Interrogation (2020) s01e05 – Det. Dave Russell vs Chris Keller 1983

Still the eighties, still the investigation. Though we do get to see David Strathairn and Peter Sarsgaard facing off after the murder. Sarsgaard is very whispery with Strathairn, who’s telling him to investigate Kyle Gallner’s friend, third-billed but rarely onscreen for very long Kodi Smit-McPhee.

This episode—eventually—has Sarsgaard interviewing Smit-McPhee in order to rule him out as a suspect. Unfortunately for Sarsgaard, Smit-McPhee seems really guilty. He lies about visiting Joanna Going—wow, she really gets the crap work in the flashbacks, time and again—and then there’s a goofy knife fight as Smit-McPhee self-aggrandizes in his interview with Sarsgaaard.

Is it an interrogation? Not really. But it seems like there’d be interview tapes or a transcript to dramatize. For a while it seems like Sarsgaard might actually be giving a better performance when his shady cop is actually doing his job—Frank Whaley’s back, playing the voice of reason and good cop here—but it doesn’t last long with Sarsgaard.

He’s bad again before he gets home and the show reveals why he doesn’t pursue valid second suspect Smit-McPhee. See, Smit-McPhee was in another state so good family man Sarsgaard had to abandon pregnant wife Ellen Humphreys to go interview him. In the other state—New Mexico, I think; doesn’t matter—there’s a female detective, which has some unspoken subtext, played by Roberta Colindrez. Colindrez lets Sarsgaard know pretty early on if he wants to play it dirty on this case, she’ll help him. He gets indignant about her suggestion he’s not going to do his job well.

So why does Sarsgaard let Smit-McPhee go after lying and go all in on Gallner—who spends the episode a juvenile in county jail, in the “Snitch Tank,” where Sarsgaard sends him to try to gin up a jail house witness—Sarsgaard goes all in on Gallner because Humphreys has a miscarriage and she’s really needy about it and so he’s not going to neglect her just to get the right killer.

Kind of a wow reveal, kind of an icky, passively misogynistic reveal—see, Sarsgaard would never have been a bad cop if it weren’t for his needy wife and her female problems—but, hey, on par for “Interrogation.”

Given the kid gloves the show usually takes with Sarsgaard’s dirty cop, it’s a bit of a surprise to see them go all in on the miscarriage explanation.

Interrogation (2020) s01e04 – L.A. County Psychologist Marjorie Thompson vs. Eric Fisher 1984

One of the few benefits of watching “Interrogation” in a non-linear fashion is initially missing out on certain trope episodes, like this one. This one is the trial, with a very poorly exposited look at Kyle Gallner’s trip through the criminal justice system as a minor.

Albeit as a thirty-four year-old playing a minor.

See, Gallner initially went into juvie, with psychiatrist—third “Wire” casting and totally wasted—Sonja Sohn showing up for the episode to try to decide whether or not Gallner should be tried as a minor or not.

Obvious spoiler—and not just if you jump around the episodes—is Gallner does end up tried and convicted as an adult and, although Peter Sarsgaard still has it out for Gallner… Sohn never gets to really give her take. She’s just supportive in the therapy sessions, but apparently thought Gallner was a stone cold killer the whole time.

Would have been interesting to get her take, as her name in the episode title almost suggests the sessions would be based on… actual psychiatric sessions but… sealed or something? Again, “Interrogation”’s abject lack of concern for historical accuracy—all in the name of “non-linear” “cold case” investigating (by the viewer)—becomes yet another reason not to take the show very seriously.

Other reasons not to take the show very seriously? Kyle Gallner’s wigs. He gets a special wig for trial this episode and it’s a really, really bad one. Though I suppose it goes well with his oversized eighties suit.

Pat Healy plays Gallner’s lawyer. Healy’s a little better than the norm on “Interrogation.” But he doesn’t get a showcase spot like Sohn, so the show’s not setting him up for failure.

There’s a little more with Sarsgaard’s dad, Michael Harney, being crappy to Sarsgaard; Frank Whaley’s around for a bit. Lots of the episode is David Strathairn’s, which isn’t great. There’s no great or anything good for more Strathairn in this show. This episode we find out Strathairn pushed Gallner into making the deal for a juvie conviction, which backfires. Of vague interest is how Strathairn already has wife number two—Melinda McGraw—so soon after the murder of the first wife.

