I’d wager to say that, as Eleventh Hour proceeds forward into its freshman season, episodes that revolve around dead bodies will generally be among my least favorite. There are so many shows on TV that deal with homicide investigations that it’s hard to really mine fresh territory there, and a huge part of the appeal of Eleventh Hour is the idea that it can explore very different territory from everything else on the air. But for an episode that ultimately boils down to a homicide procedural, I really did like this one.
Wait, did I just say "boils down to" in the last sentence? That’s not right. "Freezes down to?" No, that just sounds silly. Let’s move on.
The episode begins in Malibu, with a pretty girl walking along the beach alone at night. Moonlit walks on the beach are so romantic. That is, so long as you don’t wind up dead out of it. The next morning, the pretty girl is found dead by a couple of surfers. But a dead girl on the beach is nothing special; dead girls wash up on the beach all the time. What makes this a case for Dr. Hood is that the girl is frozen solid.
Hood and Young arrive in Malibu – being sent on a business trip to Malibu is much better in theory than when the reality is having to work a death investigation – and meet up with the local support staff. Rachel and Jacob introduce themselves to Detective Cordero, the local homicide investigator, and Dr. Nash, the local coroner. Nash proceeds to talk Jacob and Rachel’s ears off about how American culture is hostile toward the reality of death, as people try to hide from it and keep away from it as long as possible rather than accept the natural order. "The way our culture tries to deny death is tragic," he says. Hood pretty much just nods politely and lets him pontificate. It’s probably what other people do often when Hood’s talking.
Nash and Hood don’t find anything immediately obvious as a cause for the victim’s body freezing, so Rachel and Hood decide to investigate the victim’s life. Her name was Marlena Gower, and she was a student at "Malibu State University," which in the real world we’d call Pepperdine. Marlena was also dying – she was terminal with an advanced form of anemia. Somebody went to a lot of effort to kill Marlena even though she was already dying.
As soon as Jacob and Rachel learn that Marlena had a terminal condition, the scene shifts to another person with a terminal condition. Edward and Emily Grekowski are going to have their first child together, only Edward may not be alive for it, as he’s dying. Edward and Emily make a visit to a place called the Forever Forward Foundation, the type of place that just sounds like one of those Evil Corporations that TV does so well. The head of the company, a Dr. Gregory, in turn says just the type of thing that the boss of an Evil Corporation would say: "The idea of immortality is no longer a fantasy," he later announces.
Meanwhile, Hood commandeers a science lab at Malibu State, and takes over the class along with it. Hood gets to play with beakers and flasks and titration devices for the first time so far on the series, and it looks like he’s having a blast doing it. But what might be more of a surprise is that he looks like he’s having a blast interacting with the students as well. Conceptually, Hood’s character was supposed to be really prickly and not very good with people, according to the original description of the show and what was offered in the pilot. But as the series has gone on, that’s very clearly not been the case. The version of Jacob Hood that we have just loves talking to people and sharing his knowledge about the way the world works. He still doesn’t love talking about himself, as we’ve talked about, but he does love interacting with people. He’s a really good teacher. Maybe too good. "To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t mind brushing up on my biology with him," Detective Cordero tells Rachel. A student named Janet also makes eyes at Jacob, and even invites him to her dorm room, while Rachel looks on stunned.
Hood relatively quickly finds an answer to what killed Marlena. He isolates a chemical process that would cause the cooling of the body when in the presence of the potassium naturally in the body. Rachel, in turn, realizes that if this chemical process really works so efficiently for cooling, then it would be bound to make somebody some money, so somebody probably has a patent on it. And somebody does. It’s a company called Adastra Pharmaceuticals.
Hood and Young travel to Adastra to meet with the head of the company, who explains that the chemical compound in question, trimethyl-cryazine, is intended to preserve organs, but is still in the trial stage. Their partner in the clinical trials is none other than the Forever Forward Foundation.
