In this (very belated) episode, we look at the complex and fascinating story of Charlie Crews, a falsely-imprisoned police officer who goes back to work to find those responsible.
[Listen now] | [Go to iTunes]
Story Analysis & Ratings:
Lucy says: 5 Pops ~ Lucy’s comments are coming soon.
Lucy’s rating breakdown: Protagonist: 5, Main Cast: 5, Supporting Cast: 5
Alastair says: 5 Pops ~ The writing unfolds beautifully as the story progresses, revealing new layers of complexity and character. Life may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a masterclass in character writing.
Alastair’s rating breakdown: Protagonist: 5, Main Cast: 5, Supporting Cast: 5
Poll: Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Story: A former police officer returns to the force after having been wrongly imprisoned for years. Creator: Rand Ravich
13 responses to “Ep. 55: Life”
I LOVED Life. Some of the flashback stuff got on my nerves in the long run, but otherwise great stories and interesting construction.
I, too, watched the series all the way through a while ago – sometime after Jenny blogged about it probably – and it’s one of the shows that I have no trouble selling to people on the street corner. I love the layers and I love how it’s not like all the other cop shows out there. I love the connection between Charlie and Ted. I love how Charlie’s trying to get his life back together, doing the Zen thing, eating fruit and yet not ready to let his dad back into the lifeboat. It shows he’s a real person.
I think this is a different kind of community. It’s not a ‘family by choice’ or a bunch of buddies type of show we might be used to seeing but this is more like the community that Charlie is recreating now that he is establishing a new life. I don’t think we have equal partners to Charlie – although Dani comes close in air time and Ted is certainly his conscience – not to mention the police force as a whole, and the people he is investigating, are part of the community Charlie is building around him, too.
The part about Charlie building a community around him was the constant question in the first season about who he could trust. Both his former partner and current partner could be active parts of the conspiracy to send him to jail or have ties to the conspiracy. He also had no idea if his boss’ motivation came from the heart of the conspiracy or just from political pressure.
At the very beginning the only people he trusted was Ted and his lawyer. And there is a solid argument that by the end of the lawyer’s appearance in the show that she didn’t necessarily stay in Charlie’s corner. At least not the part of his corner he needed her to be in.
I need to go back and watch the second season with the question of community and see if that changes once he is “cleared” according to those around him.
The character of the lawyer always bothered me a little, because the set-up for a romance was so clearly there at first, and then they just phased her out; it was kind of confusing. I think one of my favorite things about this show was how Charlie dealt with being both a cop and an ex-convict. It seemed to make his job more difficult at times (I remember an episode where he actually pulled his knife on someone he was chasing instead of his gun). But at the same time that experience seemed to make him a better investigator; he looked at the evidence and especially the people in a case differently than the other cops around him. For me, that’s always set this show apart from the other mystery/procedurals I watch (and there have been a lot of them).
I just re-listened to the Life podcast. One of the things I realized as Lucy and Alastair were discussing the way the series is shot is that, for me at least, the way light is used is reminiscent of that moment when you go from a dark room to somewhere well lit, when the light can be overwhelming, even blinding. Charlie has been locked away, in the dark, for so long that leaving prison would have that overwhelming visual component, like going from dark to light. In some sense, it seems that the way the series is shot, not just in terms of light, is a reflection of Charlie not yet having fully adapted to life outside prison – he doesn’t quite know how to experience the world around him, how to take in a world that is light and bright, rather than dark and dull. It all these details, such as the aesthetic, that made me fall in love with Life.
I wanted to bring up Bobby, the former partner. I loved the fact that during most of the first season, he was seen as suspect. That perhaps he had helped to set up Charlie. Charlie had a cut on his hand that he claimed was from an arrest that he made but Bobby didn’t see the cut happen and testified to that on the stand (I believe). The whole thing is painted, at least early on, as evidence that Bobby threw Charlie under the bus.
But there is a moment, I think when he’s talking to Dani later in the season, where we really dig into that testimony, where he says that he wanted to help Charlie but he couldn’t lie. He DIDN’T see Charlie cut his hand and if he got caught lying on the stand, it could make things even worse for Charlie in the long run. And I can’t remember the exact episode it happened in, but I believe that he was threatened with jail time himself if he did testify on Charlie’s behalf.
After that revelation, there was a major shift for me re: Bobby’s character. I realized that he had been put in a really tough spot and had done the best he could under really difficult circumstances, just like Charlie.
And from then on, I really liked Bobby.
In fact, he’s the reason that we started (and kept) watching AMC’s “The Killing”- Brent Sexton is AMAZING on that series. Not a great show, IMHO, but his performance is worth checking out.
This show. THIS SHOW. I need to go through and read/watch your comments on it, but I’ve been a life-long television watcher. I watch for the stories and the characters, and I can honestly say that I’ve not fallen this hard for a show ever before. This was seriously the show OF MY HEART. It has problems and definitely isn’t perfect, but the characters and the way that people were written like PEOPLE just. This show.
I know, it was like that for me, too. I flash back to the series finale so often it’s practically a meme in my brain.
I felt the same way about Bobby. He won me over completely in the finale when he does risk everything to help save Dani. He was just so good all the way through the series. But then everybody in the series was.
I love the light in the final scene of the series finale. And the song “More Than Alive” that plays over it. Complete redemption.
I am curious about people’s experience with this show. For me, I very much came at it loving Dani and her arc (until it hit the beginning of season 2 and… oh my god do I have problems with a lot of the superficial changes they put Dani through) and then falling for Charlie and the partnership. Their partnership just makes me want to flail until I can’t talk anymore. Heck, I’ve written thousands of words of meta on the series, but a lot of it boils down to the growth and arc that both Charlie and Dani take. I think one of the most amazing plot decisions in the entire series is where Dani and Charlie both make the decision that they KNOW their partner well enough to trust that the damming evidence in front of them is not the full story. And that they trust each other enough to wait and ask about it later.
And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the parallelism between the first episode and the last episode. Charlie answers his own question to Dani about if she’d ever been loved enough for someone to nearly sacrifice their life for her. And while it definitely does not have to read as romantic love (although it could be), the look on their faces in the last scene? Oh, this show broke my heart so hard, and put it all back together again.
And I’m honestly shocked how much it worked given the commentaries on the dvd’s by the producers. Seriously, I listened to them and could not believe that the show we got came from that creative team. There are SO many layers and so much meaning and so many themes. And maybe it was just a bad day for commentary, but yikes.
I’ve never listened to the commentary so maybe I won’t now. My favorite show of all time.
Jenny: Do yourself a favor, and DON’T. I was thrilled to see so many commentaries with the cast and writers, and I have NEVER been more disappointed in a commentary than with these. There was little to nothing in the way of character discussion or critique of the writing process or the Crews/Reese partnership and dynamic. I was really sad because I wanted a lot more discussion from Shahi and Lewis about their parts and process, but they were mostly relegated to vague comments and the occasional pithy comment. Nor was there much discussion of the composition and visual style of the show. Which. !? For something with so much obvious care and intent behind it, the lack of discussion is next to criminal. Compared to the Leverage commentaries, these were just. Well, a massive disappointment.