Makes you wonder why no one ever looked into the dad as a suspect. Not even the show.

Also… Ray Santiago as the jailhouse snitch who helps put Gallner away? Another person who should have a talk with their agent about how not every job is necessarily a good one.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e05 – Stardust City Rag

I wonder if the “Picard” producers tried to track down Brian Brophy to appear on this episode. He originated the Bruce Maddox role on “Next Generation” Season Two, in 1989. I don’t have particularly good memories of his performance but whatever. Did they at least ask? Though he doesn’t have a credit since 2011; he was on “Southland.” “Southland” was a great show.

“Picard,” five episodes in, is not a great show. It is not a good show, it is not a middling show. It is a bad one. Five episodes is enough for the series to find its footing and its footing is poor. Jonathan Frakes directs once again and, once again, it’s not well-directed. It doesn’t quite look like a “TNG” episode shot on CG-enhanced locations like the last one. It doesn’t have anywhere near that amount of personality.

It looks like they tried ripping off a Star Wars location for the episode’s Las Vegas planet location—what happens in Freecloud stays in Freecloud—only with the giant holograms from Blade Runner 2. There are also hologram advertisements beamed into visiting starships, which seems to imply the planet hacks all the arriving ships. Guess they don’t worry about Cambridge Analytica in 2399.

On the planet is the new Bruce Maddox, played by John Ales. Doesn’t matter because he’s barely in the episode. He’s a red herring. Once he tells Patrick Stewart about how Isa Briones is on the Borg cube, he’s expendable. We also find out he and Alison Pill weren’t just colleagues, they were lovers. He was, of course, her boss and sixteen years her senior.

Because let’s not forget men are still men in 2399?

The Pill romance thing is just to get her some added burden throughout. Doesn’t matter. Might matter later, doesn’t matter now. Actually, it doesn’t seem like Pill’s going to matter at all on “Picard.” She too appears to be a red herring, which I wasn’t expecting. Silly me, I thought they wanted someone who could act. But based on the writing, it’s clear it doesn’t matter.

As such, when Jeri Ryan comes back to do a Seven of Nine appearance—the episode is “The Seven of Nine Show with Special Guest Star Patrick Stewart” (in a flipping eye patch at one point because in the future arms dealers are flamboyant like they’re all Peter Allen)—it’s not like Ryan’s good. She’s actually quite bad, but still leagues ahead of reptile bad guy alien Dominic Burgess, who’s so bad I might remember his name to avoid him.

Necar Zadegan isn’t bad as Ryan’s nemesis, but her part’s still poorly written and the episode’s still bad.

No Briones in this episode, incidentally. I hadn’t realized how much the questionable Borg fanfic was keeping the show afloat.

Michelle Hurd has her big scene—she’s going to Space Vegas to see her son, Mason Gooding, who feels like she abandoned him because she’s a drug addicted conspiracy theorist. The show tries to tug the heart strings as Hurd—in a startlingly bad monologue—tells Gooding how she’s clean now and wants to be a mom. Except… she was getting high in the first or second episode, so… how long she been clean? And was she addicted to something without withdrawals? And isn’t addiction treatment better in 2399? Gooding rejects her, which puts Hurd back on Stewart’s ship, which is good because Ryan’s not sticking around. They just really wanted a bad guest star spot.

Interestingly enough—not really because Kirsten Beyer’s writing isn’t good—Stewart and Ryan talk about being ex-Borg and how it’s a struggle to be human every day, which kind of seems like addict recovery talk only they weren’t addicts, they were Borg.

Stewart’s got some really bad moments this episode. Like… really bad. Maybe the show never had any charm to it, just the potential for it; the charm’s all gone now. It’s almost anti-charm.

Maybe the whole thing is just intended to prove resetting the timeline with J.J. Abrams was the best idea.

Source Code (2011, Duncan Jones)

Source Code is very much MacGuffin as movie. Numerous plot details exist solely to justify (and qualify) certain creative decisions; the film takes a bunch of familiar and somewhat familiar—depending on the viewer’s preferences—sci-fi tropes, devices, and gimmicks, streamlines them, then combines them in those spared-down states. For example, a time traveller in the future “jumping” into the past to learn from it; someone jumping into the past while aided by someone in the present giving direction. The time traveller not having as much information… I mean, okay, basically Source Code functions like it’s “Quantum Leap,” just with different technology and rules.

