Stalker: Manhunt Review

Plausibility slides as a sniper takes out a bride during her wedding ceremony, and the rare sniper-stalker is born! Spoilers ahead...

“I saw someone outside.”

It’s almost jarring when this episode begins and you’re greeted to images of happy, celebrating people drenched in sunlight. A more-cheerful-than-usual rendition of “Going to the Wedding Chapel” blares on the soundtrack and you might even question if you’re watching the right show. Of course, all of this is very quickly torn apart, by a renegade bullet no less, blasting this idyllic image to pieces, and taking the bride-to-be with it.

This week we’re given such a ridiculous, gender-entrenched, headline making sort of plot. It’s taking everything that’s been generalized about this show, as well as all of the ingredients that it continues to hyperbolize, and puts it all in a blender into this super-plot which is outrageous from the jump, when a bride is sniped during her wedding ceremony. The bride, Kara Lambert, was the daughter of a cop, and therefore her wedding gown might as well have had a red bulls-eye sewn in its fabric. Oh, and she was gay. Which means bonus points on this show.

Amidst all of this, we’re introduced to Trent Wilkes, an overly antagonistic antagonist to Beth on the law side of things. He tries to steal the Kara case away from her, because women are also subjugated in the workforce, not just brides waiting to be blown to pieces, too.

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McDermott continues to do bizarre things here and overact the hell out of Larsen, like when he obsesses over how he apparently always makes a bad first impression, pouting and stewing over it well into Beth having moved onto the specifics of their case. Later on he straight up coldcocks a suspect with his gun. And sorry to blow the load here, but he also shoots the sniper-stalker to death at the end of this one.

I also noticed that Jack wears a gold necklace too, something that’s either started in this episode, or been there since the pilot and I haven’t noticed. Either way, it’s another nice, bizarre Larsen touch. I’m loving all of it, but meanwhile, Beth is still having a hard time making herself stand out, even for an episode that’s largely used to feature her. Jack also gets slashed in the face with a knife this time around, and doesn’t seem to be scathed at all from the encounter. If there’s anything that could make him better it’s having a gold necklace and a giant face scar. Opportunity missed.

As Jack and Beth work the case, the main suspect is thought to be Paul, someone who stalked Kara in college, and Mr. Lambert claims he saw at the wedding. We’re treated to Jack watching the corresponding interrogation videos between Paul and Kara, and it’s actually pretty engaging. We keep cutting between footage of both of them, fixating on time codes and close ups on Jack’s eye as these stories are juxtaposed against each other; Paul insisting she wasn’t gay and that she enjoyed their sex, and Kara weaving a very different story. The clips cutting quicker and quicker, the two realities completing each other’s sentences and it’s hard not to think that Jack is seeing pieces of himself in Paul, too.

Because Jack is the biggest stalker in the world, remember? It’s gonna happen!

There are also constant shots of characters being offset, blurred, or skewed in their surroundings, whether it’s the glass of a window, the grates of an opening, or the pillars of a room. All ways to visually show us that people are not what they seem, that everyone has secrets (ie. you are a stalker), and obstacles exist between everyone.

As the episode progresses, Paul admits to being a spoiled jerk, but not the sniper-stalker. As he confesses his sob story, that has a reasonable answer to everything, including why he had a rifle in his room, he’s profiled by three people simultaneously as we have theory thrown over theory. Everyone’s the expert. So it’s a little jarring when in the middle of trying to catch Kara’s victimizer, we cut to another family, a mom and child, in the middle of being stalked, and nearly stabbed by an intruder in their home. It’s nice to get some sort of complication in this plot, rather than just moving along in a singular fashion. Even if it’s just heaping on more crime, it’s something more to the episode at least. This naturally ends up connecting to all of the Kara material though, with it being the rest of the Lambert family. It’s still pretty satisfying to see such a focused story expand outward and actually be this much bigger thing.

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It’s a little surprising that in an episode titled “Manhunt,” we get just as much investigating and profiling from Jack and Beth, rather than an episode that gives them more agency and the bulk of the episode being a chase to track down the sniper-stalker before it’s too late. It still flows nicely enough though, but it would have been nice to get the structure shaken up a little bit here.

This episode turns in on itself even more, turning out not so much to even be about Paul, but instead being more about someone wanting to get even with Kara’s father, not Kara herself (as well as briefly, gang activity, apparently?). It turns out to be Silas Martin, a former employee of Kara’s father who he fired after showing signs of being repeatedly unstable. Throw in a dash of PTSD and you’ve got yourself a sniper-stalker.

When we eventually see Silas’ environment, it’s full of circled passages, highlighted destination points, shattered photos of former friends and colleagues, and other textbook examples of holding a grudge and being guilty. And naturally they find a confession manifesto video where he hits the nail on the head a few more times for good measure. It’s deduced that it’s all a big power exercise with Kara’s dad having destroyed Silas’ identity by firing him, so he wants to destroy his identity by killing his family, which is enough of an explanation for a forty-two minute show about stalkers.

And while we’re on the word, I guess the show’s obsession with overusing the word “stalk” has ended, which is too bad really, because it was one of my favorite, over-the-top touches of this show. I daresay characters this week even say “followed” instead of “stalked” in a move that I just can’t wrap my head around. The “stalk count” at the end will remain, ever hopeful, but I’ve certainly curbed my expectations accordingly. We’ll see what happens next time Williamson is penning an episode.

As things wrap up, another in what appears to be an obligatory Jack-talks-to-Amanda-about-their-son scene that doesn’t progress the topic any. It doesn’t even organically weave through the scenes where they’re working together, but is rather shoehorned in the final minutes of the show. As is another “Jack is King of the Stalkers” scene where he spies on his former family, nearly getting caught this time.

For shame Jack, you should know better. It might have even been the glare off your gold necklace.

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 “Stalk” count: (a not-even-trying) 2

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3 out of 5