Life With Charlie Crews, Season 1: Episodes One and Two

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Welcome, everyone! Today is our first installment of our summer re-watch of “Life”. I am thrilled and delighted to have had my idea for this re-watch to have become a reality.

source: NBC

I, myself, am constantly re-watching Life. I am always in need of something to put on in the background as I create my burlesque costumes, and Life is one of my favorites to put on. On the surface, itself, I enjoy the stories, the acting, the writing, the characters. I love the Los Angeles backdrop. As a small child I lived for 3 years in a little town in the Crescenta Valley called Sunland. Many of the sights and sounds of the show really brings me back to that time in my life, from the way mountains are always in your peripheral, to how the heat shimmers off the pavement. And when I really begin to give it significant thought, to break down all the little details, I’ve found even more reasons to love the show.

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A story about the wrongly accused and convicted, of how that tragedy plays out, and eventually the person finds justice, is a story that continues to be compelling entertainment. Most recently, the country was swept up in the drama of a case not too far away from where I live! Mantiwoc County in Wisconsin became the center of attention as the story of “Making a Murderer” became a hit on Netflix. I found myself marathon watching the episodes last year, screaming at the TV, sitting, at times, on the edge of my seat! This type of story, whether a reality or a work of fiction, is incredibly compelling. Everyone wants justice.

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In Steven Avery’s real life case from “Making a Murderer”, he was helped by The Innocence Project.  This organization was founded in 1992, and has helped overturn 240 convictions, 17 of which were on death row! I have to imagine that Charlie Crews was helped by a similar program.  Was something like that where he met Constance? How did those two find one another?

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DNA was discovered in 1985, and was first used in a criminal case a year after that. And as DNA gained more and more credibility, and the techniques were refined throughout the 1990’s, I imagine that they were able to use this new technology to re-examine the evidence in Charlie’s case, and clear his name. Whether a work of fiction or reality,  these type of events make for a story as timeless as any other.

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In our first episode, we see Charlie returning to police work. A tough case awaits him-the murder of a child. His attention to detail is staggering in these first few scenes. What type of special abilities did he develop while being locked up? His mind is different. He sees everything all at once. It is almost as if his mind is slowed down. Imagine having over a decade to do, basically, nothing. How different would your mind be? How vivid would life outside those walls have become? And in addition to that, how much would you have learned about the mind of a criminal, being locked away with them for so long?

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Having been on the other end of things, being accused, he has a different perspective than his partner, Dani Reese. She asks him if he will always be sympathizing with the accused, always seeing someone being falsely accused? And Charlie wonders, why is that such a bad thing? He works the case in an opposite manner than most police officers, and we see this both in the first episode, and more pointedly in the second, where he refuses to believe that Jake could have murdered his new wife. As a man who had stared into the eyes of many killers, he didn’t see that when he looked at Jake. Call it a hunch, intuition or instinct, whatever it was it helped the case. He pushed to pursue other suspects, and in the end it led to the answer. Statistically, the most likely suspect is probably the guilty party. But thinking outside of the box might just keep someone from being wrongly convicted.

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The weight of that power seems to rest uneasily on Charlie’s shoulders. Imagine that-sure, he chose to return to the force, but now he is in charge of finding the right person for the crime. He now holds the power to possibly wrongly convict someone, to do to someone else what was done to him. Charlie seems to be a man driven by empathy for his fellow man(a huge part of Buddhism and the “Zen” lifestyle he now lives by). Knowing he has the right person caught must be even more important to him than to anyone else.

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And by his side, through it all, is that doubting partner. The one begrudgingly assigned to him, as a punishment of sorts, for past wrong doings. Dani is a troubled character, complex and flawed. Nearly a decade after this show aired, we are seeing more and more female representation in TV and other media. I feel like Dani was a bit ahead of her time, for simply even existing, and then also for who she actually was. Through the beauty of the internet, I was able to dig into some old message boards and read about initial reactions to the show, as it aired each week. And reactions to Dani were fairly horrible. She was called a “babe”, not taken seriously as she was being portrayed by a good looking woman. She was viewed a token female, a bit of “eye candy” for the show. But then as her character played out, she was seen as unlikable, which was a big change from the majority of female characters in TV. We women know, personally, the push on us to be nice, likable, “lady like”, proper. To have our collective shit together, to be grown up and mature. Dani is a hot, hot mess, and I love it. Much in the same way I enjoy the imperfections of Claire Danes as Carrie on “Homeland”, I love the flaws that Dani has. She has addictions, a troubled past. She’s a liar, mean, controlling, rude, condescending. Obviously troubled by issues with her father and family, in general. Why did she go into police work in the first place? Is she always, as many of us are, trying to satisfy a parent that we despise on the surface, but are always trying to gain the approval of? I think that her character would have been received better if the show had aired now, in 2016. She was ahead of her time, and I feel, a brave choice for the writers.

source: NBC

Charlie and Dani make an oddball, unlikely team. Two black sheep, paired up, trying to make a difference, each with their own motivations and ambitions. Each, in a way, trying to clear their own names and reputations. They both have a past they are not at peace with. Will they be able to find that peace, together?