The film avoids going too deep on those rules and—especially—the technology because director Jones only wants to keep the viewer engaged and engaged enough to forgive the various logic problems. And until the overwrought ending, Source Code does an excellent job of keeping one engaged. Jones is working against a lot of constraints—the ninety minute runtime, the budget, Ben Ripley’s script; most of the film’s cheaper creative decisions come from that script. Like lead Jake Gyllenhaal being a decorated but soulful soldier with a really macho name. The soldier bit doesn’t actually play into the movie besides lip service—including unironic uses of both “War on Terror” and “Thank You For Your Service”—which maybe is required in a movie about a terrorist attack on Chicago not involving giant robots or flying men post-9/11.

Or it’s just the script. It’s entirely possible Ripley’s script’s bad elements are just Ripley’s writing. There’s plenty of evidence of his other bad writing, why not give it all to him.

Jones does a fantastic job taking the mundane and making it incredible. It helps for the action, it helps with the comedy, it helps with the pseudo-hard sci-fi elements.

The film starts with a series of wonderful shots of Chicago, drilling down on to a single commuter train—even if Source Code isn’t your bag, if you’ve ever ridden the Metra in Chicago, you should see it. On this train is Jake Gyllenhaal. He wakes up sitting across from Michelle Monaghan and has no memory of how he got there. In fact, it’s impossible for him to be there—he’s an Army helicopter pilot and he was just on mission in Afghanistan. Monaghan’s calling him a different name, his face is different in the mirror, it’s a very strange situation. But it only lasts eight minutes because then the train explodes.

Gyllenhaal wakes up in a flight suit, strapped to some kind of machine, in a spherical cockpit thing with Vera Farmiga (in a military uniform) on a video monitor talking at him. Gyllenhaal can’t remember how he got there, which kicks off Farmiga trying to get him back in sync. It takes Source Code most of the first act to establish the rules of Gyllenhaal and the time travel, but there are some big secrets the film’s keeping for later reveals. Source Code always has something else to reveal, though usually only because Ripley can’t figure out a way to be honest with the viewer (or Gyllenhaal).

Gyllenhaal’s worried about his fellow soldiers, worried about his dad, but a very rude Farmiga doesn’t care—he’s got to get back in time to figure out where the bomb is located on the train, who placed the bomb. They’re trying to prevent the second attack, so back in time Gyllenhaal goes again for another try. Subsequent tries has Gyllenhaal making some progress with the investigation and getting to know Monaghan. Now, while Monaghan’s part is sort of romantic comedy lead, it’s still stunning how fast Gyllenhaal falls for her. She’s polite to one person and he’s hooked.

But then Gyllenhaal gets the idea to investigate himself during his time in the past, which causes some conflict with Farmiga, who has to bring in her boss, Jeffrey Wright. Jeffrey Wright is a standard slime ball civilian military scientist. He’s the Samuel Beckett of Source Code but it would never occur to him to try the machine himself. Why bother when you’ve got soldiers. A little Wright goes a long way; the point where he starts getting more screen time is when it’s clear the present day stuff is never going to be very good. And not just because Ripley didn’t even come up with a reason for Farmiga to be assigned to the unit. She’s in the Air Force, not the practical application of quantum mechanics and string theory department. It wouldn’t matter if the film gave the impression there’s an answer, but it’s pretty clear there isn’t one. Not a reasonable one anyway.

Source Code stays away from answers, what with its spaghetti on the wall approach to quantum mechanics and whatnot. It does not want to engage with its audience. Engagement means consideration. And since it’s all about a MacGuffin and a poorly developed MacGuffin… consideration’s out.

Gyllenhaal’s great in the lead, able to do the sci-fi, the drama, the action. Source Code, the script, doesn’t ask for much from him, but Gyllenhaal and Jones manage to turn it into a decent role. Monaghan’s really likable and she’s solid, even if her part manages to be an eighth of a real one; she does make an impression, which is something given she’s one of fifty possible suspects Gyllenhaal has to investigate in just ninety minutes.

