the worst hidden mystical ceremony ever. Seriously. Dear Bad Guys: You close the curtains before you start the mystical ritual. Before.

So, as confused as the viewers, and through some kinda handwavy logic, our heroes figure out how to get in touch with Bill Anderson, and set up a meeting using the pirate radio show that everyone is mysteriously listening to. Unfortunately, the code that they use to convince Bill to meet them is easily cracked by Shepard, who is closing fast, but not so fast that Bill can’t reveal that he invented a ghost detector, and that certain sound frequencies are tied into the eternal life of the soul. All very mysterious and cryptic and all for naught, because that’s when Shepard comes in and blows Anderson away.

INT105_JD0133
Yep I see it all the time. Reviewers who beat their heads against the table until they’re just a body in the basement. Tragic really.

Episode 5 picks up with the police raiding Marcus’ home 9 years ago, and finding that the old man possessing Madison is a serial killer, with over 20 bodies in the basement. That, obviously, doesn’t bode well for wee Madison’s future. The same detective who was chasing Marcus is getting Jack’s statement about Anderson’s death in the present, while Madison/Marcus finds the mysterious building and gets no help from the lady inside.

Shepard gets a visit from Robert Forster, where cryptic threats are exchanged and it’s revealed that the 9 know that Marcus is back, and that they know someone helped him. Forster point-blank asks if Shepard is the one, and of course Shepard lies and says no. Forster also tells him that Rose has him on a off-book mission, which one suspects is killing Jack.

Jack and Amy have a phone call where they lie to each other about where they are and how they’re feeling, and then Jack gets a call from Rose setting up a meeting, and revealing that she knows where he’s staying in Seattle. Jack, recognizing the serious threat to his continued existence, decides to get stupid drunk, then tries to track down Gary, who has dropped off the face of the planet. Trying to call him at work, Jack finds that Gary hasn’t worked for Cranfield for months, thus confirming that no one in the show is ever telling anyone else the truth. Considering the entire show seems to be being told to us by an Unreliable Narrator, this seems appropriate.

Jack heads to his meeting, and Gary calls, promising to reveal everything he’s kept from Jack, but only at his hotel room, because he’s afraid to leave. It can be no coincidence that Gary is staying at the same hotel that Jack told Amy he was staying at, but before we can delve into that, we get the arrival of Robert Forster at the meeting place, and considering that his job seems to be killing people, odds are good that the suspicion that he’s killing Jack for Rose is the purpose of the meeting. And yep, after telling Jack that Rose Gilchrist sends her regards and promising Jack will see his wife again in the next life, Forster tries to kill him. Apparently he’s a crap assassin, because Jack is able to fight him off for a bit with a boat hook, which could have been avoided by Forster just shooting him in the first place but, of course, Bad Guys gotta be talking all the time instead of just killing people.

The Intruders
The fact that the Bad Guy can’t even kill the the Hero when the Hero is attacking empty air does not make the success of the Evil Plan all that likely.

Luckily, I suppose, Shepard shows up to kill Forster, more or less saving Jack by accident, but promising to kill him the next time he sees him. But again, there is no reason whatsoever for Shepard to keep Jack alive, and every reason to just waste him then and there, but hey, let’s not let logic into any of this at this point.

We rejoin Marcus/Madison pounding on a suburban house door and meeting the guy who lives there, but then cut to the hotel, and Jack’s reunion with Gary, whose hotel room clearly hasn’t had a visit from housekeeping in a while and pretty much implies that Gary might be a touch mental. Back at the house, Madison/Marcus is a horrible houseguest and calls home, while Larry Owens, the clearly doomed guy who lives there tries to arrange for her folks to come get her. Unfortunately, it turns out the house is Marcus’ old house, and the presence of a knife in the room means that Owens is toast.

Gary is telling Jack his story, revealing that he was exposed to Anderson’s ghost machine, which enabled him to detect the presence of the others, the Intruders, inside the people around him. And then we see the extremely disturbing scene of Madison/Marcus taking a shower and having a drink after killing Owens, as Gary reveals that he could see the ghost of the girl who killed herself in the first episode inside his daughter, which freaks him the @#$% out, as such things will. His reaction is not good, as shaking a baby is frowned upon, and gets him kicked out by his wife.

Shepard tracks down Marcus/Madison, and again we see that a small child, possessed or not, is clearly the most dangerous threat to the Bad Guys, because she’s running circles around all of them, stealing Shepard’s car and getting away. And Gary tries to get Jack to recognize that his wife is possessed too, and that the Bad Guys believe that everyone has two souls. Seems that these folks have discovered a way to awaken theirs and essentially live forever, explaining everything from Mozart to schizophrenia, and the whole mess Jack is dealing with. Anderson’s machine would enable everyone to see the second soul, and like all good Bad Guys, our villains are crap at sharing.

Jack, oblivious to a fault, discounts all of this, but since Gary reveals that Rose is staying in the room across the hall, does a little spy work, and sees Shepard arrive and knock on the door, which opens to reveal… Amy.

The Intruders
Yeah, you’re right, I do deserve better material. I’m James Frain, dammit.

Yeah. Totally saw that coming.

Right. So again, the story is a mess, and although the performances by the actors are all good, we’re asked to spend most of our time with Jack, who seems insistent on ignoring the complete madness around him, and Madison/Marcus, who splits her/his time between being pathetic and monstrous. It doesn’t make for much of anyone to root for here, and that’s a problem. Sure, you can feel for Madison, who has a monster living inside her trying to force her consciousness into oblivion, but every time you see her, Marcus rears up and says and does something that makes you want to drown the kid to save the world. And you can feel for Jack, whose life and marriage is falling apart, but then he’s confronted with person after person who is connected to the 9 in obvious ways, AND the attempts on his life, and he just won’t see that he’s in the middle of something that is big and ugly and not explained by his wife just wanting a separation.

The whole thing just reverberates with the sound of The Hand Of The Writer slapping us all across the face.

And it’s a shame. Because John Simm, Mira Sorvino, James Frain and Millie Brown – especially Millie Brown – are owning this material. Owning it. Every one of them is giving really excellent performances in service of a story that doesn’t deserve them. And I want it to.

I want more shows like this… short seasons, adapting novels into miniseries, featuring incredibly talented actors and actresses in genre stories. But the story has to move forward in a way that isn’t making me want to scream at the screen when I’m watching it, and that is more or less my default position at this point. And don’t misunderstand, I love me some ambiguity, but we’re five episodes in, and right now, nothing anyone is doing makes a lick of sense.

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Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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