Backstrom's finale, are you ready for it? I. Am. Not. I have been addicted to this puzzle of a show since I binge watched the first three episode before they became public. Backstrom has had me howling with laughter, insatiably curious about its titular character, charmed by the colorfulness and likability of each member of the SCU, and moved by the struggles of Everett Backstrom. If this show doesn't get renewed, I will be sorely disappointed. (Do you hear that, FOX? Can you feel my beady blues boring holes into your collective foreheads?) So, let's squeeze everything we can out of this finale, shall we?
Lieutenant Everett Backstrom is staring down a conflicted double barrel shotgun of great potential or certain obscurity. By the close of "Rock Bottom," Backstrom mush choose his fate. Will he choose greatness? Can he rise above his current state? Executive Producer Hart Hanson has promised us closure, perhaps even a smattering of redemption, for the tortured titular character. Does he deliver?
Does "Rock Bottom" Deliver Sufficient Resolution and Redemption?
Once again, as many times over the last 12 episodes, Rainn Wilson delivers an extraordinarily complex character
grappling with avoiding a reality he'd rather douse in a bottle of Scotch before inhaling pounds of food and smoking a hefty cigar most likely rolled on the legs of Colombian virgins. "Rock Bottom" has Lieutenant Everett Backstrom going through all of the complex emotions we've witnessed before and finally falls of the edge of emotion and surrenders to his oblivion.
I don't know your answer to the Backstrom resolution/redemption question, but I have a couple of my own You'll get that at the end of my final Backstrom for the season. Until then, be thinking about that question, toy with it from several angles, and discuss it with fellow viewers at home and below in our comments section. I truly want to know y'all's thoughts on what may be the last original Backstrom episode.
Bit by bit, over the first 12 episodes, every idiosyncrasy, every fault, and numerous secrets have come to light as Backstrom has been stripped bare like the immature flower bulb hidden beneath the offensive layers of an onion. Each acerbic, laugh-out-loud, and startlingly intriguing hour has whomped us over the head with a blindsiding reveal about how this man became the hot mess that he is.Our goal here is to determine if Hanson's intentions have been realized by the time the curtain falls on "Rock Bottom."
Deb Prophesys Backstrom's Imminent, Inevitable and Inconvenient Death
Before the theme song gets a chance to remind us what show we're watching, Dr. Deb, vibrating with fury, reads Backstrom the riot act, (and rightfully so), about his deceitful and destructive behavior. Dr. Deb is recommending Everett be relieved of active duty. It looks like we've come full circle, people. The pilot wasted no time in getting a pasty Rainn Wilson up on the examining table so we could listen to the litany of his hard-won failing physicality brought about by hard-living, and here we are back in Dr. Deb's office at the beginning of the finale and the sleuth is no healthier than he was in that first episode. He's even worse.
Backstrom's chemistry panels reveal that despite Everett's egregious testimony to the contrary, the lieutenant has been drinking, smoking, and eating like he's not really one glazed Krispy Kreme away from a cataclysmic and fatal medical event. Dr. Deb, however, has had enough.
"You lied to me, Lieutenant Backstrom," says Deb, "Always and every time since the day we met." He even brings up the farce about the AA sobriety chip and I'm wishing Moto would bend Backstrom over his knee and let Deb give him 50 licks across his bare hiney with a leather strap. Take that, Big Dick Detective. But would corporeal punishment be enough to get through to the misogynistic misanthrope who has yet to come to grips with the consequences of his folly? No, he has to hit his own rock bottom.
(As an aside, has anyone else noticed that the instrumental accompaniment to the show's opening credits sounds a lot like the tune that opened Third Rock From the Sun? Other than that odd little observation, I have to say I enjoy the score that segues from one Backstrom scene to another. Yeah, I like it. Wonder if it's for sale anywhere. iTunes, maybe?)
Dumpster Diving For a Dead Indigenous Body Under a Bridge
Remember last week when Backstrom found out that Amy's new beau
is Indian Reserve Police Captain, Jesse Rocha? Well, this dude shows up again, but this time he's the first suspect in the murder of his confidential informant, Mr. Jeremy 'They-Caught-Me' Chase. Rocha is found under the bridge with the dead kid, moving Backstrom nearly to tears of joy. He must have been a church-going person at one time, because prayerful form and content flow out of him naturally as he ad libs an irreverent prayer that Rocha is the killer. That would clear the way for Everett to worm his way back into Amy's bed, he thinks.
Rocha refuses to tell Backstrom what Jeremy Chase's final words were unless Backstrom welcomes him into the case. The slow cadence of Rocha's speech gives Rocha the appearance of being an ineffective sad sack. Is it even plausible that beautiful Amy is sincerely attracted to this doofus? This. Does. Not. Make. Sense. But, does love ever make sense, people? Not really. By the end of the episode Rocha has earned some respect, but not enough.