Excellent editing from Paul Hirsch helps a lot with Gyllenhaal’s Groundhog Days. Pretty good music from Chris Bacon. Perfectly serviceable photography from Don Burgess; I mean, it mixes well with the CG action sequences.

Farmiga’s fine. She’s got even less of a character than Monaghan but probably ought to have the most important part. Shame about that script.

Not allowing any subplots but encouraging the expectation of them is another of its problems; it hurts Farmiga.

There’s also a lengthy racial profiling scene where Gyllenhaal targets a Brown person for being Brown—which Monaghan calls him on—but the movie just goes ahead with it because threat of terrorism; sci-fi apparently allows for some meta-bigotry, which doesn’t seem out of place given the film’s jingoistic posturing.

Also the title is bad. It refers to the “Quantum Leap” machine Wright makes and Wright’s nowhere near good enough not to make “Source Code” sound stupid whenever he uses it as a proper noun.

Source Code’s a solid rollercoaster ride; who knows what they’d have been able to do with another twenty minutes, some good rewrites, and another ten million or so in the budget.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Duncan Jones; written by Ben Ripley; director of photography, Don Burgess; edited by Paul Hirsch; music by Chris Bacon; production designer, Barry Chusid; costume designer, Renée April; produced by Mark Gordon, Philippe Rousselet, and Jordan Wynn; released by Summit Entertainment.

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Colter Stevens), Michelle Monaghan (Christina Warren), Vera Farmiga (Colleen Goodwin), Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Rutledge), Michael Arden (Derek Frost), Cas Anvar (Hazmi), and Russell Peters (Max Denoff).


Interrogation (2020) s01e03 – Det. Dave Russell vs Kim Decker 1982

Nine months before the murder, we discover what a great kid thirty-four year-old sixteen year-old Kyle Gallner was before drugs. This episode doesn’t just—finally—give Joanna Going something to do as the eventual murder victim, it also introduces the history between Peter Sarsgaard and Gallner. See, Gallner goes to the cops to report his girlfriend (Morgan Taylor Campbell) had her brother rough him up or something, but it turns out Gallner’s getting high again.

So Sarsgaard does this walking tour through how much Gallner’s screwed up his life since he’s started using again and Sarsgaard doesn’t like what he sees. There’s also Gallner’s violence against Taylor Campbell.

Meanwhile Gallner’s got a whole “teen drug dealer” story arc with unmemorable Kodi Smith-McPhee—seriously, how does this guy go around with dyed blond hair and a big leather jacket and leave almost no impression… maybe because the show treats him like a constant mystery and Smith-McPhee plays it as anything but.

Anyway, the episode introduces Ebon Moss-Bachrach as the cool older friend who hooks Gallner up with a drug connection so Gallner can sell and make even more money. Things don’t work out exactly, however, and it all ends with Going finally cutting Gallner off. We’ve now seen him descend from promising young man getting his life back together—seriously though, the show has no comment on the parents’ interesting idea that the best thing to do with their drug addict teenage son is to financially support him living independently from them; I feel like it deserved some explanation, but apparently it’s a normal thing in 1983 L.A.

Moss-Bachrach is a little better than the norm, but only because of some base competency. He’s never good or anything. Just not as bad as some of the acting around him.

Legends of Tomorrow (2016) s05e05 – A Head of Her Time

Continuing whatever this season is doing with its creative Arrowverse accounting, Dominic Purcell and Caity Lotz mostly sit out this episode. Lotz is in Star City on some kind of bland personal business, which leaves Jes Macallan in charge. Macallan, who used to run an extra-dimensional time agency, gets very worried about captaining the Legends, which leads to her bonding with Tala Ashe, which is fine.

Meanwhile Purcell is just heartsick and apparently off drinking about it during the action.

Apparently having Purcell and Lotz on partial duty means Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Adam Tsekhman get to do things, so they’re the backup in Matt Ryan’s Constantine story arc. They really should’ve renamed it “John Constantine and the Legends of Tomorrow,” then did a bit about how Ryan got more famous than everyone else and it’s a thing. But they didn’t and instead it’s “Legends of Tomorrow with Special Guest Star John Constantine.”