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Fruit Count:

Episode One: Grapes, Pear, Melon, Mango Fruit Cup.

Episode Two: Horned Melon(not eaten, but held), “lobby” apple.

20 thoughts on “Life With Charlie Crews, Season 1: Episodes One and Two”

  1. Love your attention to details. Your reading on Charlie’s intuition/hunch/instinct is important because he can understand and relate to people better thanks to his own suffering. And not just people—he can read a dog’s mind in that very first scene, and other animals later, like the coyote. I guess that’s the ultimate form of Zen.

    1. Thank you very much! I was trying to wrap my brain around being incarcerated, and what that must do to your mind. How all that isolation, time, how quiet it must have been. When re-entering the world, everything would be obvious and overwhelming. Every detail standing out, every tiny thing would seem huge. I watched a documentary about Stephen Hawking and he talked about how his disease, MS, and how it trapped him inside his body, was sort of a gift to his mind. Without distractions of activity and being physical, he was able to think for hours on end, uninterrupted. I imagine Charlie’s brain must be similar.

  2. Great insights Holliedazzle! I really liked how you described Dani and Charlie “Two black sheep, paired up, trying to make a difference, each with their own motivations and ambitions.” Spot on!

    Also, great tie in with Making a Murderer! I had heard about that series, but now it goes right on my watchlist!

    Thank you for your idea of rediscovering Charlie Crews!

    1. Making a Murderer is a WILD ride. Be prepared. You’ll be screaming “NO BRANDON, NO, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING??”

      I’m glad I could bring a little love to the show. I was just doing some more re-watching last night as I rhinestoned a prop!

      1. “Making a Murderer” is certainly going to my must-watch list, too! Thanks so much for the recommendation. And this is exactly what I like, among other things, about our blog. We are able to talk about what we love (say it’s books, films, songs, etc) in addition to Damian and his work and his life.

  3. Haha, I’ve forgotten the reoccurring fruit joke…personifying the refreshing taste of freedom. I love that Dani is flawed. Her character has facets and substance and is not a token. I love that they didn’t attempt a contrite romantic angle between the partners. Crews is so endearing. He was wronged and he was abandoned. I want to jump out of my chair to cheer for him. Love this show. Didn’t love the ending though. Let’s see if the impending rewatch will trigger a different sensibility this time around.

    1. I was glad there was no romantic thing between them, as well.

      “refreshing taste of freedom”. I love that, it describes what eating that fruit must be like, for him! A reminder to be present, and in the moment now. Plus, eating fruit? Really, what habit could be BETTER? Dang. Wish I had a “habit” like that 🙂

  4. First things first: Thanks Holliedazzle for putting forward the idea of Life rewatch and for this wonderful post! This is FUN! And, hey, you set the bar high. I’d better get a head start on my re-watch and write-up 🙂

    If you are interested in The Innocence Project, one high profile case they helped with is West Memphis Three: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Memphis_Three
    It is amazing how BADLY these three boys were treated by the justice system only because they were, in Damien Echols’ words “white trash.” Damien’s name was even used against him in the case since it was a name in the movie The Exorcist (funny I read somewhere the name Damian/Damien/Damon lost popularity in the US after The Exorcist). There is a three part documentary on the case — available on Netflix — which you may like. And, Damian Echols meets a lawyer through letters during his prison stay who works her ass off (like Constance) to get him out of prison. Then? See the documentary!

    On to Charlie. I just LOVE how you focus on Charlie’s dilemma. Yeah, there is always a possibility of putting someone innocent in the jail and yeah Charlie should be the most sensitive cop about this. I have not really thought about this before, but you give me a reason to pay more attention to how meticulously Charlie goes after evidence! And you are absolutely right about Dani being ahead of her time. She was there way before Carrie Mathison, wasn’t she? I think Life could have been a much bigger deal should it have been on one of the cable channels rather than NBC. I think networks and cable channels have different audiences and Life would work much better with cable audiences. The writing is really smart and gets even better with the actors elevating it! And the sense of humor is priceless!

    Finally: The idea of counting the fruits in each episode is out of this world. And it’s a constant reminder of FREEDOM for Charlie. I AM IN!

  5. I had peripherally been aware of the Innocence Project since watching Making a Murderer, and it was really interesting to read more about them when I was researching for the post. I even dug in deeper to see what the Minnestota chapter has been doing. Read a few of their cases for here…wow. So many horrible, incorrect convictions! Our system needs some MAJOR help!! I will watch the documentary you mentioned. You know my joke about the Venn Diagram and documentaries I like…..”the venn diagram of documentaries that are depressing and documentaries I like is a single, overlapping circle…”

    1. We are in the same boat regarding the documentaries we like. And I think it’s the whole point: A documentary is supposed to be eye-opening!

