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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.

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.

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.

Star Trek: Picard (2020) s01e04 – Absolute Candor

Let’s get the elephant out of the way: show co-creator, episode single credited writer, and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon. He’s really, really, really bad at writing dialogue. At some point in this episode, I realized Akiva Goldsman—the profoundly hacky screenwriter of Batman & Robin, iRobot, and I Am Legend who is also a “Picard” co-creator and co-wrote Chabon’s previous episodes… helped Chabon’s writing. Left alone, Chabon’s truly atrocious.

I thought the dysfunctional crew banter—between Patrick Stewart, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, and Alison Pill—would be the terrible low point, but Chabon keeps finding new depths. The banter’s bad—and reveals Hurd might end up being one of the show’s biggest liabilities unless someone gets her performance under control—but nothing compared to the big romantic dance sequence between Isa Briones and Harry Treadaway on the Borg cube. It’s not even Treadaway’s worst scene, which comes later and implies a sadomasochistic (no kink-shaming) incestual (okay, kink-shaming here) relationship between Treadaway and sister Peyton List, but the dancing on the Borg cube scene? Real bad. Real, real bad.

But actually nothing compared to where Chabon’s taking it with Stewart this episode. The title, Absolute Candor, refers to the guiding principle of this convent of Romulan warrior nuns. They’ve got a name straight out of a Dune book, which is fine since apparently Briones’ synthetic android has a hidden home world as well as a Plan. Really hope the home of the fabled Thirteenth Tribe ends up being a place called Earth. Could they seriously not come up with anything original. Like, there’s a Terminator 2 rip in here where Stewart has to tell his newest Musketeer (Evan Evagora) he can’t just go around killing people. It’s a lot.

And it comes right after Stewart has a meltdown on the failed Romulan rescue planet—where the Federation stopped transporting the Romulans so they could all die out instead—about how the Romulans there don’t appreciate him as their great White savior.

Chabon writes Picard as an egomaniacal dilettante (who didn’t even keep up with interstellar political news in the last decade and a half); it’s actually surprising Stewart came back for this series given the writing.

Picard’s obnoxious and kind of playing a parody of himself but if William Shatner were doing it on “SNL.” Again, real bad.

Also bad—Jonathan Frakes’s direction. Frakes directs the Stewart stuff like it’s an episode of “TNG,” only with the wrong music—Jeff Russo does some lousy work here—and the wrong kind of sets. “Picard”’s not cheap enough for how Frakes is directing it. Then there’s the action, which is poorly edited to the point the battle music starts not just before the battle but before the enemy ship even shows up. It’s incompetent, which it really shouldn’t be.

What’s good? Amirah Vann as the only warrior nun with any lines.

Really not sure about all the holographic clones of Han Solo-wannabe Cabrera on the ship, especially since they’re used for laughs and rather broad caricatures.

This episode does move better than the previous two… is moving better through worse material a good thing?

The White savior stuff needs to be seen to be believed, but shouldn’t be.

Also the end special guest star reveal is badly executed.

Yuck.

Interrogation (2020) s01e07 – Det. Carol Young & Det. Brian Chen vs Melanie Pruitt 2005

The year is 2005, so twenty years after the first episode—1983—and, therefore, Kyle Gallner playing closer to his actual age. It doesn’t really help with his performance. With his shaved head and serious prisoner eyeglasses and seventies porn ‘stache, every once in a while—when he’s not talking—you imagine they must’ve wanted someone else for the part who might be good. It’s a big swing of a performance for Gallner and a cringe-y fail of one.

Maybe Eddie Furlong.

This episode is about Gallner getting out of prison because Peter Sarsgaard was either a dirty cop or an incompetent one. Sarsgaard’s in old age makeup—really good old age makeup—and moping around because it’s 2005 and he doesn’t get to be as racist anymore. He can still be racist, obviously, like how the original D.A. Erich Anderson is low key racist and sexist to Black reporter April Grace in the first scene—setting up the cops and prosecutors as scumbags, which is something considering we then have to spend the entire episode with Sprague Grayden (who’s quite bad) and Tim Chiou (who’s scenery for Grayden) trying to figure out how to railroad Gallner back into prison. Their boss, current D.A. Joanna Adler (also not, you know, good), really hates Gallner’s high profile defense attorney, Eric Roberts (who’s phenomenal and makes the episode worth watching) and wants to get him good.

