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TV Review: Painkiller Jane – “Catch Me If You Can”

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"It's getting better all the time. It's getting so much better all the tiiiiime."

I was already in a musical frame of mind as I couldn't get Dave Clark Five's "Catch Us If You Can" out of my head. (Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm …) But the Beatles tune also seems to apply. This is the episode that may help stem the criticism of the show; there's much less to criticize. This episode is more developed, and we meet a lot more people who don't seem to have the milk of human kindness suckled out of them. A lot more happens during the day too, which is refreshing. The conversations are more snappy in their back and forth like they've never been before better all the tiiime.

Different this time around are time stamps on the screen which definitely help move from scene to scene. In this episode specifically they were important, but you can see why other shows use them; they are the transition the brain needs to go from action sequence to people sitting around a table to, let's say, someone getting shot.

Speaking of which: A guy gets shot in this episode. Just one for a change. It happens at the beginning and the rest of the show is Team Vicodin trying to prevent our girl Jane from killing him. Got that?

There's some Enya/Nine Inch Nails (circa Pretty Hate Machine) hybrid music launching us into the show. There's an assault on a building from people in camouflage. We see the faces of Mighty Misogynist, Maureen, and McBride (aka 3M) on some guy's green-screened PDA. We quickly find out it's Team Vicodin out there in camo. Boy, they're great at this secret squirrel sleuthing stuff; someone's spotted them and tagged them and hung them up on the trophy wall before the battle even gets started. Except this time, they have an excuse for being found out.

The shooter – some slacker-looking dude who doesn't know how to shave – has mines and tripwires set around the building. Still it's not enough. After thumb-squirting his chewed wad of gum on the gun-sight, our Neuro Of The Week shoots and misses a couple times before scoring direct hits on our fearless leaders.

Painkiller Jane makes a brazen assault with her best Tomb Raider pose, Desert Eagles deftly directed and firing endlessly in each hand. It appears she gets hit and just lies there. We know – 'cause we're gifted that way — she must be faking because she can heal herself without trying. She continues to lie there long enough for him to come downstairs – and see PJ. They know each other.

They exchange very brief pleasantries — Wassup? How's it hangin'? — and then PJ whips out her nail-gun and chips him. Or is that, chip-gun and nails him?

In short, the guy they're after has seen the future, and the future is them. So to answer, yes he can be caught. Here we go again hmm-mm-mm…

But, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. That was just the opening scene, and we walk back to the future from there.

This episode is about looking for answers: Why is David Hasselhoff so big in Germany, Painkiller Jane Vasco voiceovers. Good question, but then Europe sans-UK only seems to look for meaning in its classical music. "Answers don't always deliver satisfaction."

Wednesday 8:12 p.m.

PJ and a guy named Brian are happily, almost giddily for Jane, walking down a moody fog-filled street. At first I thought the guy, clean-shaven, was the shooter, but it wasn't due to the fact he was prettier. Brian is a reporter — and also the guy PJ kisses in the opening credits of every show. Vasco explains in a voiceover and in so many words that they've been going out just long enough where she can kiss him and leave him wide-eyed and blue-balled without any explanation. They do the Tom Cruise camera angle to make her look shorter than him. (Have I mentioned she's 5'11"? Because she is and I … that's just … and I want …)

She promises to make it up to him – and then… well, I'm getting ahead of myself again.

As they walk it starts to rain and mindful of the high-quality leather they're wearing and with apparently limited options, they run into a bingo hall that looks like it's being run in a laundromat. The bingo was a funny (ha ha) absurd touch I liked – "Man Alive. Number 5. Two Fat Ladies. 88" Wait, two fat ladies are there.

Vasco says she has to go make sure she doesn't look like a drowned sewer rat and heads for the toilets. I don't know what kind of place this is, but there's a flock of stalls in there, more than in any airport bathroom I've ever seen. In stupefied amazement, Vasco notices an envelope taped to the mirror with her name on it. She pushes or kicks or peeks under all the stalls to see if anyone's around. Because of the aforementioned number of them, this takes a full 20 minutes of the show.

When she opens it up there's a small-sized DVD and a single sheet of note paper that reads, "3 of your team will die." Alriiighty then.

