Last week I mentioned that Standoff was a lot like Bones. But after this episode, I'm wondering if it's not that Standoff is like Bones, it's more like FOX has a specific formula for the way they do dramas now.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not a good thing either, but this episode is a vast improvement over the pilot, if only because the premise was meatier, a little less predictable, and it had some genuine tension.
Of course, that unpredictability of the plots also has me a little worried. I like creativity, but I'm worried that the writers will be so concerned that normal situations won't do, so they up the ante to an extreme level. Take hostages in a bank? No, let's have a crook take over 12 banks in one day! Hijack an airplane? Nah, have a crazed air traffic controller take a tower hostage and put 1000 lives in danger! That's tonight's episode.
After an incident where a corporate jet comes out of nowhere and slams into a passenger airliner, killing 180 people, the air controller on duty at the time, Barnes, is told to take a leave of absence until the case is investigated. But he knows he didn't do anything wrong, that is was just an accident. It starts to consume him, until he goes down to work, gets into a fight with his boss, accidentally shoots a security guard in the leg and takes the entire control tower hostage. What will happen to the dozens of planes in the air?
Of course, Matt and Emily and the others are called in. Question: are Matt and Emily the only crisis negotiators in the Los Angeles area?
There's real tension and a "what will happen next" aspect to the scenes in the tower, even if the premise isn't totally believable. But it's intriguing. These guys are frazzled on a good day anyway, and a guy waving a gun just adds to that. And there are some clever moments (trying to switch the radar screens to another control tower one by one without Barnes realizing it) and good special effects, showing all the planes in the air, circling while Barnes tries to figure out what to do.
While Matt talks to the guy on the phone, Emily tries to figure out if there's another reason for all of this happening, and there is: the man Barnes' wife was having an affair with was on the passenger plane that crashed! Did Barnes kill all those people on purpose just to get one person, or was it like he said, an accident? Nice little twist there. I think there was a similar plot to Airport '79, only evil Robert Wagner meant to do it.
In a neatly wrapped-up ending, Washington gives the team a glowing review, the NTSB investigation proves that Barnes was right, he wasn't at fault, and Matt and Emily tell their boss that they are still seeing each other.
And this is a good development. I'm glad their isn't going to be any hidden affair, no tedious "will they or won't they" flirting and wackiness week after week, episode after episode. They even had a real date at the start of this episode, which shows that Standoff is progressing with their relationship but doing it in a logical way. I like that. It's funny, I was thinking halfway through the episode that the romantic tension isn't even really needed. They could take out the Emily character and just have this be about Matt Flannery. Make him a little darker, more wiseass, but brilliant. But then this would be House in a crisis negotiation unit or some typical "renegade cop goes against the system" thing, so I guess the romantic angle could be seen as being a little different.
I like this show so far. It's always good when a second episode improves on the first. I just hope they can keep it up.
"How's about I throw in a free topping? You throw out a bullet from your gun. You'll still have 8 bullets and have pepperoni or sausage." - Matt, to the hostage taker, who wanted 24 pizzas delivered.