Sunday, August 31, 2014

Life

Pretty generic-sounding title, wouldn't you say?

The same could be said in regard to using that title for a TV show. That's one reason I wasn't inspired to try "Life" (2007, apparently?) for a very long time. A second is that detectives solving a crime week after week is not my typical genre. But I noticed it again when I was browsing Netflix.

Then I checked the cast: Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi, Adam Arkin, Donal Logue. And the recurring cast includes Christina Hendricks, Titus Welliver, Garret Dillahunt, Jessy Schram. Not too shabby at all... They're clearly enjoying the chance to portray characters who have striking if off-kilter personalities, with distinctive viewpoints and philosophies. The heroes have imperfections and hang-ups. They use unconventional strategies. They have complicated histories.

For the central character Charlie Crews, his history is mixed up with an ongoing mystery: what are the actual circumstances of the case that put him in prison? I tend to wonder if this mystery would have ended up increasingly convoluted and overstretched, but it stays intriguing enough during the limited time this show was in production. It provides a driving force to the main character. His attempts to resolve his past give each episode more variety and interest.

To its credit, "Life" explores not only the plotline of his past but its two-sided role in his current mental state. Often, a tragic past either dominates a character completely or it appears to barely matter at all. For Charlie, his trauma has unavoidable effects on him, yet he presently chooses what to do with those effects. He feels and remembers the experiences that inform his existence, yet he consciously decides to keep his focus on the struggles and joys which are available now. He can't erase his pains, yet he doesn't need to. All the same, I could understand if some viewers, in full sympathy with his partner Dani, are merely irked by his outward whimsicalness. Doesn't Charlie know that he's supposed to be emotionally devastated?

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