First aired:20th September 2011
Poppy Montgomery – Carrie Wells
Dylan Walsh – Al Burns
Michael Gaston – Michael Costello
Daya Vaidya – Nina Inara
Kevin Rankin – Roe Saunders
Deanna Dunagan – Alice Wells
Sofia Jean Gomez – Catherine Grant
Roxanne Hope Radja – Wendy Wilson
Brian O’Neill – Frank Harbert
Clem Cheung – Mr Lin
Synopsis: Carrie Wells is helping out at a care home, showcasing her perfect memory, whilst tending to a woman who doesn’t know her, that is clearly her own mother. That night, she uses this perfect memory (a symptom of the condition hyperthymesia) to play cards at an illegal casino, then gets away from the casino’s owner Mr Lin, who takes umbridge at her success. She goes home alone and nostalgically gazes at some old postcards until finally she sleeps. Several hours later, she is awoken by the sound of glass breaking and a scream. Heading outside she finds a dead body.
The body belongs to her neighbour Catherine Grant and a group of detectives from the local precinct in Queens arrive, Mike Costello, Nina Inara, Roe Saunders and unfortunately for Carrie, Al Burns. Burns looks at the scene, determining that this was a lonely woman. Al checks in on the neighbour/witness and finds his old partner and ex-girlfriend Carrie Wells. They reconnect, well mostly bicker, their parting being clearly acrimonious. Al leaves, but Carrie’s prints are found in the victim’s apartment and the victim is found to have had several names and little actual history. Al goes to see Carrie again and asks for her help, she walks through the scene as she remembered it and this leads Al to the murder weapon.
Roe tracks down her last place of employment and learns that she hired a van so she can get away from her boyfriend. Al looks at the crime scene photos and asks Carrie to point out what is missing, since he knows Carrie was in their and she will know exactly what was there, but isn’t now. Al brings Carrie on as a consultant and over a slice of pecan pie, the pair talk over old times. When Al gets the pie from the counter, Carrie remembers an intimate moment between the two.
The victim’s phone leads them to a lawyer called Stephen Latimer and her fiance Wendy, who’s past is a thin as Catherine’s and whose photo was in Catherine’s home. After failing to break her in interrogation, Carrie goes to see her at work and is able to get her to open up learning that Catherine was a girl from Minsk who was people trafficked to the states and sold into slavery. They both escaped that life and after a brief career in prostitution got new identities and new lives. Thing is, Catherine found Frank Harbet, the man who she was sold to and Wendy alludes to abuse suffered by Catherine at this man’s hands. She was blackmailing him and evidence places him at her home. Al arrests him and confesses, but Carrie doesn’t buy it, especially as he gets details wrong and she remembers seeing Ken, Frank’s son near her home on the same night. Carrie goes to see Ken, leaving Al a message before she goes, but since he’s at home with his new girlfriend, he doesn’t hear straight away. Carrie confronts Ken, but it goes south and it’s only Al’s timely arrival that prevents Carrie from suffering the same fate as Catherine.
In the denoument to this story, Al sends Carrie the case file for her sister’s childhood murder, with more notes added to it from after her time on the case. She was taken off the case, which led to her leaving the police and Al’s giving up on the case, led to their break up. As she looks at the file she quickly realises, he never gave up.
Notes: One of the co-producers of this show is the actress Marilu Henner, who herself has this condition, possessing an uncanny memory. This places the more bizarre parts of this in a degree of reality that lends itself to a police procedural. There are a lot of detective shows that have a straight laced cop aided by a erratic but brilliant consultant. Usually the straight laced cop is the woman and the erratic, but brilliant consultant is the man, this is flipped her and that is one of many pleasant surprises in this show.
It’s setting is away from the usual heart of the city type, this isn’t Manhattan, or LA or anything like that and this less glamorous setting is to the show’s credit. The supporting cast is very good, we have some thropey things here, but these characters feel grounded in this show, where elsewhere we would see them as cliched. The standout in this is Kevin Rankin’s Roe Saunders who is almost unpleasantly abrasive, rather than one of the team. You get the feeling he is more tolerated than liked, but he gives a performance that is still a little likeable. Gaston and Vaidya do a quality job, but this isn’t going to be the episode that showcases what this trio is capable of as part of the show. Moving up the ranks is Dylan Walsh’s Al. Walsh is a capable actor, who I have seen in a couple of things, his most famous being Nip Tuck, but this is something else. He plays a man who is as by-the-book as he needs to be, but is dedicated to his job, despite being worn out by it. He’s not the maverick cop that you would expect, but a solid investigator doing the best he can, but again, this isn’t his show either. Taking the lead role is Poppy Montgomery, who was entirely forgettable in Without a Trace, but here much like Walsh is given a role to get her teeth into. Playing Carrie as charming, but more than a little obstinate it’s easy to see her being both liked and also rubbing colleagues up the wrong way. She treats her memory like it’s a curse, but is also willing to have fun with it, which feels like an authentic way to use a talent like that. Montgomery is funny and warm and feels like the most fleshed out character in this show, which some female led shows don’t actually manage. She delivers lines with relish and seems to be having fun with what she is given to do.
But in reality, she isn’t the star of the show either, despite being the lead actor. The star of this show is the relationship between Carrie and Al. In just a few scenes, we see their acrimonious split, their history as both partners in work and lovers, without having been spelled out too much. Both are clearly still very much into one another and we get flashbacks of them as a couple and that shows both a chemistry between them as well as a realistic banter and verbal shorthand with one another that does come out of a close relationship. Carrie’s flashback ends with the line “All things considered that might be the dirtiest thing I have ever heard.” which is a nice line between a couple, but it comes back in the last act, sort of like Checkov’s double entendre and it’s stuff like that which fleshes out a relationship. They are no longer a couple, but you can imagine the close bond that they once had hasn’t really gone anywhere and their scenes together are touching, warm and at times funny. Al trusts her and gives her license to do whatever she wants to (but you get the feeling that she would do whatever she wanted anyway) and solves the case when no one else could.
The scenes of her using her memory to give a walk through of the crime scenes are interesting and well shot and is another reason that this show stands out amongst it’s peers. This is not the best show out there, but to be honest it is one that’s worth a try. It will rise and fall based on how well you receive the lead actors, but it is a very well put together show.
Does it work? Yes, police procedurals are a staple of television and have been for a reason.
Does much need fixing? Apart from fleshing out the rest of the supporting cast? No.
Does it stand up? Very well, it looks really good.
Do I want to watch the next one? I did and have started slowly re-watching it.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, this show is a lot of fun.
Overall: 5 out of 5. I am glad that the MIGHTY Rosie put this on the list.