Backstrom: Give ‘Til It Hurts Review
When a popular philanderer is killed in a hit-and-run, the entire charitable community becomes the unlikeliest of suspects!
“Their biggest problem is being rich bitches.”
Backstrom isn’t the sort of guy who’s going to rush to your rescue and beat your invading possum or other rodent life into submission. He’s going to pay you off to send you to a cheap motel for the night while the issue sorts itself out. This is how he operates, being snide around the edges of confrontation, and even though it’s largely worked for him so far; it’s beginning to come to a head here. Whether it’s with the hit-and-run case or his not-booty call with Amy Gazanian. Eventually he’s going to have to confront and accept change or he’s going to drive himself miserable repeating the same mistakes.
But while Backstrom the character continues to get caught up in familiar patterns, Backstrom the show isn’t doing any better on the matter either. This episode feels like a lot of jumbled pieces from former episodes. To kick things off, the hit-and-run of a wealthy socialite, Vanessa Taymor (married to the famous tennis player, Tad Taymor—yes, the Tad Taymor), has the SCU thinking that some of the organizations that she donated to could be the most likely suspects. This leads to the episode’s niche of the week being that of housewives and socialites, which is hardly new territory at this point.
Backstrom has taken a small hiatus, and it’s been a few weeks since we’ve had the “total dick” back into our lives. Has this absence made his return all the more pleasant, or merely a somber reminder of how he’s already a cliché that’s outstaying his belligerent welcome? Well sure enough, it’s not even five minutes into the episode that Backstrom is more concerned with how his jokes about the deceased are doing, than the actual case itself. Not long after he’s griping about a suspect, “Terminal cancer, huh? Talk about overdoing it with the alibi.” Later on he’s stealing food from the homeless at a shelter. Yeah, same old Backstrom here.
We see the SCU breaking up Mahjong games and ruffling sundresses as all of this kind of washes over you like a thrown mimosa. The case is far from the series’ most interesting, and we never really get a chance to care about any of the people we cross paths with here. The episode has more of an agenda with Backstrom attacking the crutches of the hospitalized, like their dream boards, again positing that his swinging dick of an opinion is the only right one.
Unsurprisingly we learn that this brashness has also led to Backstrom skipping his mandated check-ups to improve his heart (because improvements and weaknesses are lame), and if he doesn’t get back on them soon, he’s going to be facing some real problems in his job. This sub-plot mostly fizzles too. We know Backstrom is going to be in no real danger and that Amy is going to cause him to smarten up and get back on with his treatments. It feels like it’s just there to take up time and remind us that this is something that Backstrom is going through. A more radical turn or even seeing Backstrom get suspended for a few episodes (and needing to work out that tension at the same time) would have been a more interesting angle here. But perhaps this material will eventually build to something.
This episode also isn’t done any favors by the fact that it seems like it was pulled from production order and aired later on. We see Backstrom get his pedometer in this episode, yet we’ve seen him using it before. This episode mostly still works into Backstrom’s limited mythos, but the fact that it was pulled to air later shows that there was probably a lack of confidence in this episode, and it’s felt. Everything about this entry feels normal and ordinary.
For instance, we get plot points like Donald Sampson, the episode’s Donald Sterling substitute being chastised for his racial slurs, but really, is Backstrom himself that different? Honestly, I want to say we’ve seen him saying worse things on the show than Sampson does in the video. Granted, Sampson is a minor part of the episode but I just thought it was worth illuminating the vitriol and hatred that’s flung towards Sampson—showing the series attempts to have some degree of moral compass—while Backstrom is simultaneously being bigoted at the same time.
While we’re on the topic, the SCU’s Nadia has never really been given much of a character yet, with her instead mostly being objectified and mystified, but it doesn’t even feel like they’re trying with her anymore. She has the dialogue, “What do you think it stands for, you smartie pants, boys?” and it’s said with complete sincerity. It’s really embarrassing.
The real focal piece of the episode sees the entire SCU going undercover at the blackest of tie events to catch Sampson slipping up, but it’s really just an excuse to have them ogling each other and dressing up nicely. If there were any doubt of this, we’re “treated” to Backstrom in all of his made over glory getting a fancy entrance to the party set to Lil’ Jon’s “Turn Down the What?” There’s even an obligatory cringe-worthy, “Is that Backstrom?” that’s uttered just to remind you that you’re watching a pretty lazy television show. By the time we get to Backstrom and Gazanian dancing, drawing the attention and looks of partygoers due to just how good they are, the episode has moved to a pretty ridiculous level.
So while this episode is a lot of fluffy fun and goes down just fine, it’s not enough. We solve the hit-and-run down to the wire and the results are essentially irrelevant. We need to be building to something or at least see these characters learning from these lessons. At some point Backstrom’s actually going to need to charge into that bedroom swinging a baseball bat, whether there’s a possum in there or not. Just the fact that he doesn’t push his way out of the limelight is what’s important.
We’re not there this week. But maybe we’ll get splattered possum next Thursday.