When Brian appeared in the picture, literally, was the point when I remembered what I had read in my newborn research on the show and its actors. Happy to be in my own world, there were quite a few things I felt I wasn't understanding about the world of Painkiller Jane and Kristanna Loken so I started reading around. Turns out the powers that be are running these episodes out of sequence. So it wasn't just my imagination talking when I thought, where the fuck did this guy come from?

Back at HQ, they're watching the DVD, and it's the same guy we saw dead from the original scene.

He's talking directly to PJ. With the sincerity of Kurt Cobain, he's saying he doesn't know who she works for but maybe she can help change the inevitable. Maybe he doesn't have to die. Maybe 3M won't have to die, and maybe, just maybe, she can help avert all the other disasters he's seen.

"I can't stop them, but maybe you can. … Please don't come after me. Keep your team away. It's the only way to save their lives and mine."

Vasco mentions Brian to Maureen, who doesn't look put out that PJ's going out with anyone. Let's wave the lip-lock fantasy between the two bye-bye. Apparently Painkiller Jane is bisexual in the comic book the show is based on, Loken's open about her homosexuality in real life, and has done a few well-received star turns in HBO's The L Word, where the L word is seven letters and rhymes with lesbian. Anyway, that's the skinny on the street.

Temple's Vascoesque Voiceover: You know, sometimes information just becomes information I don't need, baggage that becomes unwieldy to even the seasoned TV traveler. Live and learn, but a lot of things just aren't important to understand a TV show. And seriously, why IS Hasselhoff popular in Germany?

Thursday, 8:53 a.m.

Riley's been "tracking" weird calls about a being able to know what's happening in the future. The police apprehended the guy after an airport scare but let him go. Not before the dirty media took video footage. Gulp. It's the same guy on the DVD. Turns out his name is Ethan Grant. Gulp. Vasco shows them the DVD message. Coincidence? Nope.

McBride wants to stop Grant from being able to see the disastrous end of lives. With a glint in her eye, PJ points out that rather obvious aside, that "3 of You Will Die" if they all go after him, a suspected Neuro. Why go after him, PJ asks. "No crimes have been committed and in fact he's saving people's lives. Why assume he's trying to hurt anyone?"

"Because he can," McBride snarls in return, adding that being able to figure out presidential motorcade routes and the final season of Lost in advance can do great damage to the country.

A little Riley Nerd juice dribbles on the keyboard and they've found the poor boy's sister's apartment and head over for gin and juice. They have to settle for coffee and cookies, though. Sarah Grant, 403 Morningside Lane is the fair one's address.

We see Ethan suffering from information overload. We see him sitting in front of TV screen, with images flashing and tumbling around him. He seems to be filtering a lot of visions to detect the worse. But he still knows people are dying.

Thursday, later in the afternoon

Team Vicodin catches up with the sister at her big, rug-bedecked place. Sarah serves coffee in nice china cups. The apartment has hardwood floors and looks expensive, except she tells them she was heading to work — in the middle of the day? When they tell her they know what her brother can do, she stops in her tracks and starts unburdening.

She knows of her brother's talent, but it's a new development. It's progressed from vague feelings to outright visions of "When and where and how many people are going to die." Though he has been there, Sarah doesn't know where he is now.

"When these premonitions first started," she says, "he was afraid they were the result of some secret government experiment. And now he's afraid they want to dissect him and he probably wouldn't like I was talking to you."

Ethan told his the sister the same story about three dead federal agents. Sarah got the feeling he was saying goodbye, but in a tingly moment of cool, you realize she's talking to the woman who shoots him. He calls in while they're there and starts talking on the phone about 11 people dying in a six-car traffic pile-up accident after a traffic light and five blocks of power go out. A transformer explodes at the Westdale Power Station within the hour. 

Thursday, 4:30 p.m.

The outdoor BBQ traffic accident happens because no one listened to Jane as she's left hangin' on the telephone as she and McBride head to the scene. They eventually get there and it's a fiery mess. I idly wonder why Ethan couldn't have called a warning in early, but I quickly stomp that wonder into submission. Anyone can wonder themselves into a funk and a pointless exercise of criticizing the indefensible. That's too easy; all shows can crumble under such scrutiny.

PJ beseeches Andre to stop the pursuit of this Neuro. "You have to let this one go, Andre." He says they can help the guy get rid of the visions and lead a normal life by chipping him.

