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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

'Vegas' Season 1, Episode 7 Recap

This could be the beginning of beautiful friendship
  • CBS
  • This could be the beginning of beautiful friendship

"Vegas" continues to get better and better, not only starting to find its rhythm narratively but also by doubling back and building on stories it's already established. The Case of the Week plots aren't always throwaways - the Milwaukee crew from a few weeks back that Savino had killed is found (Pro Tip: never bury your bodies on farm land!), which heralds the return of Jones, full (or real) name unknown. What is known is that he's a cold-blooded killer and very smart about his trade.

This is where my praise dims slightly. Jones is a fantastic character, and him coming after Savino could have given a least another week of narrative tension, but Ralph is able to disarm him and arrest him pretty easily in his typical Ralph Wins All The Things ways.

The previews for "Bad Seeds" teased a kind of "odd couple" scenario between Ralph and Savino, where Savino would be locked to Ralph until Jones was apprehended, for Savino's own safety. Thirty minutes into the episode, the two still weren't handcuffed together, and it turns out that the extent of their shared confinement lasted less than one poorly-cooked steak dinner.

Still, oh how fantastic those moments were! The two played off of each other so expertly, with wisecracks and snarky comebacks that were delightful to watch unfold. The show couldn't keep the two at constant odds, and even though they don't like or trust each other, having to work together for any amount of time is great fun.

The two may be thrown together even more now that Savino's man Greg Grady won the Mayoral race (Ralph, naturally running unopposed, won the Sheriff position). The twist, which again raised the stakes, was Rizzo's betrayal of Angelo, who he shot in the head instead of Savino. We knew Savino wasn't going to die, but getting rid of Angelo surprised me. It was brilliantly set up for several episodes, and in "Bad Seeds" the scheme was perfectly executed (pun quasi-intended) with Rizzo being so doting on Angelo while goading him to "take care of" Savino.

Rizzo in charge means bad things for Savino, even though Rizzo claims to have a shared desire with Savino of acquiring the Tumbleweed. But recall that Savino and Rizzo have butted heads in the past over business deals, as well as the place that Mia had at the Savoy (which Mia, who is a quietly great character, had the maturity to know that following Savino rather than her father was the way to go). Would it be possible for Savino to subvert some of Rizzo's power by giving tips of his nefarious deeds to Ralph? Would he dare?

There are a few emotional moments that "Vegas" gets really right - as I mention every week, the interplay among the Lambs is the key to the show's likability. Also, the brief inclusion of the character Mr. Dobbs, who was the husband of the woman slain the street by Jones, was a nice way to define the violence as more than just gang warfare. It makes it seem less cartoonish, and grounds it. The moment where the security guard wasn't actually killed by Jones but just badly maimed was a nice touch as well, as was Dixon's reaction to it. It illustrates the changing landscape of the town, and the effects of having someone like Savino there (no matter how likable he is).

Elsewhere though, "Vegas" can sometimes fall into cliche, like when Savino goads Ralph about his late wife, and we finally find out what happened to her and why he feels responsible. But a car accident? It just feels like such a default choice. And why would Ralph be so haunted by something there was no way he could have prevented? Unless that's not all there is to the story (and hopefully it's not). I'm glad "Vegas" got that reveal out of the way, but the way it played out just felt altogether too trite.

For a new series that styles itself as a procedural, "Vegas" has come out of the box strong even if it hasn't defined itself as must-see TV yet. It has a lot of great elements that I think will continue to build the foundations of an even more complex show, and it has the confidence (so far ...) of a very fickle network to do so.

Next Week: Savino's infidelity? Radiation suits? Oh boy ...

Musings and Miscellanea:

- The scene where Greg Grady celebrated his win was beautifully and rather stylistically filmed. Why does the show not employ that more often?

- Savino's wife Laura is a very strong female character. Like Mia, she's beautiful and intelligent. I wish Katherine was given more to do though - If Laura and Mia can get so much screen time (and they don't, but it's still triple Katherine's) then Katherine deserves her share as well.

- Mia and Jack's flirtations give me feels.

- "I'm running for Sheriff unopposed, I can do what I want!" - Ralph

- As great as the Angelo twist was, I will miss seeing Jonathan Banks around.

- Ralph: "I eat to live." Savino: "I live to eat." Ralph: "It shows."

- I'll admit that until "Bad Seeds" I more or less thought Rizzo, Red and Corda (?) were the same person.

- Don't you just hate it when the lye from corpses left in shallow graves ruins your crops?

- The character of Jones reminded me a little bit of Brother Mouzone from "The Wire."

- I like the build up of Dixon being a good investigator - I hope that pays off.

- Ralph: "Your people need to try some manual labor." Savino: "We did. We built Rome." Ralph: "The callouses might have worn off."

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