'Bionic Woman': Identity crisis

Michelleryan_bionicwoman_24 Well, there you have it folks, the last Bionic Woman for quite some time. Tonight's episode was the last produced before the writers' strike, so even if it survives the winter months to air new episodes (a prospect still up in the air, unlike other NBC shows), this is all we have for the foreseeable future. And since the show clearly didn't plan for this episode as a possible season finale, roughly two dozen things hung in the air by episode's end. You can't fault Bionic Woman for the lack of a satisfying cliffhanger, but you can always blame it for the lack of a satisfying episode. And tonight's episode? Middling at best.

There was one shimmering, shiny moment, however, in which I actually sat on the edge of my seat, unable to comprehend the possibility the show was offering. Did any of you, like me, come to the conclusion midway through the episode that Jonas had sent Jaime to Montana in order to be killed? Because the show sure as heck strongly, strongly, strongly suggested this with Jonas' reaction to the death of his hired sniper. "Finally!" I thought. "We'll learn that the defanging of Jonas was all part of a ruse in order to lull both the audience and Jaime into a false sense of security! We'll learn that the ridiculous notion that the head of the Berkut Group would send his top investment to a freakin' spa after a mere few weeks on the job is just a front to lower her guard! And when this all fails, we'll have Jaime working with Sarah Corvis in order to take down the Berkut Group! Hooray!" (Well, I said everything but the "Hooray!" But I did bust out the Running Man dance move.)

Well, turns out that was all just a fanciful dream I cooked up in my overactive imagination. Turns out that Jonas is a dishwashing, defanged boss. Turns out he did in fact decide to force Jaime to take a vacation in response to Antonio's death. Turns out that the head of what should be the most hard-core, black-ops sector of the United States government thinks it's OK if Jaime tells her sister the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the bionic truth about her real life. I know Copy Cop bosses more terrifying and strict than Jonas. Between his general malaise, an on-staff psychologist who seems more unhinged on a weekly basis, and the fact that Jae has nothing better to do than train Nathan to avoid getting sucker punched by his abusive older brother, you have an organization that loses my respect a bit more each episode.

And that's a problem, right? If you can't believe in the organization that controls law and order in that show's particular universe, then it's hard to take the threats they deal with very seriously either. Did any of you honestly worry if the North Koreans would obtain those nuclear secrets? Jaime all but blurts out her undercover status when she calls Victor on being a faux accountant, and rather than accelerate his plans, he leisurely makes calls on an exposed deck. Unreal. Jonas should have ordered the cavalry to keep those plans in the United States, and instead he only brings along Nathan. Victor should have a security team of twenty at his beck and call, and instead hires three guys. If they treat the situation this flippantly, why shouldn't we?

Never mind the fact that the entire tension around the main action piece of the episode (getting Victor into Berkut's hands) centered around getting it all done before Becca leaves the spa. That's right, folks: the time is ticking...ON HER FACIAL! (I can't believe the promo monkeys at NBC didn't actually use that as an actual promo for this week's episode.) This would be all well and good if the show didn't actually want us to care about nuclear secrets getting in the hands of the North Koreans, but I think they do want us to care. And that's been an ongoing problem for the show: figuring out how to back away gracefully from any attempt to resemble a hard, sober sci-fi show like Battlestar: Galactica without overshooting entirely and ending up like a cross between The Terminator and Passions.

Clearly they are cribbing from other shows, trying to see what sticks. This type of empirical approach is evident by both the shows they echo (Alias, Chuck) and the shows they straight-up insert into the show (Heroes, The A-Team, and I'll be damned if I didn't think of Ally McBeal when they all sulked at the bar). It's interesting to watch a television show essentially workshop itself on a weekly basis. I mean, I know stage plays do this all the time. And of course, many shows we see on the air now changed greatly from initial conception. But television shows don't often change this radically WHLE ON THE AIR. Remember that whole bit about the Anthros family? And how they set up Will's dad as a major baddie, and Will himself as potentially evil himself? Doesn't that seem like years ago? Surprise: it was only seven episodes ago. Unbelievable.

Perhaps no other show can actually benefit from the writers' strike more than Bionic Woman. Perhaps the staff of Bionic Woman can brainstorm while on the picket line and figure out what they want this show to be. At this point, to quote the playwright Tom Stoppard, "Consistency is all I ask!" I don't NEED the show to be anything but entertaining. If they can pull this off with campy humor and Ocean's 11-type action and atmosphere, great. If they want to go gritty, I'm on board. But they absolutely, positively, have to choose a direction. Obviously, elements of humor dot the gravest of dramas, and pathos works well within comedies, but not in the mishmash that this show doles out on a weekly basis. And if you think I'm rooting for this show's demise, you're absolutely wrong. I'd like to think there's some great television to be produced by this show. Let's just see if they even get the chance to prove me right.

Are you sad, happy, or indifferent about the show's impending hiatus? What has stood out the most during these first eight episodes? What suggestions would you give the show in order to improve if it comes back?

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