Human Target, for those readers who are unfamiliar with the show, airs on the Fox Network on Wednesday nights at 8pm est. It tells of the adventures of Christopher Chance, who is a comic book character whose mission in life is to save those in danger in order to make up for his past as an assassin. This character has been the subject of previous television series incarnations with variations on plot and character over the years. The current series stars Mark Valley (Fringe, Boston Legal) as the aforementioned Christopher Chance. This is not his given name. He took the name on when its former owner (Lee Majors) was killed trying to help the current Chance protect the woman he had fallen in love with. Through the years the name has changed owners several times but it always belongs to the only person who can help if someone is trying to kill you. For season one, the cast was rounded out by Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies, Let’s Go To Prison) as Winston, and Jackie Earle Haley (Bad News Bears, A Nightmare of Elm Street) as Guerrero. Chance was previously known as “Junior” and was an assassin for the “Old Man” (Armand Assante). Guerrero was a fellow employee, along with another assassin named Baptiste (Lennie James). The Old Man had taken them in off the streets when they were young and trained them to be the best killers money could buy. They are highly educated, multi lingual, and have various skills from computer hacking to bomb making. Guerrero in particular enjoys torturing people. The Old Man gave Junior his name and was planning to turn the “family business” over to him. Junior started to question the assignments he was given and this drove a wedge between him and the Old Man. When Junior was assigned to kill a woman named Katherine Walters, the relationship between Junior and the Old Man came to an end.
Katherine worked for the ports and had found a man bleeding to death on the docks after being shot. He managed to say two words to her before he died and she had no idea what they meant. She was placed in protective custody and Winston was the cop in charge of the case. Junior met Winston in a bar, pretending to be working on the case and tried to find her location. Winston would not divulge it but left his phone laying on the bar and the information was there. Junior managed to con her security detail and was allowed in to see her. She was a very nice young woman with a puppy (Rottweiler, but still a cute puppy) who liked to bake cookies. Junior poisoned her drink but then after he found out she had no clue who the dying man was or what the message meant, he “accidentally” spilled the drink. He called the Old Man and told him she knew nothing and did not deserve to die, but the Old Man would not budge. Apparently there was a book that the Old Man originally had and that he had a client for, and it was on a ship docked at the port. This book contained information that could cause “Governments to fall” and “Cities to burn” and the client and the Old Man wanted it back. Junior was told to “do his job”. He walked into her bedroom and confessed who he was and what he was there for. He then convinced her to go with him as he was concerned that the others could find them there and they knocked out her security detail and fled. For Junior, it was pretty much love at first sight, and he took her to a safe house that he had and assumed no one knew about. Guerrero found him and picked the lock and a fight ensued. Junior had the opportunity to kill him but did not, instead only knocked him out and took Katherine and her puppy Carmine and went on the run. Baptiste showed up as Guerrero was coming to. He told Baptiste that Junior “had the shot and didn’t take it” and for him that was “game over”, and left. Baptiste called the Old Man who ordered him to kill both Junior and Katherine. Baptiste tried to talk him out of killing Junior but could not.
Junior took Katherine to Chirstopher Chance (Lee Majors). He told Junior he was not much good in a fight anymore at his age but gave him the advice to not let her out of his sight. They went to the port to see if they could discover what the words “Lenore Fortier” meant and Junior disregarded Chance’s advice and he left her in the boat while he investigated. He found that it was a shipping container on the Lenore and it was labeled “40A”. Inside was the book in a metal briefcase. Baptiste arrived and found Katherine on the boat alone and wired it to explode. He got into a fight with Junior and the case was kicked into the water where it sank. Baptiste then pointed out to Junior that he never thought he would be teaching Junior something but that he should never have left her on the boat. He then dialed a number on his cell phone and blew up the boat, killing Katherine. The fight resumed and when Baptiste was getting the better of Junior, a shot rang out. Baptiste had been shot by Chance. Baptiste then took the knife he was trying to kill Junior with and slung it at Chance, hitting hm in the chest. Junior ran to him and right before he died, he asked Junior who he wanted to be. Baptiste took the opportunity to disappear. Junior went back to Chance’s Warehouse/Loft and was greeted by Carmine the puppy. Winston found him there soon after and proposed that they work together to try and save people in danger like Katherine. He asked Junior what his name was and he replied that his name was Christopher Chance.
In every episode of season one, Katherine Walters and the Old Man figured prominently in every decision Chance made and every risk he took. He was haunted by the fact that he could not save her and he was afraid of what seemed to be an inevitable showdown with the Old Man, especially after episode 8 where he once again went up against Baptiste to protect a UN Delegation from being blown up. The story of what happened to Katherine was the backstory to the season one finale when the Old Man’s client staged a commando style raid on Chance’s digs in an effort to discover what happened to the book. About the time the client figured out that Winston had to be at the port that day and kidnapped him, the Old Man staged his own raid on the warehouse just in time to put two bullets into one of the client’s employees and save Chance’s life. He told Chance that he wanted the book back and Chance wanted Winston back and so they were going to have to work together again to accomplish this. The last we saw of Chance was when he and the Old Man were flying off together in a helicopter.
