BACKSTROM 1X11 Debriefing: Life is a cabaret, my friends

Backstrom cast

This week, Backstrom and the unit solve the murder of a performance artist who made his share of enemies, but all is not what it seems when they probe into his life.  Plus, the detective’s softer side makes an unexpected appearance.

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

When local artist Timothy Fitch is found murdered on his stage, the team scrambles to figure out who would want him dead. His fiancée, Virginia Anderson, is too upset to answer questions, but reveals that his assistant, Moss Brady, would have had the most access to him. Meanwhile, Fitch’s sister Ariana was left as sole caretaker of their paralyzed brother after he crashed their car nearly a decade earlier, and she was seen confronting him at his studio for some financial assistance shortly before his murder. Moreover, they find a video of Fitch altercating with another local artist at an exhibit, after Fitch destroyed his painting, but that artist is eliminated from the suspect pool when he reveals that Fitch actually paid him $30,000 for a painting to use in his next installation. Where would a performance artist get that kind of money? From his wealthy fiancée who supported his vision, it seems. (Ain’t that the life!) In other words: there are a whole lot of people who would have a beef with him.

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

The unit is still after the assistant, and thanks to Backstrom’s unique insight into the mind of the artist (i.e. Backstrom’s alcoholism helps them figure out where a drunk partier would go for shelter on a rainy night), they find him passed out on a playground. This is when things get complicated: it turns out Brady is a former paramour of Valentine’s from his juvie days, and he is certain Brady couldn’t have done this. He pleads with his brother (I love typing that!) to let him go, but all Backstrom can promise is to eliminate Brady as a suspect as quickly as possible. Which he does, by lying to the man that Valentine deemed him capable of murder, and Brady in turn accuses Valentine of being a sociopath. (My, aren’t genetics strong?) In any case, the tactic works, because riling Brady up exposes the fact that he must have been drugged to have been passed out as long as he was, and wouldn’t have been physically capable of committing the crime.

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

The next suspect is Fitch’s ex-girlfriend Lucy Harnes, another performance artist. She’s currently living in a glass box outside a mall, claiming to be completely uninhibited in front of her audience. “All questions asked by the artist are answered by the audience,” after all. Backstrom confronts her after medical records seem to indicate that Fitch was beating her, but she insists that was part of her act, and that she asked him to do that for her art. Interestingly, she and Backstrom bond over their long-lost loves, the detective knowing all too well what she means by losing yourself in someone so completely that you don’t know where the line between each of you begins. (Now who could that be about, then?) Of course, because this is Backstrom, he can’t leave well enough alone, and their moment of synchronicity turns into a passionate frenzy, which is interrupted only when Moto barges in and reminds him that the whole world is watching, including Gravely back at the precinct thanks to the webcams. (Now, why is it that Gravely specifically is what makes him stop? Curious minds want to know.)

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

In any case, Lucy leaves an impression on everyone, and it’s obvious Backstrom is still enchanted by her. Yet, that gives him pause: could Fitch really have been through with her? It turns out, not so much: he’d gone to her show just before he died, and his fiancée had tailed him there, and realized their relationship wasn’t as over as he claimed. How could she compete with that kind of bond? She couldn’t, so she killed Fitch in a fit of passion.

Back on the barge, Valentine drags Brady over to force Backstrom to admit he lied about Valentine’s accusations, and after some terse words, the detective finally relents. Not only that, but he finished building the kite Valentine had paid him to make, albeit in a perfectly, er, symbolic kind of way. Backstrom insists what he does is not art, but there’s only one way to interpret the look in his eyes as he continues his work: wouldn’t you know it, he really does have an artist’s soul.