Jacob and Rachel pay the FFF a visit. It’s a cryogenics lab. Basically, the place cryogenically freezes people – actually, just their heads – with the promise that they can be unfrozen in time when science allows for such things. Their clients are people dying of terminal conditions – people like Marlena and Edward – who have diseases for which there are no cures now, but which may have cures at some point in the future. "De-animated neural suspension," Dr. Gregory calls it. "Frozen head shop," Cordero more succinctly observes.
In the interim, another frozen victim has been discovered, a man named John Robbins who also had a terminal condition and also was a client of the Forever Forward Foundation. Marlena and Robbins both paid $80,000 to the FFF so that they would be frozen at the time of their deaths. Getting your head chopped off and placed in a freezer does not come cheap. When Dr. Gregory is informed of their deaths, he’s legitimately surprised, and upset because their bodies were supposed to come to the FFF for the cryogenics process as soon as they died. The FFF may be an Evil Corporation, but they’re not directly responsible for these murders. Gregory brings Jacob and Rachel to the lab, and finds that a number of canisters of cryazine have been stolen.
Before they were killed, both Marlena and Robbins received a series of strange anonymous text messages, with the phrase "Have you reconsidered?" Rachel gets a client list from the FFF and starts calling through it (heh, "cold-calling") to see if anybody else has been threatened. Cordero, meanwhile, gets a list of FFF employees, and flags a security guard with a shady history. Rachel and Cordero and Jacob visit the security guard, Joey Lux, twice. The first time, they get no answers. The second time, Lux is dead and frozen.
Lux’s dead body is holding one of the bottles of cryazine. "Nothing says guilty like killing yourself with the murder weapon," Rachel observes. But Hood doesn’t think so. He thinks this was a homicide staged as a suicide. Swallowing the cryazine wouldn’t work. It needs to be injected, using a jet injector gun. So Rachel, in addition to calling through the list of FFF clients, also starts tracking down leads on anybody local who may have purchased such a gun recently. Rachel manages to get results on both angles at the same time.
Rachel eventually gets through to Edward’s wife Emily. Edward has indeed been getting the same strange text messages. He’s the next victim. Who’s the killer? It’s none other than the coroner, Dr. Nash. Hood and Young manage to track Edward down just as Nash is also tracking Edward down, preparing to kill him at the headquarters of the Forever Forward Foundation just as Edward was making his payment. Nash explains his rationale, by continuing to rail against how people refuse to accept death. Cryogenics is the ultimate example (well, maybe the second-biggest example) of people trying to toy with the natural order of death. So Nash hired Joey Lux to steal the cryazine, killed a couple of FFF patients, and then killed Lux to cover his tracks. The final step in the plan was to have somebody, namely Edward, be killed and frozen to death on the site of the FFF, which would be headline-grabbing news and probably lead to the place going out of business. Sheer elegance in its simplicity.
Nash takes Edward hostage at (jet injector) gunpoint. Hood, always trying to be the hero even as he’s told time after time by Rachel to stand back and stay safe, tries to take out Nash. He does knock out Nash, but Nash shoots Edward in the process. Fortunately, Edward is rushed to the hospital and is able to be saved before he turns into an Edsicle. But Rachel really, really needs to drill it into Jacob’s head that he is not supposed to be doing the physical confrontations.
The mystery thus solved, Rachel and Jacob are free to discuss their own feelings on cryogenics. Hood doesn’t think it’s very feasible or smart, though as a scientist it’s his prerogative to never close the door on any possibilities, so he understands the pull of the idea that people would freeze themselves until a time when their diseases can be eradicated. The Forever Forward Foundation still seems like a big scam, though. So, Rachel infers, does that mean that Jacob thinks such a place should be illegal? Not quite. "When immortality is outlawed, only outlaws will be immortal," Jacob quips.
This is what I love, when the show offers up these fascinating questions for viewers to debate amongst ourselves. So what about cryogenics? If you had the resources, would you consider freezing your body in the hopes of someday reemerging in a better situation? Even if it’s not something you’d consider, do you think others should have the right? Is it fair that cutting-edge health care is the playground of the rich, the type of people who can drop $80,000 on cryogenics? And what else did you think of the episode? Cool, or not cool?