The sleuthing continues and they find themselves in a military surplus store near where his sister lives. The owner behind the counter says she he told her his name was Sam Whitaker. After trying to downplay his purchases — ropes, water purification kits, and other survival gear — she finally owns up to selling him a couple of rifles and knives.

Just then nosy parker Jane eases open a small cabinet out on the shop floor and sees grenades and semi-automatic weaponry inside. See, the cabinet was unlocked with the key still hanging in the hole. It happens. It does. Threatened with closing up shop for selling these illegal items, the owner opens up like Britney on a drunken binge. Apparently, he was freaky enough to attract her attention, but she wasn't going to let the idea of a homicidal serial killer deter her until her own very ample ass was on the line. He's been buying "enough guns to supply an army" and trip wires, she says.

They get some of his order forms and while the address is no help – his sister's – they see a doodle of three crescent moons. Maureen makes the connection back at Vicodin HQ; the logo is from a pair of trendy Tosrona sneakers and their trendily closed factory is downtown.

The team, being very focused, decides they really need to go after the crazy guy with guns so he doesn't injure and maim with his stockpile of weapons. Jane looks at them all skeptically. They all dutifully trudge over there and it looks like the same place where the final scene unfolds. There's even an orange door and we know he dies in front of one.

Everyone's inside, with flashlights. They're all in camo and it all amounts to nothing. He's not there. "So much for the doodle clue," Maureen says in a weird moment where she voiced the exact phrase I was thinking.

Friday, 5:05 p.m.

Ethan's wearing a gas mask, sitting somewhere with the images and scenes flashing all all around him, again.

Riley's lifted fingerprints off the receipt from the gun place and discovers a treasure chest of aliases and info. PJ stands near and Nerdboy snaps a glance at her own treasure chest.

"Brinkers Men's Gym," and John Robbins flash on the screen.

Riley continues his infatuation, and she uses it to get him away from the computer and in search of "audio files" of Ethan's calls. In what we who can't think of any other words to use, this was overplayed, ham acting. Riley literally stumbles away to please her.

Jane scribbles down the gym info and deletes it. She's going there alone to protect her team. They believe that everything is predestined, and she's determined to live the freewill lifestyle that says things can change.

Ethan and Jane do a little dance around rows of lockers. PJ wants to bring him in, but he says it's too late for him to break out of his fate, but she needs to "find a way to take one link out of the chain." What, like taking him and chipping him? Or imprisoning him temporarily?

She has a chip gun but he doesn't want to be changed. About to ignore him and his whining about living in a world where pain rules, she's all set to lunge when a couple of bouncer-types come in saying she's not allowed in a men-only gym. Though she could probably find a way to kick their asses all the way down Main Street and back, she leaves quietly.

Saturday, 2:14 a.m Subway HQ

PJ takes the "break" part of breaking the chain seriously. She knocks out team members Riley and Connor King with a syringe full of something suitable. And while they're out she lays waste to Riley's computers, so he can't track Ethan or her. And this isn't pull a spark plug so the car won't start damage, this is serious baseball bat to the head, heart, and gonads force. (Doesn't Riley have backups? Arrogant geek.)

Jane packs a bag and heads out of town. McBride ain't following her; he's focused on Ethan. They go back to the sister's place and with computers down, they search it out with good old-fashioned detective work. Crimes were solved before computers, he says. Good point. Where's Sherlock Holmes when you need him?

We get a split screen device, twice as nice. Production values rise again. She's driving, looking wired and worried, and Team Vicodin is at the sister's place as Connor the Misogynist pulls hair out of a shower drain. They're going through everything and finally open a closet door and see dirty boot marks. A dirt analysis helps them narrow down where Ethan's been.

PJ's car overheats, but she doesn't care. She's happy to know she can't get back into town before the fatal shoot-out.

Saturday, 23:52

Ethan is working out, doing push ups and getting ready to die fitter than he's ever been.

Jane, parked, sits in her car and for some reason I missed, sees that she's not so isolated after all. She's been parked next to a Metropolitan Police Training Unit. And there's an orange door. Oh sheeeet.

She tried to change the future — and couldn't. There's some fair to decent internal foreshadowing in this episode and almost everything has a logical place in the story. PJ notices Andre's Ford Expedition right outside as well. She reaches back to grab her own com headset so she can hear what's going on.

