March M.A.N.T.I.S.- Episode 4: Cease Fire

March M.A.N.T.I.S. is taking you one by one through every episode of the ’94-’95 superhero FOX series M.A.N.T.I.S.  throughout the month of March (natch). Using the POW (Plot, Opinion, What’s Next?) format, I am watching each installment and sharing with all of my feelings and observations regarding each episode.

So strap on your exoskeleton, settle into your hovercraft, and load up on paralysis darts. But most importantly? Enjoy

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Today’s Episode: Episode 4: Cease Fire

P: A Russian national hails a Port Columbia cabbie and finds himself taken to an abandon set of train tracks, not his destination. The cabbie chases him away by gunpoint but never makes an effort to actually hurt or kill the Russian.

Meanwhile, in a van somewhere else in the city (maybe…it looks like it is at the top of a hill just outside the woods) a thin, pale, balding man (one of two models of “Computer Type” available in the mid-90’s) grouses about the Russian’s cholesterol with manic energy before firing, essentially, a drone(PRESCIENT!) that’s intended for our running Ruskie. Unable to evade the hunting explosive amongst the empty train cars, our victim blows up real good and we smash cut to opening credits.

 Drone or vacuum cleaner? You decide!

Drone or vacuum cleaner? You decide!

After the credits we learn an ex of Hawkins, Miriam Basuto, (Gay Thomas playing perhaps THE ex, the one that really matters? That seems to be the implication) is arriving from an unnamed African nature. She gave up on their romance, we learn later, to marry a man out of duty to her country. Now he’s deceased, she’s President Basuto, and in the U.S. to stand up for peace, although it is pretty vague what that means or why Port Columbia would be a logical place to make such a stand.

Hawkins, Stonebrake and bike messenger in tow, meets her, her daughter Sena (Mari Morrow), and her entourage at the airport. They’re all rocking tuxes because, well, take a look.

 Ballin'. Non-stop.

Ballin'. Non-stop.

When you look that good in a tux, why not rock it to meet someone at the airport, yes? Life’s too short not to drape yourself in men’s fashion finery, am I right?

Lieutenant Maxwell ends up on the scene with a Russian Interpol agent (hmmm…) as well as it is revealed President Basuto has been receiving many death threats.

 Tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead. NO! You're wrong! You jerk!

Tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead. NO! You're wrong! You jerk!

The man with the van, who is like a less fun prototype for Alan Cummings’ hacker in GOLDENEYE, launches another drone. Mantis detects it and gets the Presidential entourage out of their cars, but he cannot save the one security guy who was specifically marked as the target.

Maxwell investigates, Basuto treats her poorly, Maxwell tells her partner she hates her, Hawkins gives Basuto a hard time for being disrespectful. Because, you know, two women cannot be onscreen together and both have some measure of power without hating one another. I guess it is a compliment to the show that at least they don’t make it all about Hawkins and competing for him, although that is some of the subtext.

Bike messenger, scorching all the good will he built up last episode in his Rage-fueled machismo tete-a-tete with Barry Pepper here, does the obvious thing and falls head over heels for Sena. He visits her at her hotel stronghold where both reveal the other’s bizarre fetishes. He likes a woman in a hotel maid’s outfit and she likes a guy in…a leather vest, I guess?

 Ahh, early 90's fashion

Ahh, early 90's fashion

In any case, he helps her slip out to go dancing because, hey, they’re too young to care about unstoppable drones. Predictably an assassin finds them. He has terrible enough aim, despite his apparent career, that the Mantis is able to arrive in time and save the poor decision making duo.

A thumb found at the scene of the cold opening death confirms the Russian is the real Interpol agent, meaning the guy working with Maxwell is a fraud. Unfortunately, the information arrives too late to stop him from “painting” the President as the next target so the Mantis has to invent a sci-fi shield that looks sort of like the Stargate meets the Sliders dimensional rift except it only stretches, never releases to a different world. President saved!

 As that's missing is a guy with a dog's head mask or an alternate world where the Cubs won the World Series.

As that's missing is a guy with a dog's head mask or an alternate world where the Cubs won the World Series.

The false Interpol-er is hoisted by his own petard, accidentally marking himself the next target and the Mantis makes like Batman in BATMAN BEGINS and does not kill him but certainly does not save him either.

Speech made, conspiracy evidently derailed with that guy going boom, President says her goodbyes and returns to her native land.

O: After the treat that was “Days of Rage,” “Cease Fire” is probably the worst and certainly the least interesting episode yet. Rees is sidelined, bike messenger is back to being, well, terrible, and the pacing is abysmal.

The biggest offender though is Thomas. Lumbly does a nice job playing a nice understated (because he’s still Hawkins) range of emotions about the love of his life returning. The anxiety, the sadness, the small bit of hopefulness…you can pick up on it all with very few words from him. Thomas on the other hand…I never believe she cared about Hawkins. I do not mean she is lying, misleading, or manipulating him, just that, as an actor, she never sells this shared history.

Also, to editorialize for a moment, she does that terrible “I loved you, I love you, I’ll always love you…I wish I could be with you,” thing. People of the world: don’t do this! If you cannot or will not be with someone who loves you don’t tell them you really, truly do love them. That’s not cool. Let them down easy, sure, but don’t make them think that, if just the right thing happens, you’ll be on the first flight back to their arms. Even if it is true, that is not playing fair.

Anyway, I never buy that she loves him which leaves the whole emotional undercurrent of this episode dead on arrival.

On a positive note, umm…well…

 Drone

Drone

Oh, ok, here. We get to see two different types of “tech” vision, Mantis’s which we have seen before but I have never talked about and the drone’s. I like that they’re different, especially because all computers seems to have the same operating system and means of representing the human body. Also, given how many times Hawkins has been responsible in some way for whatever is the McGuffin of the episode, giving the drone a different type of “vision” made it clear that, for once, this was not a Hawkins invention twisted to evil.

 Mantis

Mantis

Speaking of the Mantis vision…why? He’s not blind, he seems to see just fine. And it’s not night vision because he’s seeing in that weird green color all time. Also in this episode (and seen in the photo above) the assassin does not have the same green hue to him post falling off the balcony. So…does Mantis-vision change depending on the consciousness of the person being looked at? Does it indicate the assassin is now dead? I guess I’m just asking, what is the deal with Mantis-vision?

W: M.A.N.T.I.S. reminds you that this is the 90’s by making an episode revolving around virtual reality. Will “Soldiers of Misfortune” introduce our first true super villain? Find out tomorrow!