Forever episode 18 review: Dead Men Tell Long Tales

With Forever's first season rapidly approaching its end, the return of Henry’s nemesis is never too far away.

This review contains spoilers.

1.18 Dead Men Tell Long Tales

With two episodes to go after this one, I was expecting the final third to start to hint at where the show wants to bow out. But actually, pretty much this entire story is a set-up for the conclusion. If I sound overly pessimistic about renewal, that’s because Forever can only a muster a third of the viewers that Modern Family attracts on the same network, and only marginally more than Selfie, a show that already got canned. I’d love to see a second season, but being realistic it just isn’t happening.

The whole thrust of Dead Men Tell Long Tales is the death of a dive salvage boss, and how this neatly connects to Henry’s first fatality on the Empress of Africa.

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The best parts of this story are those set in the past, because some of the others, such as the bar full of salty sea-dogs, was wading chin deep through clichés. And, unlike some other appearances, Lucas’s humour grates rather painfully in the few scenes they allowed him.

This trundles on with Henry showing an unhealthy interest in the ship, and not the murder they’re supposedly investigating until just over half way through, the headline guest star appears in the form of a slimmed down Cuba Gooding Jr. I’m not sure what direction Gooding Jr. was given, but he seems to be playing Isaac Monroe quite oddly indeed. It’s a bit like he’s not playing the character, but instead playing Cuba Gooding Jr. playing the character, if you follow. Whatever he’s doing, it comes over as rather eccentric, and he’s frankly a bit creepy when he hits on Jo for a dinner date. She takes her gun with her, quite rationally, I thought.

I won’t talk about what happens then, just in case you’ve not watched the episode, but needless to say it wraps up what is a pretty light-weight murder mystery even by Forever’s standards.

Much more interesting were the insights sprinkled throughout about what really happened onboard the Empress of Africa, and how it relates to Henry’s immortality. The reappearance of Adam in the midst of this wasn’t a huge surprise, though it happens much earlier in the story than I was anticipating. He’s got a great untested theory that the weapon that kills you first can kill you again, which I frankly didn’t buy because he didn’t have a shred of evidence as to how this might work.

I also didn’t buy it for a number of other reasons, not least that if there was something special about the gun, in this instance, then they wouldn’t have found the slave’s body in the coffin, as he was clearly killed with the same or a similar weapon. (It’s not something explored in the story, but a plausible reason for why he would be able to speak English is that he was himself a slaver, as it was the norm in this period for one tribe to capture their neighbours and sell them for export. But, I digress.)

I’d also find it hard to accept that you could easily return a weapon of this type to working function after it had been on the ocean floor for 200 years, making it impractical to use in any case. That briny scent in the air is a red herring, I suspect. Other than playing with Henry’s mind, I’m not really sure what Adam is up to, as by his own version he’s lost his first death weapon, so even a successful conclusion for Henry wouldn’t actually help him.

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A better theory I’d suggest is that because Henry dropped the key and freed the slaves he was blessed with some supernatural gift. One that requires another ritual to be performed to reverse, perhaps. If Adam is correct, then he can never die, and that means the only ending for him would to be trapped somewhere, like the bottom of the ocean, where he’s destined to die and be reborn repeatedly for eternity.

Whatever the truth, in two weeks’ time the long tale will be done, and I’ll be mulling how much it made sense and how neatly it concluded. I’m really hoping that the writers got the hint that this wouldn’t be a multi-season gig, and therefore wrote something that isn’t a cliff-hanger. Because I think we all, including Henry, deserve some resolution here.

Read Billy’s review of the previous episode, Social Engineering, here.

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