So we wait. Will the Old Man find a way to convince Chance to work for him again? Will they rescue Winston? Just what is in that book? Season two was delayed until November the 17th, so we had to wait to watch what season one had been building up to through all 12 episodes. So the first episode starts and Chance and Guerrero are in a bank and pretending to be guards and the client leads Winston in and they go get the book out of a safety deposit box. Chance shoots the fire alarm to get their attention and we see that Winston is wired with a bomb. Chance says something to Winston about Aunt Susie or Sally or somebody and then fires his gun. Winston falls, Guerrero shoots the client, Chance defuses the bomb and disappears. It is not clear if someone makes off with the book or if it is scraps of paper we see floating around (although if it is that dangerous why would they let even scraps get out their hands?) and then Guerrero and Winston leave the bank. This all took maybe five to seven minutes. Now, I don’t know about all of the other regualr viewers from season one but I have felt cheated since that episode. When they showed a “last time on Human Target” clip, they stopped the camera before the Old Man saved Chance and then jumped to the helicopter flying away and completely cut Assante out of the clip. This is what I call soap opera writing. (Regular viewers of this show know that there have been personnel changes in the production of the show, including hiring the composer of the new opening music which is not an improvement. The composer of the first season’s opening title received an emmy nomination so why would they replace him and his music?) Soap operas regularly change writers. When a new writer comes onboard, they often completely disregard anything that has been written before. Characters have complete personality changes, long lost relatives appear, people return from the dead, children that no one remember giving birth to show up on the doorstep and the writers expect the audience to just forget everything that happened in the past. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. In the case of Human Target, it is not working.
Chance went off to Nepal to find his chi. A billionaress named Ilsa Pucci (Indira Varma) decided her life was in danger and no one could save her but Chance, so she spent 6 months looking for him. The danger turned out to be her attorney, who knew she was going to hire Chance and wouldn’t it have made better sense for him to go ahead and kill her before she could find him? Anyway the team saves her and we find that now suddenly everyone of their plans have an uncle or aunt’s name attached to it. In the process, they meet Ames (Janet Montgomery) who is supposed to be an expert thief. She becomes a part of their team along with Mrs. Pucci, who decides she is going to be their benefactor and silent partner. In the two episodes since, she has been anything but silent.
The feel of the first series is gone. There was a connection between Chance, Winston, and Guerrero that the two new characters have interrupted. The landscape is now too crowded. We do not need Mrs. Pucci giving a sermon every week on the unorthodox and often illegal methods by which they do their jobs. Ames, as tonight’s episode proved, is more trouble than she is worth. Her puppy dog adulation of Guerrero is also annoying. The second episode where Chance saved the life of a woman whose husband he murdered seven years ago was also terribly written. The thought that she was so grateful that he saved her that she would not leave and trot on down to SFPD and give them the location of a paid assassin is also ludicrous. She was clearly not impressed when she left the office. Most of the secrecy of their lives is gone. Apparently Mrs. Pucci advertises in the Yellow Pages. Tonight they kept saying things like “I don’t know if I even still have a job here”, and I was waiting for Ames to go and file for unemployment. Instead of being a life’s mission now, it is like a 9-5 job. The scenes where Guerrero was supposed to be torturing the lawyer for information last week was also a joke, as was tonight’s scenes where “Chicago” got away from him and destroyed the office. It is like a badly written Keystone Kops movie. It also looks as though they are pairing up Guerrero/Ames and Chance/Mrs. Pucci. Definitely a not needed or wanted storyline sub-plot. In an interview on fox.com, Indira Varma says she is supposed to be supplying the comic relief for the show. In the past, the character of Guerrero handled that job. I have not seen anything humorous about Mrs. Pucci.
This show in the first season was about a man who was driven to save anyone whose life was in danger in order to make up for his past misdeeds and his failure to save the woman he loved. (I have not heard Katherine Walters mentioned even once this season.) No one deserves to die was his motto (even though there were dead bodies along the way but only the bad guys). He was joined in this by Winston who felt the same and the two developed a relationship where they truly cared about each other’s welfare. His life was also considerably affected by his hate/fear of the man who raised him and taught him to kill and his feelings toward Baptiste who was once a brother to him but now is his worst enemy. Guerrero was the loyal side kick, motivated by money but as Baptiste put it, Chance was the one person Guerrero would also never betray. They succeeded in their mission by using their instincts and their wits. They were a team and they did not need any more team members or a new direction for the show. The ratings dipped last season because the show was moved from Wednesday to Friday, which is usually the death spot for most network programming. The new season is lame. Even Mark Valley looked bored tonight. I know I was. There is not enough action. There is not enough of Chance doing what he does best, which is helping someone whose life is in danger, and not because they can afford Mrs. Pucci’s rates. She actually showed up to go over the books last week and was asking Winston if they needed to order a tank. She bought them a high priced computer system and then had a fit because they hacked into the security cameras at a college. What does she think they would actually do with a tank? It is not the high priced toys or the fancy new office or the two actresses added (I suppose) just for some eye candy that will make this show a success. It is getting back to the storylines of the first season and following them on out. So how do they fix it? Well, since it is obvious soap opera writers are writing this show now, use one of their old tricks. Let’s say Chance has been in a coma and the first part of the season was just a nightmare. Then do the viewers a favor if you want to keep them and pick up the story where it left off at the end of season one. (Dallas and Roseanne took a lot of flak for using the “it’s all been a dream” plot but both shows moved on from there.) Seriously, bring back the original production team and see if they can write this show out of this mess it is currently in. As an added note, I only heard Guerrero say the word “dude” one time tonight and that is not enough. Fans of this show know exactly what I mean.
On the Net: www.fox.com/humantarget