Gallner’s side of the story has Andre Royo in the background; presumably he was introduced in a previous episode—oh, yeah, this episode entirely hinges on information previously introduced so the whole “watch in any order you want” is utter nonsense and lazy storytelling from the show’s creators. This episode of “Interrogation” reveals it to be a bullshit White riff on “When They See Us,” only not a fiftieth as good. Also Ernest R. Dickerson’s direction is… bad. Like, real bad. Especially when it’s Gallner acclimating to freedom.

His storyline involves hooking up with prison bunny Alice Wetterlund, who’s also not good but far from Grayden. The only worse writing in the episode (courtesy Barbara Curry) than Wetterlund and Gallner’s “romance” subplot is when Grayden and Chiou propose their theory of the crime to Adler and we get to see how dumb everyone involved in the show must be when it comes to doing drugs. It’s not just it appears no one involved has ever done drugs… they haven’t even seen Trainspotting. It’s seriously the worst drugged out youth scene I’ve seen… since eighties television probably.

As for the “real” interrogation scene? It takes a few minutes and, since it involves Grayden, it’s pretty bad. Though it’s a great look for the cops, as they threaten to slut-shame a preschool teacher for being sexually active as a teen.

“Interrogation” is a show about how awful cops are and how cool it is they’re awful.

It’s also a show where somehow Dickerson manages to make the Santa Monica boardwalk look like it’s in Toronto.

I guess there’s some funny moments when it tries to be trendy, as Wetterlund tells Gallner to podcast so he can “own [his] story” and “tell [his] truth.”

Also for some reason still doesn’t get any good screen time murder victim Joanna Going is dressed like a clown.

I’m wondering if they decided you could watch the show in any order because otherwise it might be even worse. Though it’s hard to imagine the bad being much worse.

But Eric Roberts. Damn. You watch it and you feel the loss of him not having a great acting career in your bones.

Interrogation (2020) s01e06 – Henry Fisher vs Eric Fisher 1992

The reason you can watch “Interrogation” in any order you want—according to the opening titles—is because cold case detectives don’t pick at old cases linearly. So, by watching “Interrogation,” you’re a cold case detective too!

Eye-roll emoji.

This episode doesn’t feature any recorded interrogations for the show to faithfully dramatize. It’s all historically questionable stuff, except maybe all the White people in 1992 L.A. being low-key racist about the Rodney King verdict. Unless they just say the quiet parts out loud as the riots start.

There are three plot lines. Cop Peter Sarsgaard is in uniform and cracking heads during the riots, checking in with estranged wife Ellen Humphreys (in a shockingly thankless role) while David Strathairn finds out he’s dying and new girlfriend or wife Melinda McGraw tells him he’s got to settle things with still incarcerated son Kyle Gallner.

Now, skipping from episode one to episode six—nine years in “real” time—I’m not sure if I missed any character development with anyone, but it doesn’t seem like it. Gallner’s really, really, really bad. And Strathairn’s on par. After hoping for decades David Strathairn would make it… well, he’s made it to this. Hacking it out in streaming shows. It’s a meteoric and rather depressing fail.

Chad L. Coleman shows up for a couple scenes as the prison lawyer who Gallner asks for help but doesn’t have time for Gallner because Gallner hangs out with White supremacist prison boss Jeff Kober. Kober doesn’t so much give a performance as posture as a vaguely prison Nazi prison Nazi. They don’t want to say prison Nazi because “Interrogation” is feckless.

Big surprise of this episode? Flashbacks to before the murder revealing Gallner was adopted and mom Joanna Going never wanted him. She was terribly abusive to him and Strathairn just stood by and did nothing. So, you know, it’s cool if Gallner killed her. After a stunningly misogynist characterization of Going (both from Strathairn and the flashback itself), Gallner erupts and challenges Strathairn’s recollection.

The way Gallner remembers it, Going didn’t like him because he’s Strathairn’s biological son from an affair and Strathairn forced Going to adopt him. So Going was a saint.

Though the saint stuff is literally a single scene and the demonizing was four shocking minutes.

Not sure what kind of impact “Interrogation” is going for, but so far, it’s just showcasing how Strathairn not winning an Oscar for Good Night, and Good Luck broke him and how Gallner’s… really not capable of succeeding in this part.

At least Sarsgaard isn’t in it too much. Small victory.

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