Monday, August 11, 2014

Season 2 vs. Season 1

Well, two episodes into season 2 on MeTV and we have two undeserving deaths in a row! Man.

The season opens with The Corresponding Corpse, and although it wasn’t very good of the victim to be hanging out with another woman while being married, I wonder if in his mind she was always a friend and not a romantic interest. He called her a friend in the episode, after all, which was what got her so upset. And in any case, he had decided he wanted to make things right and go home to his wife and let her know he was really alive. It was really sad that his wife’s coworker decided to kill him so he couldn’t come back. The wife seemed upset, too. The murderer said she didn’t want her husband back, but I wonder how true that was. And even if she didn’t want him back, she sure wouldn’t want her coworker either, after he murdered the guy! Poor wife ended up with no one.

Then, in The Lucky Loser, the victim is thought to be the wife’s mysterious boyfriend, but we learn later that he died months ago and the victim is really her poor husband, whom she cold-bloodedly shot to get him out of the way. Oh good grief. With him, he was trying to cover up what he thought was a death he had caused, which wasn’t good either, but he didn’t shoot the guy on purpose. He seemed more like a defendant character, since several of them thought they killed people when they didn’t, rather than a victim himself. Overall, both he and George from the previous episode were minor offenders compared to most of the murder victims. Both of them are quite sympathetic characters who really deserved their chances to live.

One other unique thing about The Corresponding Corpse is that it’s one of the few times when we have a defendant who really is engaged in some not so nice things, this time by wanting to be romantically involved with the victim even after finding out he’s married. The same thing happens in The Singing Skirt, only the romantic interest isn’t the one who dies—his wife does. Usually, even when it looks seriously bad for the defendant, the worst they generally do is try to cover up for someone else whom they suspect, so it’s unusual when the defendant is more morally grayer than that.

I’ve appreciated season 1 more on this round, and I wondered if I would have a hard time adjusting to the switch to season 2 and a majority of television-only storylines. But as it turned out, I didn’t find the switch too hard and heavy to handle. Actually, even as much as I enjoyed season 1 and its complex, noir-ish storylines, I welcomed the return of season 2.

I think perhaps at least part of the reason is because of season 2’s relative lack of noir-ish elements. Noir is fun and dark and shadowy, but sometimes I like things a bit more upbeat than a noir. And noirs often feel like period pieces and I often prefer a more contemporary feeling. Season 2 seems to throw off the noir atmosphere and appear brighter and cheerier in some respects, and certainly contemporary. Even with the darker elements of the first two episodes, they still don’t quite come across with that certain noir feeling. The television-only scripts might not be as deep as the early ones based on Mr. Gardner’s books, but they’re enjoyable too, and in season 2 there’s still a lot of that Core Five element, with everyone getting a good amount of screentime.

And one other thing about season 2, it can be pretty dark when it wants, both in its television-only and book-based storylines. The Romantic Rogue and The Howling Dog are both rather disturbing, the latter especially so. Bodies buried on private property and dogs howling about it . . . that’s some unsettling stuff. The Howling Dog is also particularly haunting because of the brother and sister both being killed in addition to the woman’s lover. The murderess is such a horrible person. Occasionally I could feel some pity for some of the murderers, but I certainly couldn’t for that one! She absolutely makes my skin crawl.

I wonder if The Howling Dog is also unique to the series in the respect of how many people die. Usually it’s one and very occasionally it’s two, but I’m not sure I can think of another episode off-hand where it’s three. The murderess tried to kill three people in The Empty Tin, but one of them lived, so that doesn’t count.

Season 2, also, as I recall, marks the beginning of Perry toning down many of his law-bending activities, although they’re still present now and then. I believe he pulled a stunt in The Howling Dog, for one. And then again in season 3’s The Singing Skirt. Both are book-based, so I’m assuming that is largely the reason why he’s returning to his stunts after abstaining for various lengths of time. I think his most eyebrow-raising stunts are almost always in the book-based episodes. Season 5’s The Mystified Miner remains another book-based one with shenanigans, still perhaps the most appalling in the series. Deliberately obscuring the defendant’s fingerprints on the evidential car, good grief!

One thing that amuses me about those stunts more than it probably should is when he tries to play tricks on Hamilton and the police and it totally backfires on him. I can think of at least three or four times when that happened: in The Long-Legged Models and The Rolling Bones in season 1, The Singing Skirt in season 3, and The Golden Girls in season 9. All are book-based episodes. On the one hand, I feel bad for him and his clients when the antics end up making everything look worse for them. But on the other hand, I can’t help thinking, And that’s what happens when you toy with the law, kids.

Both The Long-Legged Models and The Singing Skirt involve Perry trying to mix things up with the multiple guns and only muddling everything worse. In each case, the gun that isn’t supposed to be the murder weapon turns out to actually be the murder weapon—albeit in The Long-Legged Models the defendant deliberately switches guns because of not wanting to possibly incriminate her old crush. In The Singing Skirt, the switch is a total shock to both Perry and the client.

A gun is also the problem in The Golden Girls. Perry and Paul are trying to escape from the police with the case they think has the murder weapon in it. It’s only in court when Perry discovers the gun isn’t in the thing at all and is back at the Golden Bear Club.

The Rolling Bones is a bit more of an iffy case, since Perry has realized the office is mysteriously bugged and he naturally would want to fight against that and would really be justified in doing so. I wonder exactly what he thinks is the explanation for it, since he says outright he knows Hamilton wouldn’t bug the place illegally. (I was thrilled to finally see a print on television with that part in it! Usually it’s cut.) But so Perry tries to throw the police and Hamilton off-track with a fake telephone conversation and makes up a crazy story to tell Della as they talk. However, the bug is in the phone, so Perry’s side of the conversation is picked up anyway. And he seems to be a better detective than even he realizes. The crazy story turns out to be true and is very incriminating for his client! Uh oh.

Season 1 certainly is unique for its twists and turns and its emphasis on book-based storylines. There’s a lot of fun to be had. But the Perry experience is just beginning! I will never understand people who feel like season 1, or in some cases, seasons 1-4, are the only decent episodes to be had or that the show has to feel like a noir to be good. There’s a lot to enjoy in every season and I’m looking forward to continuing the ride with season 2.

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