Ryan, Richardson-Sellers, and Tsekhman are doing a horror humor bit involving Ryan’s history with Hell villain Olivia Swann. Turns out Ryan used to have a thing for Swann’s mom, Alice Hunter, and maybe only consigned Swann to Hell because he was trying to resurrect Hunter. The flashbacks also allow for Ryan with a mohawk, which is a lot of fun.

Also a lot of fun is the main plot, which has Macallan, Ashe, Brandon Routh, Nick Zano, and I hope they keep him around somehow Shayan Sobhian trying to get a resurrected and not entirely unjustifiably angry Marie Antoinette (Courtney Ford) from ruining history.

Ford, who also plays another character, a fairly regular cast member, is pretty funny as Antoinette and the gimmick works.

Amidst the Antoinette arc is Ashe’s misadventures as a rookie time traveling superhero, though some of those misadventures are because she’s also a 2040 social media influencer who wants to exploit history for likes. It works out, especially with the big gala event for the action-packed finale. “Legends” is doing an excellent job integrating the character development with the action this season.

Still of the Night (1982, Robert Benton)

At the end of Still of the Night, the film puts aside the “whodunit” to give second-billed Meryl Streep—who’s playing the femme fatale part but not at all as a femme fatale—a lengthy monologue. It’s all one take, Streep just acting the heck out of this mediocre thriller monologue. It doesn’t make the film worthwhile, but it does make one wonder if it’s what writer and director Benton had in mind the whole time. Was he just setting up this moment in the preceding eighty minutes.

Because he’s definitely setting up the third act, which has lead Roy Scheider walking through the real location of a former patient’s dream. And it all being for a mediocre Streep monologue… well, it'd be something. Otherwise, Still of the Night is anti-something. And when you find out it’s a Hitchcock homage… you wonder what Benton liked about Hitchcock. Outside a blonde Streep and fifty-something Scheider’s only friend being mom Jessica Tandy. Streep’s thirty-three or so, but seems younger. Maybe because she’s introduced as Josef Sommer’s mistress and, even though Sommer’s not even fifty, he seems older. He seems like a dirty old man… because he is a dirty old man. But emphasis on the old.

Scheider’s a psychiatrist, Sommer’s his patient, who works at a New York auction house. Streep works at the auction house for Sommer and he always has affairs with his subordinates; his wife gets a lot of mention in the first act, with Streep bringing a watch Sommer left at her apartment to Scheider’s office so Scheider can return it to the wife, Sommer complaining Scheider never wants to hear about Streep, just about his bad marriage. Lots in the first act. Nowhere else.

I forgot to mention: Sommer’s dead. The picture opens with his dead body. He’s in a lot of flashback though, as Scheider reviews their old sessions and Still flashes back either to Sommer describing the events in the session or the described events themselves. Always beautifully edited; Gerald B. Greenberg and Bill Pankow do some lovely cutting. Sommer’s an elitist auction house snob and a poor quality human being. His description of “seducing” Streep made me wonder if anyone involved with the film in 1982 had ever thought of pairing “enthusiastic” with “consent” or if the concept would melt their minds (at the time).

Joe Grifasi, who’s thirty-eight in the film but somehow looks like he’s seventeen going on fifty-three, is the investigating detective. Scheider doesn’t give him any information about Sommer, even though he’s dead. Maybe because Sommer told him Streep killed someone once and got away with it and would she do it again. Also Sommer can’t shut up about how much he thinks Scheider would be into Streep.

It’s very, very strange. But also a lot more engaging than anything in the second half. Sommer’s a major creep, but he’s a major creep with a pulse (wokka wokka). When Tandy’s not around to liven things up, everyone seems on the verge of a nap. Scheider’s recently divorced, living in an almost empty apartment, focusing on his work; we know he’s a good guy because his first scene establishes he’s going to see a laid off white collar guy even if the guy can’t pay him. Scheider’s… not really believable as a psychiatrist successful enough to have an office even in eighties New York. Tandy’s a psychiatrist too and they get together and talk shop a couple times throughout the film. After they go over the dream sequence, which would still be somewhat creepy even if Benton didn’t… objectify a seven year-old girl, Tandy tells Scheider to call the cops but he won’t because of Streep. He’s got for the hots for her now. Their first kiss is rather uncomfortable because we’ve just seen Scheider getting all this intel on her mental state and then taking advantage of it. His unprofessional behavior is somehow even worse than the perceived age difference (Streep appearing younger, Scheider appearing possibly even older). When he complains in the third act about how he could lose his license… it’s like, yeah, Doc, you probably should.

