Forever episode 17 review: Social Engineering

Forever's recent uptick in quality is reflected in this week's well-written and engaging episode about a cybercrime-related murder...

This review contains spoilers.

1.17 Social Engineering

When I read the synopsis for this story I groaned a little inside, because the focus on cyber-criminality when Henry doesn’t even own a mobile phone seemed concerning. Movies and TV shows are notoriously bad at representing anything to do with computers, as if those involved in creating them have never actually used one.

Thankfully, the amount of made-up-junk surrounding computers was kept to a reasonable minimum in what turned out to be one of the strongest stories so far. 

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Someone connected has his dirty washing aired on TV by a hacktivist group, and then ends up dead, unexpectedly. The suspicion quickly falls on the politician, except it is pretty obvious he comes from the Gerald Ford School of Presidential hopefuls, and not the Richard Nixon one.

While Henry, Jo and Lucas are still dealing with the body, a two person team from the ‘Cyber-crimes Division’ arrive, and without showing any ID, take up residence in the homicide department.

That seemed odd for a start, since surely the point of most computer work, unless it involves physically plugging stuff in, can be done anywhere. But, I accept that for the narrative to work these people needed to be visible, even if them actually being there was an anachronism.

Soon, it turns out that the hacker was killed by someone he knew, and not the sleazebag, and the hunt is on for the real perpetrator.

After being entirely side-lined last week, it was good to see Jo reassert herself as Henry’s potential romantic interest, with them lying in bed together, with gas masks on. Actually, they weren’t gas masks, as they’d have been suffocated by the lack of breathable air, instead these were full respirators, which made perfect sense under the circumstances. In addition to being mildly amusing, this scene opened up the possibility that Henry will one day confide in Jo his dilemma, but for the nth time it was a tease.

Henry’s ability to trust people with this knowledge was well explained by the flashback segments, where his original wife Nora turns up some fifty years after she had him committed to an insane asylum, with ultimately tragic consequences. What we’re not shown is what ultimately happens to her, but it seems oddly appropriate that she probably ends up in an asylum too given what transpires.

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The theme that this presents is one of being revealed, and how dangerous that would be for Henry, something the current case threatens to do from numerous directions.

Of the various threats, the most compelling is from Liz Chamberlain, played really skilfully by Erin Darke, a hacktivist who realises that Henry’s past isn’t what it seems. She doesn’t work out the full story, but she realises that he’s got plenty to hide, and threatens to out him if he doesn’t provide her with a death certificate. I’m not sure why she’d need one of those, given her skill set, but it creates some apparent jeopardy for Henry, which is duplicated when he works out who the real killer finally is.

What the writers got right was to generally stay away from the hacking side of these events, and instead focus on the characters and the motivations, while asking a few pointed and timely questions about the nature of privacy.

That Liz ends up obscuring his past might actually undo Henry at some point, because while the chance of running into someone from the University of Guam is quite remote, intersecting with someone who went to Oxford is much more likely.

Overall, this was one of the best stories this season, and another step towards someone else knowing his secret.

There are just three episodes left in the season now, and we’ve got a short three week wait until these are shown. While it has recently improved, Forever still isn’t achieving the viewing figures that would justify a second season, though it’s been picked up by the French TF1 network on a positive note. I do hope it does get another, even if shortened season, but I’m not overly optimistic.

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