Episode 7 “A Civil War”, and Episode 8 “Farthingale”
As we follow Charlie Crews’ exploits as detective non grata on the LAPD bizarro homocide beat, with every episode of Life, we get another puzzle piece clicked into place in Charlie’s picture of who framed him and took away so many years of his life. This time the puzzle pieces were more personal than ever. We got a couple of major reveals about Charlie’s partner Reese.
Now, decades and decades of watching police procedural drama have taught me nothing if not the incontrovertible fact that partners have to rely on each other through thick and thin. Partners sharing a car and a beat have to have absolute trust in each other. Without trust they can’t possibly face the bad guys with an united front, without trust they can’t have each other’s back out in the field. Violations of that trust between partners is a breeding ground for some good drama in police stories.
We start to step into that touchy territory with “A Civil War.”
The episode title is perhaps evoking the little hiccup in trust between partners Charlie and Reese. It’s also likely a comment on the specific crime committed in this episode. Iranian-American students are killed, hate speech is scrawled over their dead bodies, and, as a result, there’s a bit of a threat of domestic terrorism to hunt down. Native born vs. immigrant = civil war.
The owner of the convenience store where the crime occurs is cuter and younger than Charlie (or anyone) imagines an owner of a chain of convenience stores would be. There’s a tiny bit of a chemical reaction when Charlie first sees her and she shares his wonder at the fact that phones can play video…”It’s like we’re living in the future.” The tiny spark diminishes though as it’s revealed that the masked criminal seen in the video is her son.
Mrs. Farmer came to LA as a destitute single mother, bootstrapped herself up to owning a chain of convenience stores, and estranged her son in the process. The tidy American success story is not so tidy when a hard-working parent raises an entitled brat of a kid. The kid hates immigrants because they, as employees of his mother’s stores, got all the attention from his mother that he never got. And the cultural comment is that Mrs. Farmer sees more of herself in the immigrant kid than she did in her own son.
There’s a fun IT guy in the mix and some files hidden within a Prince of Persia video game. How retro to watch the graphics of this game where we sit now nine years into the future. And what a throwback against political correctness for the showrunners to choose a moody Persian tune, the more exotic-sounding the better, as backdrop to the Eastern magic performed by the kidnapped boy’s sister as she cracks the video game. East meeting West, yo.
Ultimately, despite the “full house” of FBI, Homeland Security, Mayor’s Office and the hate crimes unit working the case, the putative domestic terrorism gets whittled down to a crime driven by drugs and money, the perpetrator just one really angry and hurt white boy with mommy issues.(As it often does?) The story evolves into a tangled tale of drugs and kidnapping and ransom, as well as an egregiously high body count. It all ends in a bank hold-up interrupted at just the right moment by our super sleuth Charlie Crews.
Along the way, we and Charlie learn that Dani Reese speaks fluent Farsi; her Persian mother spoke it to her growing up; her Latino father disallowed it in his presence. We and Charlie also learn that Dani has a connection to the Bank of Los Angeles heist that was connected in some tangential but incriminating way to the conspiracy to frame Charlie. What is that connection? During a surreptitious googling session on the IT guy’s very special googling computer, Charlie finds new info on that bank heist and he finds the name Jack Reese in that info. Thus two puzzle pieces find their place on Charlie’s board of clues.
Moment of Zen from “A Civil War”? A butterfly flaps its wings and halfway across the world a hurricane forms.
Unfortunately, body count was higher than fruit count in this episode. All we get is a glass of orange juice while Ted tells Charlie that the solar farm of his dreams is a go.
Fun fact from this episode. The mother of the boy who’s ends up being the killer is played by Sarah Clarke. This is the actress who played badass Nina Myers on 24. She was also Jon Hamm’s prom date in high school, a fun tidbit we found out from a Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable a few years ago featuring Damian, Jon Hamm and Keifer Sutherland, among others. Coming full circle, this episode of Life also featured in the role of Charlie’s father’s fiancee and Charlie’s roommate Ted’s crush, Christina Hendricks, aka Joan from Mad Men. Small world, Hollywood.
At the start of Ep. 8, Farthingale, Charlie is listening to his Zen cassette, eating a green apple, and trolling the detective who was the lead investigator in Charlie’s conviction. He sees him meeting and arguing with a white haired man in Echo Park.
The crime: a man is chopped in half due to an exploding stove. His upper body is in tact thanks to the fridge door sheltering it from the blow, while the lower half is blown to smithereens. We learn that he has two IDs, two names, two lives, and two wives, both of whom think he works as a secret spy of some sort. Fun way to hide another life: tell your wife you’re a spy and your missing hours and days and weeks are all top secret. How the man supported two very nice households in the LA real estate market on the salary of an IRS cubicle jockey is anyone’s guess. Plus he had a safe house in sketchy Cheviot Hills where Crews and Reese find him.
Moment of Zen, shared over a cup of mixed fruit…maybe some melon and mango: The Chinese symbol for war is two women under one roof.
Meanwhile back at the precinct, the detective Charlie had been tailing earlier that day is found dead. This gives the police chief ammunition for getting all over Charlie, sending IAD to investigate.
Again, we see Damian’s very fun way of conveying hijinks with pure physicality.
Another moment of Zen: It’s not what is different in the two lives lived by the murdered man wherein lie the most telling clues, it is what is the same. The answer is a puzzle and it’s solved by two groups of five objects, one in each house.
Charlie and Dani, with the help of their lieutenant, find a pattern within the pattern, leading them to a Unibomber type figure, the Free State bomber. Apparently Farthingale, in the course of all his number crunching at the IRS and dreams of heroic pursuits, had found some anomalies in the data, leading him to the identity of the Free State bomber. And the bomber did what bombers do and blew the poor guy into bits.
Charlie does his own version of number crunching trying to determine where the bomber might be. We see him doing that finger drumming thing that Brody did to pray, and one has to wonder if Damian brought that little bit of physicality into both Charlie and Brody sans direction from script. Afterall, the one and only thing in common between Charlie and Brody is Damian. 😀
Cut to Charlie’s home being raided by the DA’s office. Constance is back in town and now working for the DA’s office. This return seems to be a plot device so that she can be the one informing Charlie that his house is being raided. (Sometimes it’s very clear that the writers weren’t happy in those days and not really there in spirit 100% of the time. Constance’s random motions in and out of Charlie’s life seem to be one of those times.) Ted, in his ex-con’s wisdom, knows Charlie is hiding something in that closet he’s always visiting. So he has the foresight to take down the puzzle Charlie is slowly putting together before the DA’s office can see it.
Charlie is off the hook, for now. The detective still needs a funeral and everyone but Charlie is in their dress blues to give him the send-off. Cue the moment Charlie learns that Jack Reese and the white-haired man he saw talking to the dead detective are one and the same. What this reveal means for Charlie and Reese’s future as partners is a story yet to be told.
Fruit count: Orange Juice (does that even count?), mixed melon, Granny Smith apple