I love a happy ending. It’s the reason I love Return of the Jedi instead of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s the reason I am not so sad that Disney took some rather horrifying stories and remade them into something…a little brighter! And it’s why, I think, I love the season finale of Life, season one.
Going into it the very first time, I wasn’t so sure it was going to be a happy ending. Charlie finds the name of the man who committed the crimes for which he did the time, and he knows just who can help him find this man. He starts the episode by walking into the prison he was unjustly confined in. He looks nervous, edgy. Is it the prison that has him out of sorts, or is it the path that he’s on? Either way, Charlie is much less Zen. Calling in a favor, he taps an inmate named Mark Rawls, someone who owes him a favor. In episode one, Cruise help put the murder of Rawls’ son, John, away. Charlie tasks him with putting out the word-he’s looking for Kyle Hollis.
An interesting interaction happens while he’s in the prison, and I haven’t given it much thought until now. He responds to the jeers of the correctional officers escorting him, telling them he might actually need his cell back. What is Charlie planning? Would he really give up his freedom for revenge? This moment really shows how much Charlie is deciding, moment to moment, what he is going to do. He even refers to himself as a convict, during his discussions with the prisoner he visited.
Is he taking back his prisoner identity? Or is it just that he constantly rides that tight rope between the two worlds- is he a cop, or is he a criminal? It’s got to be a tricky thing to navigate. How could that not become part of who you were, being imprisoned for so long? There’s also the vague references made throughout the series about something he did to a guard- did he kill someone? Not sure we’ll ever know.
Getting back to work, Charlie arrives on the scene of a shooting. A man has been shot by his wife in a domestic dispute, but it’s further complicated by the murder weapon being missing, and the entire apartment being filled with dozens of marijuana plants.
Just getting settled to investigate, Charlie is visited by a sketchy looking biker type, who brings him a phone. Mark Rawls, the prisoner he visited earlier, is on the line, and he has the name and location of who Charlie is after. It seems as though Kyle Hollis has remade himself into a new man. Reverend Orson Parker is who he is after, a family man with a house out in the sticks.
With Bobby and Dani covering for him, Charlie heads out, and on his way, he throws zen out the window. His zen tape asks ” if hurting another is hurting myself, and how does that help me?” Charlie snaps back, in a flat but firm tone, eyes fixed on the road ahead. “It just does.” And with a quick flick of the wrist, his zen tape is on the side of the highway.
Arriving at the Reverend’s home, Charlie finds that someone has been there before him, and the Reverend’s daughter is bleeding to death in the kitchen, watching videos of her beloved father to comfort herself. He stays with her, in a rather touching and sweet moment, helping her stay awake and calm until help arrives.
He then receives the call he’s been waiting for: Kyle Hollis wants to meet, at the Bank of LA. You know which one, right?
Meanwhile, back in LA, Dani and Bobby are working to find the murder weapon in a room full of cannabis. In a rather stunning reveal, Bobby admits that he was threatened by top brass that if he did any sort of testimony in Charlie’s case, he would be facing prison, as well. I always wondered if Bobby was one of the people who stuck by Charlie, or one that eventually came to believe he was guilty. I have to believe that, even if he said otherwise, he had to have always known that something suspicious was happening. He did save his gun and badge for him, after all.
After a quick scuffle with some police officers that arrive at the Reverend’s home, Charlie is off on the hunt, again. To keep himself off the radar, he gives away his beloved hot rod(he won’t admit it, but, c’mon, we all know he was attached to the car) and buys a suitable beater with what we can assume is a spacious trunk.
Very soon, Charlie is standing face to face with the murderer who killed his friends, and took away over a decade of his life.
The man who tarnished his reputation, and practically ruined his life. I was actually relieved when he didn’t comply with Hollis’ demands for a plane ticket out of the country. A quick strike to the head and Hollis is taking a little ride to…well, god knows where.
Charlie is finally eating some fruit! Enjoying some fresh picked Pluot(that’s a special hybrid- 25% apricot and 75% plum), Charlie is wielding his knife, again, much like the Charlie we saw in the first few episodes of the season.
His mood change moment to moment, one second looking happy and relaxed, then he’s suddenly serious. He’s brought Kyle out to his orange grove, somewhere I assume is fairly secluded, by the looks of it. Is he just toying with Kyle?
Is he just teasing him, scaring him? Or is he trying to make up his mind? He later laments that he never knew that the day before he was arrested would be his last free day. Is this Charlie’s last ride? Is he doing all the things he likes, indulging in his beloved fruit, because he’s about to do something terrible and be put away, again? Or would he really let himself be put away?
The next thing he does, it’s kind of confusing. And on the first watch of Life, I wondered why, in the midst of this all, did he stop to meet Jennifer and apologize to her? But now, I kind of see that he’s still grappling. He still isn’t sure what he’s gonna do. He’s telling her he’s sorry, he’s forgiving her for not standing by him, and he’s coming to terms, himself, with the fact that Kyle Hollis didn’t just hurt his friends, and himself. Charlie’s incarceration had far reaching effects-it’s all connected, you might say.
And like, I’m not gonna lie. These next screen caps are just because I think his face is real cute here.
You don’t mind, do you?
OK, just one more.
Consider that your “commercial break”. We are watching TV, after all. 🙂
One scary collision with some of Jack Reece’s goons, followed by a edge-of-my-seat shoot out, and Charlie is back on the road. The shot of him standing in front of his flipped car, the LA backdrop rising up behind him, his triumphant pose….Charlie, once again, survives where he shouldn’t. Thrives against the odds! Can anyone bring Charlie Cruise down? He’s got the money of Bruce Wayne, and the always-one-step-ahead moves of Batman. He’s a superhero, he’s a vigilante.
Now it’s time to dig a hole. Kyle sits, bound, watching Charlie dig. He screams, he pleads-he suspects he might be destined for the bottom of that hole. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” His questions go unanswered. In the absence of answers from Charlie, he babbles.
He confesses to everything. He killed that family in a shakedown gone bad. Turns out Charlie’s partner was on the take, and he tried to outsmart the criminals. He played with fire, and he and his family burned for it. I wonder what that revelation meant to Charlie? Did he not feel so bad for his friend’s death? Tom basically brought it on himself and his family, through his own wrong doings. But even though Kyle did the crime….and Charlie did the time….Kyle did not set Charlie up.
In the end, Charlie gets the confession he needs. Maybe that was what he was waiting for. Maybe he was giving Kyle the chance to redeem himself, to come clean. Would Kyle have gone into that hole if he had refused to confess? I think so. But luckily with Charlie’s phone nearby, and Constance on the other end, the confession is gathered and it’s time to bring Kyle in.
Charlie is redeemed. The whole precinct cheers for him.
Any doubts about his innocence are washed away as Kyle Hollis takes his “perp walk” across the office.
But Charlie knows it doesn’t end there. Constance begs him to give it up, let someone else do the rest, enjoy your life! But we know. She knows. It’s not over.
We’re halfway through summer, and ready to begin Season 2 of Life right here next Tuesday!