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September 1, 2014

Shark: Wayne's World

by Michael Canfield, posted Jan 19th 2007 1:42PM
Shark starring James Woods(S01E12) After the last episode's hyper-ballistic antics, I looked forward to seeing Shark's return to good old psychological terror. Billy Campbell (The 4400), still sporting most of the beard and flowing Jesus-locks he grew on his round-the-world sailing trip a year or two ago, guest stars as serial killer Wayne. He is a more formidable villain than we've seen Stark face before. Don't even talk to me about that fizzle of an international arms dealer: the unfortunately-named Khan.

Anyway, sociopathic Wayne chooses to defends himself at trial, which puts his single surviving victim in the terrible position of being cross-examined by her own tormentor. That has happened in a few notable real-world cases, and probably a dozen Law and Order episodes, but it's an intense dilemma worthy enough of a go-around here.

Like all fictional serial-killers, Wayne is super-intelligent and delights in laying multi-faceted traps to vex law enforcement. He's definitely stamped from Hollywood's cold calm psycho template. He gets his manners from Hannibal Lecter, and his moral code from the guy in Se7en. Also, Wayne certainly possesses the majority of brains in his family. Stark runs rings around Wayne's dopey brother Tommy with a story about a cash settlement from the city planning commission. Stark gets one of his gallows-humor zingers off, complimenting Tommy on his "killer patio."

Wayne soon amends his slaughtering-young-women obsession with a beat-Stark-at-his-own-game obsession. It's something about admiring Stark's mad lawyering skills on CourtTV apparently, coupled with a disapproval of Stark's parenting skills. While Stark in using "mineral rights" principles of eminent domain to dig up bodies on the dumb brother's property, Wayne smooths his way right up to Stark's daughter Julie. Prosecutors must hate when that happens. Stark and Julie soon have one of their father/daughter chats, this one about not opening the door to middle-aged men who claim to former students of her father when she's home alone, which just goes to show that parents should not assume any knowledge on the part of their offspring.

This is virtually a Stark solo episode. There's a good scene where Raina and Madeleine have to try and deal with the witness's reluctance to face her attacker in court. But for the most part, the secondary castmembers appear one-by-one in sequential scenes merely to lob questions for Stark to answer with his trademark sharp tongue, and thereby pass along the required exposition. Even Stark seems to get fed up with the constant stating of the obvious. When Raina explains in court that Wayne is trying to pin the murder on his own brother, Stark could be speaking for the audience when he sarcastically replies, "Thanks for the update."

Throughout the trial, Wayne thinks he has Stark right where he wants him. A plea conference, when he goads Stark into cat-scratching him by making not-so-veiled threats again Julie, is the pivotal scene.

I know it's just a TV show, but there is absolutely no way to convince me that Wayne could believe he would get that attack on the record in open court, without having the discussion that precipitated it heard by the jury too. For a moment it starts to look like the writers ran out of time, ideas, or something, with which to neatly tie up the episode.

Instead the writers opt to open the story up again. They stay away from the neat type of conclusion that been part of the series formula to date. After Wayne drives the sole witness to suicide (on the phone, from jail -- again, not all that believable) her testimony is excluded, and the jury gives Wayne his freedom. Well, it is a California jury after all, so that is sort-of believable. I guess.

By the way, the case keeps the investigators so busy there's nary a moment left over for any mention of just-killed-in-action colleague Martin, until right near the end. Stark, talking about the case, says "this one's for Martin." It turns out to be a pretty poor testament considering that, for "this one," as we soon learn, Stark doesn't pull out a win.

Even though this first season is slightly more than half over, the show feels to me like it's still trying to find its own way. But tonight, with Wayne at liberty and Stark perhaps doubting his ability to stop him by legal means, is a step in the right dramatic direction.

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Jane

You did such a great job of analyzing the story I'm just going to tell you my one big complaint about the show overall.

You were absolutely right that the show was pretty much Solo Shark. I think that's the major flaw in the show. James Woods is wonderful and if anyone could do it, I'm sure it would be him but I don't think anyone can carry on a show on their own. IMO it hurts the show that the others are so one-dimensional. I don't know anything about Sophina Brown and Sarah Carter outside of Shark but Henry Simmons and Sam Page are excellent actors. I remember Page from his All My Children days and he was so far and above most of the other actors in his ability and range that he, as my grandmother used to say, stood out like a sore thumb. He was far too talented to be on a soap and he's far too talented for the little bit of nothing he's being given now. Henry Simmons, of course, was on NYPD Blue. He's great too. I was so excited when I read he was going to be a regular on the show. They both need more airtime and, from what I'm reading, Shark is doing great in ratings in households, and viewer with the one weak spot being that all so very important 18-34 year old women viewer. Page and Simmons are such eye candy that if they got more airtime, they'd probably bring in more young female viewers. Hello? Why is this not happening? It makes no sense to me.

Beyond that one complaint, I'm happy with the show. I enjoy it for what it is. My college dramatic literature professor told us once that all forms of script performance requires a "willful suspension of disbelief" on the part of the viewer. Some of Shark's episodes require me to be a little more "willful" than others but I still enjoy watching and think its quality television. I hope it gets a second season.

January 20 2007 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephanie

When Wayne showed up at the restaurant at the end - although predictable - SUPER creepy.

January 19 2007 at 10:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alicia

I thought this episode was the best this season. It really was a "shark" moment when he played the tape from the interview.

And the woman who played the victim... OMG she NAILED it. To me anyway, she seemed totally believable, and her crying/terror/reluctance didn't seem over the top.

And how is "After Wayne drives the sole witness to suicide (on the phone, from jail -- again, not all that believable)" not believeable? Wayne was getting his rocks off in his cross.

January 19 2007 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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