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Review: 'Human Target' - 'Sanctuary'

by Mike Moody, posted Feb 4th 2010 12:39PM
human target sanctuary
(S01E04) Just like Chuck Bartowski, Christopher Chance seems able to access any type of fighting skill, foreign language, or Bible verse necessary to nudge his way out of a tight spot. But unlike Chuck, or Echo from 'Dollhouse', his super skills don't come courtesy of some dubious sci-fi technology. So where did Chance get his awesome abilities? Who knows? We'll probably never learn the answer to that question. Despite the show's small attempts to get a larger arc moving, 'Human Target' is more concerned with delivering fun, action-packed self-contained episodes than with building a rich mythology.

Surprisingly, 'Sanctuary' offered some valuable intel about Chance's past, courtesy of Guerrero's latest "side job." We learned that he's wracked with guilt over his involvement in a woman's death -- a woman he was probably in love with. The same woman might've been the reason he turned things around and started working for the good guys, mirroring this week's client, John Gray ('Fanboys' star Sam Huntington). I'm looking forward to seeing these plot elements finally pay off somewhere down the line, but I don't expect the payoff to be huge.

'Human Target' delights in exploiting action movie clichés and adorning its formulaic episodes with fun storytelling devices (the gumshoe narration) and nutty stunts (the hero swinging from a gondola line). So I don't expect the ongoing arc about Chance's past to lead to much more than a fun shoot-em-up, or maybe a fight scene on the hood of a runaway monster truck.

Sadly, nothing so outrageous happened this week, but there was still some fun to be had. I loved Winston's narration, and the action scenes were solid. I wasn't very invested in the A plot, which pitted Chance against a wonderfully over-the-top William Mapother (Ethan from 'Lost').

Guerrero's storyline was much more interesting. Maybe its Jackie Earl Haley's performance, but Guerrero is the most intriguing character on the show. Just when it seemed like he was ready to betray his buddies, he proved his loyalty in the most brutal way possible. I love the duality inherent in the character -- he's a good guy who acts like a goon and shoots people in the back.

Apparently, Guerrero is also the guy to call when you're trying to disarm an explosives detonator. This classic action movie trope led to line of the night, "Did you just flip a coin?"

We also learned a little more about Winston, who, it turns out, is a retired cop. No surprise there. He's also very invested in helping people who are trying to reform themselves. Like Chance, it seems like Winston might have his own sins to atone for.

"Sanctuary" wasn't nearly as exciting as last week's ep. Mark Valley sorta seemed to be sleepwalking through his role here. Thankfully, Haley and Chi McBride made up for that with their very fine performances.

One last note ... I loved the 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' breakdown. "Alternative services" huh? Makes sense, I guess.

[Catch up with free episodes of Human Target on Slashcontrol.]

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Maybe there wouldn't be a need for a narrator if FOX would just show the episodes in the order they shot them.

While each episode may be self-contained, subtle character evolution cannot be helped - and it's off-putting when those subtleties become revealed in a herky-jerky fashion.

The 2nd episode aired was the 6th shot.

The programs that get this sort of treatment from FOX rarely survive.

February 05 2010 at 1:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm with Josh and George about the cheap-looking action sequences. Even the recap montage after each commercial doesn't pretty up what I can assume may be a homage to the 80s when special effects were campy-looking by today's standards. I think Human Target should step up their game a bit to win over the younger audience.

February 04 2010 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Come on the best line of the night was the Wilhelm Scream from the baddie that fell out of the gondola.

February 04 2010 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree that the episode wasn't the best, despite my initial excitement about the setting. I know he's not Keen Eddie, but I wish Valley would showcase a bit more of his charm and humor in scenes like he did on that show. It could just be his characters, but there is such a level of disconnect of Chance to everything that happens around him. I suppose I want more emotion and/or charm to disguise his true feelings stemming from his past.

Like George said, the narration was just a way to skip the backstories of the characters involved in the plot.

I know the budget on TV shows limits the visuals, but just seeing the backdrop to the cable car took me a bit out of the fun.

February 04 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was an odd episode. The narration bugged me, for one thing -- it's always odd when a show suddenly acquires a narrator after doing fine without one for several episodes, even if it's explained away later as a minor plot device. I got the impression that they were basically fast-forwarding through a bunch of material they decided not to use. Then there's the general disconnect caused by using a really spectacular location in the establishing shots, but shooting everything else in a location that's clearly not the same place. To top it off, something seemed a little off, or at least a little less than monk-like, about these monks.

Perhaps someone more in-the-know could weigh in -- was this a two-parter that was cut down to a single episode? A scrapped pilot with new scenes inserted? For an episode set mostly in a mountaintop monastery, the execution seemed surprisingly cheap.

February 04 2010 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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