While the first half build-up is—with qualifications—solid, the second act and its two big action sequences don’t play. Benton doesn’t have much music in the film. John Kander has a single piece they play three or four times, a very romantic piece; has nothing to do with the film or its tone. So there’s no music in the action sequences, just the gorgeous sound design. Sound design, editing, they’re where Still of the Night excels. Everything else has problems.

But having this muted vérité-style just draws attention to how absurd the action plays out. Scheider gentle stalking Streep through Central Park; great sequence, beautiful direction on it too, but it doesn’t work because Benton’s got things too firmly set in reality. Néstor Almendros’s photography plays into that footing too. Almendros does a throughly competent job in the film but in entirely the wrong style. It’s flat, plain, boring. Benton doesn’t showcase New York very much, not even the Central Park thing (which helps on this sequence), but Almendros also lights it without any personality. The lighting is off from the first scene.

The film is off from the opening titles. Lighting first scene. At some point in the film, almost everything becomes off in some way or another. Except the sound, the editing, and Jessica Tandy. Tandy’s awesome.

Maybe the reason everyone looks so dejectedly constipated in the film—save Tandy—is because they all felt it not working but no one said anything. They just made the movie and it really didn’t work, which a ninety-three minute runtime for the first picture Benton directed after winning… Best Director would certainly suggest.

Great sound though. If the third act weren’t so disappointing, I could see Still being worth it for the sound.

That Streep monologue you could just watch in a clip.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Benton; screenplay by Benton, based on a story by David Newman and Benton; director of photography, Néstor Almendros; edited by Gerald B. Greenberg and Bill Pankow; music by John Kander; production designer, Mel Bourne; costume designer, Albert Wolsky; produced by Arlene Donovan; released by United Artists.

Starring Roy Scheider (Sam Rice), Meryl Streep (Brooke Reynolds), Jessica Tandy (Grace Rice), Joe Grifasi (Joseph Vitucci), Sara Botsford (Gail Phillip), Frederikke Borge (Heather Wilson), and Josef Sommer (George Bynum).


Interrogation (2020) s01e02 – I.A. Sgt. Ian Lynch vs Eric Fisher 2003

Now let’s rewind “Interrogation” to the second episode and see what would be getting introduced if you watched the show in episode order and not randomly, even though the timeline is fractured randomly in regular episode order too.

This episode takes place in 2003 and fully introduces Vincent D’Onofrio. His interview—not “Interrogation”—with Kyle Gallner is—again, presumably—based on the actual historical interview. Again, don’t want to harp on the show’s inability to deliver on its basic premise, but… it’s such an easy target, why not just bang on it every time you walk past.

You’d think, based on this episode, D’Onofrio’s going to be a big important character throughout. You would be wrong. Ditto Andre Royo. Both might be important in the historical sense regarding the real life case, but on the show… not so much.

This episode also introduces Elijah Nelson as Gallner’s new cell mate, who’s maybe schizophrenic but never diagnosed. He’s the one who comes across evidence because of his attention to detail. It’s very bold contrivance for the second episode, which also has Gallner in his shaved-head phase already. Watching the series “out of order,” you can’t fully appreciate how much the show creators thought they’d be able to rely on Gallner to shoulder the series’s weight.

There’s a big surprise from Nelson too, which only makes sense in the second episode and not when you see the result of it in later ones. The order thing is such bullshit.

Insert a Nelson Mutz “ha ha” gif here… but the joke’s on the viewer.

There’s a flashback to before the murder, when Gallner’s in rehab with Kodi Smit-McPhee (third-billed, which is ludicrous) and Morgan Taylor Campbell. I was waiting for a big Smit-McPhee part given how import the character seems to be in the story but… nope.

Taylor Campbell makes much more of an impressive just because it’s weird to see Gallner with a girlfriend.

Lots for Peter Sarsgaard in the modern (2003) era too, including a whole subplot with daughter Barbie Robertson starting to realize he’s a rather problematic cop.