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the case in “I Like To Watch”: I suppose I should have known better given the skill of these writers, but it’s a tricky thing, tackling the world of (often pretentious) artists. Nevertheless, these characters were such interesting foils for the team, particularly Backstrom, that I couldn’t help being riveted by the hour. Particularly because it allowed us another peek into the detective’s psyche. Yes, he’s a depraved, offensive, narcissistic jackass, but he’s also got a deep well of sensitivity beyond that mask that we keep getting glimpses of as the season wears on, this episode being a particularly strong example of that. Coupled with some great guest stars (such as Ever Carradine and Ian Tracey), it was a thoroughly entertaining hour, with a little more backstory on our cranky detective to boot.

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

I was about to say that the revelation that Backstrom minored in art in college came out of left field, but you know what? It really doesn’t; there have been enough clues about his appreciation of the arts so far that I can buy it. (See: his love of kites, for example.) It always amazes me that we can see him be such a brute in one scene, then flick that switch and instantly connect to someone else on a deeply intimate level in the next, as he did here with Lucy. I don’t know if it’s Dr. Deb’s influence, or Val’s, or just a general increase in self-awareness, but Backstrom’s definitely been growing, one tiny step at a time. His waxing poetic over the art of kite-making, in spite of himself, was touching, and hints again at his true self we got an inkling of back in “Bella.” Only a true artist at heart would be insightful enough to muse that “that’s what makes it beautiful– not talking about it.”

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

As usual, my favorite parts were largely thanks to the interaction between Valentine and Backstrom. They seem to have embraced their fraternal bond wholeheartedly, including the squabbling and deliberate crap-disturbing. However, they also look out for one another without question, and that’s really sweet to see, even if they won’t admit to it. When Backstrom alleges he knows nothing about Valentine’s kite request, it would be easy to believe that these two grew up together, and not that they’ve only just found out they’re brothers. In what is becoming a bit of a trademark for this show, Backstrom discloses his true feelings for Val not through his words, but through his actions: he gets that project done, because he knows what it means to Val — but he still has to get the final word in (in the form of a phallic-shaped kite), because he’s the big brother and he’s going to be a jerk. Nonetheless, it was fun to see Val accept it, and acknowledge Backstrom’s sense of humor with the “rocket,” but he really got the last laugh given his subsequent activities in full view of his brother. I love their heart-to-heart moments on Backstrom’s office balcony, but the moments on the barge are the real heartstring-pullers.

Courtesy FOX

Courtesy FOX

Moreover, the rest of the team was in especially fine form this week, too. I love the repartee between everyone, and how any combination of characters seems to work, which I think is the mark of a particularly fine cast. I like that Backstrom and Almond fight over Niedermayer’s New-Age-Yuppie set of skills, I like that Moto puts his foot in his mouth at the most inopportune times to hilarious effect, I like how Gravely is constantly abhorred at whatever Backstrom pulls, yet is impressed by how they always work and I like that Nadia and Valentine are apparently BFFs now, too. (Though, that does beg the question of why they were so testy with each other at the fundraiser dinner a few weeks ago.) They’ve all gelled so nicely with each other, and I love that even the smallest of statements inform their personalities, and their backstories already appear to be quite rich.

I’m loving how Backstrom is coalescing into such a well-rounded show, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next two (!) episodes. What did you think of “I Like To Watch”?

Odds and Ends:

  • “Moto, punch Niedermayer for me. Then mess up his hair.” I think that’s how Backstrom demonstrates his love.
  • After Niedermayer describes Lucy Harnes’ ecstasy-fuelled performance: “You just described Burning Man.”
  • Backstrom: “Yeah, she’s totally guilty.”
    Gravely: “Of murder? Or simply annoying you?”
  • After Backstrom “I’m Xs” Brady’s debauchery:
    Gravely: “That must be really difficult for you, to imagine that scenario.”
    Backstrom: “Don’t mock my depravity, use it.”
  • Moto to the disappointed crowd after he pulls Backstrom out of Lucy’s glass case of emotion: “You guys need to go home now and watch some porn or something else American.” (I love Moto.)
  • Backstrom: “There’s no relationship between the artist and the audience.” Oh really, now? Me thinks the man doth protest too much.
Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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