  6. Great post Hollie, and thanks again for the fantastic idea of revisiting life.

    Love what you say about Dani being ahead of her time. I couldn’t agree more. She was a precursor to what Carrie Mathison is now. I know I referred to Dani as a hottie in my own previous post, not to be misogynist (women are VERY capable of being misogynist), but only to call attention to the fact that in the first season she was more real and interesting, and, in the second season, sort of transformed into this hot arm candy, possibly due to pressure from the network to make her conform to what people expected of female characters. I’m glad there was nothing romantic btw them too!

    I, for one, am SO looking forward to the time (maybe right now!) when Carrie Mathison becomes the model for what the world expects of female characters. As I’ve said elsewhere she’s Day One in terms of a new way to show a female lead.

    LOOOVE the idea of a fruit inventory! Fun!

    1. Oh yes, the actress playing Dani is incredibly attractive. They even write that into a lot of the plots, as things suspects and other people say to her, kinda look down on her for it, etc.(she’s a pretty pretty cop…I’d like to paint you on the hood of my car, etc). It is also kinda good that they went with that, as it shows that attractiveness does not always automatically mean fully functioning/perfect. She’s beautiful AND flawed. Capable of making the same poor choices and being just as imperfect inside. That is also bold. Often times, when a character needs to be mean, or overbearing, they cast someone older/unattractive by media standards, and further a stereotype. I did notice that same shift in how her character was written for season 2. I wonder how she would have been written if she hadn’t ended up with child in that second season? Was that a huge factor in how things were written? Hmm.

      This show, overall, suffered so many times from different things that were well out of their control(writer’s strike comes to mind), it has a lot of “I wonder what would have been IF…..”

      1. So funny that I don’t even wanna think about that “what if?” question. What if Life had gone on for 6 seasons… and then there would have been no Brody. Then I would never have found out about Damian. I would never ever thought about a blog… No, I can’t even… 😀

          1. Well, I was devastated when Brody died and I think that was a moment that triggered something in me which led to this blog later on. Seriously. I felt so deeply and so sad about his death. I have never loved any fictional character as much as I loved Brody (a close second could be Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities). Anyhow, I first refused to watch Homeland Season 4. Then, funny enough, Damian Lewis himself told me he could make a surprise down the line in S4 and there was Episode 7: Redux in Season 4 that got me for a split second that Brody was back. But of course he was not. So I really have very mixed feelings about that scene. They basically reset the entire story and it is now the CIA story that I think they first wanted to make but then derailed thanks to Carrie & Brody love becoming so popular with the viewers. I think Season 5 was good. But… I understand you. You are certainly not alone. I also think the show is missing something… in fact someone 🙂 Because I love him so much. <3 But maybe you think the story is not developed enough... or are you also talking about the show missing Brody?

        1. damianista,
          Yes! I was devastated too when Brody died. I liked Damian Lewis from his earlier works but was completely, overwhelmingly enamored after season 1 of Homeland. I loved, loved, loved and rooted for the Carrie/Brody romance. And also went along w the ride of…is he or isn’t he a terrorist. I know that plot line hijacked the show and that the creators did not intend on extending Brody’s character across 3 seasons. I couldn’t watch Carrie w/o Brody cuz truthfully, albeit she was a strong female character and have some merits, she was selfish and not a nice person.

          1. I was so pissed when Brody died. I sat down and wrote this: https://www.fanfunwithdamianlewis.com/?p=1421
            What can I say? I was a woman attending to her own business. Damian Lewis came along as Brody and turned everything upside down.
            It is all Brody that gave me the idea of starting a blog and all. I never loved a fictional character that much. Good news is no one can take the first three seasons from us. Yet, I have never seen and never intend to see that horrible scene.
            Thanks so much for visiting and reading us, please keep your feedback coming. <3

  7. Thank you Hollie for suggesting the re-watch of Life. It is such an underrated show and I look forward to delving into over the next several weeks.

    I have heard colleagues talking about making a murderer. The common theme being how angry it makes you about injustice being carried out. So, it very much shares that with Life. I remember being extremely angry with Bobby’s wife for the way she spoke to Charlie as though it were his fault.

    Dani is a wonderful character and perfect partner (work only that is IMO) for Charlie.

    1. Oh god, right? Like it was his fault or something? She should be like “Hey, I totally know you are probably trying to find the guys that did this….so when you do, kick them in the jewels once for me and Bobby, k?” I also feel bad that Bobby invited him, knowing that she felt this way, and let him just walk into it. Because there is no way he didn’t know she felt all that angst toward him. I’m sure his name was “f*cking Charlie Crews” to her.

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