Turns out Sarsgaard knew Gallner from before the murder—which I don’t think gets covered in the first episode (or anywhere else)—and appears to be a motivating factor for why Sarsgaard is so sure about Gallner.

The show’s real bad at Sarsgaard’s motivations. Probably because they didn’t want to be sued.

Frank Whaley shows up again, also in old age makeup. The makeup effects are easily the best thing about “Interrogation.”

Interrogation (2020) s01e09 – P.I. Charlie Shannon vs Amy Harlow 2003

As I continue putting way too much thought into “Interrogation,” this episode stands distinctly in the “anti” non-linear department. This episode sets up both the pilot—so the penultimate episode loops back to the first—but also seems to be setting up the next—last—episode.

It’s all about P.I. Andre Royo interviewing Emma Caulfield Frost, who has a totally different story about what happened with the murder. Of course, Royo doesn’t have anywhere near as much to do as Vinessa Antoine, who’s playing his (very new) girlfriend. She accompanies him on the investigation and is the only reason he’s able to get the story.

Now, in flashbacks Frost’s character is played by someone else—Autry Haddon-Wilson (who stands out in “Interrogation” by not being bad)—but Kyle Gallner still plays his seventeen year-old self. It’s a tad disconcerting, seeing Haydon-Wilson in for Frost but whatever. She’s got this new scoop, which has Royo excited to tell Vincent D’Onofrio, which is this going to set up the first episode with Gallner meeting with the reporters.

Royo’s been ineffectual in the series but it’s nothing compared to his turn in this episode, when he chastises the reporters for not being “real reporters” because they don’t want to investigate the story or something. He clearly needs Antoine along to do some social engineering. Whether director Patrick Cady or Royo came up with it, someone definitely decided to have Royo play some of his deliveries like Bubbles from “The Wire,” which only goes to show off what a bad part Royo’s got for the deliveries to work so “well.”

But, hey, as a showcase for Vinessa Antoine, it’s solid. She should definitely get some better roles. And she might even have a decent enough demo reel off the show; she’s only got good moments, something pretty much no one else gets in “Interrogation.”

Also… so, if the “Interrogation” is based on actual recordings as the show originally said… the real-life P.I. turned over the tapes to the show’s creators? It’s like fake fake true crime with its historical accountability.

Interrogation (2020) s01e08 – P.I. Charlie Shannon vs Eric Fisher 1996

There’s no “Interrogation” this episode. Nothing based on a recording or a transcript, just one hundred percent dramatization. “Interrogation” is like a true crime show only with recognizable (if not better) actors and no interviews with the actual people. It’s an exemplar of how not to do a show like “Interrogation.”

This episode jumps all over—well, not all over, it jumps ahead. The show—in its parts—is extremely linear. Would it play better linear? Eh. It’s comprehensible in its fractured state, which it wouldn’t be if it were actually fractured but whatever. Fixing “Interrogation” seems like a waste of time. Kind of like how the show treats Peter Sarsgaard’s top-billed “only dirty this one time” cop. This episode continues his decline, his family leaving him, his retired cop dad (Michael Harney, who’s all right) being mean to him. No one wants to spend time with Sarsgaard; he’s a time suck.

So the episode starts in 1993 with Kyle Gallner’s parole getting denied. It’s denied for multiple reasons, but also contributing is Sarsgaard lying in a letter to the parole board. Gallner’s hopes and dreams are dashed except when David Strathairn dies, he leaves Gallner the money to hire a new P.I. Fast forward to 1996, he hires celebrity P.I. Andre Royo. It’s nice to see Royo, but he’s just phoning it in. It’s shocking how little Royo gets to do, especially considering his character’s name is in the title this episode.

Then it jumps ahead a final time to 2003 when Royo gets Vincent D’Onofrio involved. D’Onofrio’s an Internal Affairs cop; Royo and Gallner can prove Sarsgaard perjured himself.

I’d been waiting for a good Royo episode and instead he’s just a bland P.I. with lacking chemistry opposite Gallner; to be fair, Gallner’s a chemistry suck with everything, but still. Chad L. Coleman is back for a little bit too. Of the two “Wire” castings, I suppose Coleman’s is more of a waste. Who knows… if Gallner were better, it’d be a much different show.

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