And the opening scene plays out, with mysterious steam and smoke all around. Except I've got to think that all of Team Vicodin is wearing their Kevlar. Andre confidently says the three can't die because, "It wont be what he predicted. Not without Vasco."

What better Famous Last Words can there be?

The shots start flying. "I don't think the stealth approach is working," Maureen says. Connor goes all stupid, wanting to charge the guy. McBride, almost as stupid, wants Maureen to lay down some fire as he runs out to fire on the guy. He gets shot down like a rabid dog. Maureen goes over to help, and sees a wide open gash in the wrist heal (which is the only recognition of Painkiller Jane's power in this episode). The body filling the clothes has lady lumps. It's PJ trying, successfully to draw fire.

Vasco drugs Maureen (or chips her, I couldn't quite tell) so she won't do anything stupid, which the look on Maureen's face says she badly wants to do.

The beautiful music starts again. Ethan thinks he's killed the three and is ready to die. He walks out to Vasco. "So, here we are. Yeah, here we are" and she whips out the chip gun. "It will suppress your abilities. No more premonitions."

And she fires. No one dies.

"But I saw my own death."

"You shouldn't believe everything you see," comes the reply and PJ is clearly feeling vindicated that it is possible to change things.

Except, nothing's quite so easy in Jane's world.

We've just seen all the team members walk up giving a feint to the "3 of you are going to die" message. But remember, Ethan has rigged the place with bombs and tripwires. As they walk away from the scene she trips a wire with her foot and they both get launched into the air. Of course, she's okay, but he's a little dead. PJ killed him after all, and she really doesn't like this idea that the future is foretold and everyone's just going through the motions. She sheds a tear, likely wondering if she will always live a "pain, no gain" lifestyle.

They search the basement of the training facility. They see this is where Ethan has all his survival gear, "gas, medications, medical supplies, gas masks," and Maureen picks up a drawing of PJ that has "JANE 113" scrawled on it. What's that, Maureen asks. Good damn question. And one with no satisfying answer. Not yet.

The walls are covered in drawings of all kinds of disasters, including dams breaking, airplane crashes, and one with a mushroom cloud and a Population 0 sign in the front, dam breaking, car crash. McBride wonders aloud whether these are things he saw but had not happened, yet. If Ethan can see the future, Vasco thinks, he may have known a lot about her, and wonders why he didn't want to share that personal history with her.

The coroner takes Ethan Grant's body away.

Next episode, Jane Vasco: Ghost Whipper … People experience mental breakdowns in a haunted house. Okay, it's actually called, "Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself." The show airs Fridays at 10 p.m. EST and 1a.m. EST.


Now that I've been reading up, there's an angle of all this I haven't appreciated. In the show there's been knowing smiles and a few phrases, such as she'd be happy to be in the middle of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a great distraction and … Where was I? Oh yeah, the original comic book character Painkiller Jane was bisexual. This may or may not have helped Kristanna Loken get the part as she's an openly lesbian woman.

Some speculated Maureen Bowers was already her bed partner, though not live-in bed partner as Loken is frequently alone in her apartment. But this episode seemed to dispel that idea.

Just last episode PJ had this weird smile on her face when Riley was seemingly showing an interest in her. I attributed it to something else, but since there have been a couple of these smiles when sexual attraction has come up in the show, I'm starting to think it'll be a real sub-plot before the end of the season.

— Even before it aired, other reviews and comments really seemed to pin their hopes on the fourth episode, as if saying, if you haven't got what it takes now, you never will. And as mentioned, the episodes are now being aired out of sequence so there's goes any pretense when I look for evolution of character traits and story arc.

The Doc is in this episode for less than a minute and Joe Waterman, mentor guy is nowhere to be seen.

Now that I've read about the show I've started noticing the short cuts as a result of the small budget. I hadn't even thought of the budget before, but apparently it's no one million dollar an episode deal. Of course, the blue screen of death from the out-of-control train in the opening scene of episode three was a big clue as well. In this episode it's obvious they're wandering around a back lot of the studio.

Lastly, I've been enjoying some of the reviews titled "Painful to Watch" that complain about the show being cliche-ridden. Comedy gold.

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.