Rocha is Righteously Charged With Being a Dick
Backstrom has Almond Rocha arrested for obstructing a police investigation and basically being a stupid idiot. Once Rocha is trotted off, my boyfriend, Peter Niedermayer, launches into his weekly 'Theatre of the Energetically Morbid' as he interpretive dances his way through the order of events leading to the demise of the corpse du jour. Thank you, Mr. Kristoffer Polaha, for gracing my screen for nearly 13 hours, and thank you, Mr. Hanson and FOX for allowing him to do so. *sigh*
Niedermayer Tells a Tale of a Well-Orchestrated Murder
The victim had met someone at the crime scene where he'd been bitch slapped till his nose broke. He was then strategically stabbed in such a way that he would die slowly. He was then kicked hard enough to burst a kidney. It's a bit of overkill, if you'll pardon the pun. This is one nasty murderer, folks. In view of the evidence, Backstrom assumes it was an Indian because 'everyone knows Indians kill Indians.'
Girly-Man Rocha Sends Amy to Plea for Clemency On His Pitiful Behalf
Amy approaches Everett with an olive branch on Rocha's behalf in the form of the victim's final two words: "Rock Bottom." Amy argues that Rocha has the respect of all the reservations in the Pacific Northwest including the Wabacooche Indian reservation where a lot of the conflict involving the victim occurred. The fact that Wabacooche falls within Cooch County Sheriff Blue Backstrom's jurisdiction is not lost on the younger Backstrom. Amy says the murder had to do with a Cooch County meth dealer named Edgar Norwest. Backstrom, naturally, decides this means that Blue was either taking kick-backs from Norwest or blackmailing him. Everett jumps at the chance to catch Daddy Dearest with his pants down and pardons Rocha on the spot.
Bros Before Hos
Rocha visits the rub-a-dub tub to tell Backstrom that the victim, Jeremy Chase, was transporting drugs for meth king Norwest and had been flipped into being a snitch for Rocha who had arranged to meet the kid under the death bridge. It turns out Norwest has been dealing all over the place with suspiciously little interference from Blue. He's protected by a white lawyer who's well versed in Indian law.
So, does Rocha get to participate in the case? 'Bros before hos," says Backstrom, and they are off to the races together. Backstrom shares his concern about Blue's nefarious activities with his boss Cervantes who isn't interested. Getting nowhere, Backstrom decides to "go on vacation."
To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar
Backstrom takes off for Cooch County, driven by Valentine and accompanied by Val's mom, Lou 'Hooker-Turned-Evangalical-Dental-Hygenist' Finster. Something in the aura of this trip makes me think of the cross-country expedition taken by three drag queens in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Why is Lou there? Because she wants to make sure Everett doesn't tell Blue that Valentine is his son, but that's not all. She has a fantasy that it would do Backstrom good to visit the lake where his mother's ashes were cast.
Valentine Wears the Badass Pants in This Family
Valentine and bro Backstrom stake out a placed called Rock Bottom which is deep in the Indian forest. There they witness Norwest distributing an insane amount of meth. When Backstrom won't (or can't?) take a shot at Norwest, Valentine runs out and does it. Backstrom finds the knife that sliced Chase in Norwest's posession and the two arrest him. Norwest insists he isn't working with Blue, and it's hard to tell yet whether Backstrom is on to something about Blue or if he's totally deluded about his father being a crooked cop. Just because Blue's a jack hole doesn't mean he's crooked, right?
In walks Blue wanting to pull rank on Backstrom and take custody of Norwest. Norwest messes his drawers at the prospect of being released to the old man, saying Blue would plant him at his favorite homemade graveyard. A judge holds court at a cowboy bar and releases Norwest to the custody of his lawyer, whom we later see sliced in the ear balls (by Blue) and running for the hills.
Yo, Ho, Ho, the Gang's All Here
Arriving at the hotel, and then the bar, are the rest of the Backstrom Beasties in a lovely show of professional support. Backstrom pokes the bear by accusing Blue of taking bribes. Blue freaks the hell out and has a melt down. Interesting. Very interesting. You see, the strangest thing about Blue is that you can never tell if he's a good guy or a bad guy because a lot of what he says seems reasonable -- which means that Everett is either a delusional psycho or an extraordinarily gifted investigator who intuits things others can't see. "Rock Bottom" is our last chance to find out if Niedermayer was right when he explained that Backstrom lives intensely in the moment on a higher plane of existence from which he is able to hear the universe speak ... or if the lieutenant is a crazy mofo with a deranged view of his childhood and a vendetta against the everyone in everyone, especially Blue.
Rocha Goes Missing and Ends Up Mostly Dead
Gravely and Almond stake out the lawyer and find that Blue has chewed the guys ear balls off and chased him out of town. Moto and Rocha take off to arrest Norwest who instead captures Rocha and stabs him in his iliac in the exact same way he (Norwest) killed Chase.
Backstrom Isn't Common, He's Spectacular
Backstrom and Blue have a monumental pissing contest in the hospital parking lot. Backstrom confronts Blue about lying about his mother's death, and then suggests that maybe his mom cheated on Blue and that's why Blue has always hated him. Blue clocks Backstrom right in the kisser, then says he hates Backstrom because Backstrom doesn't believe in anything. He spews damning vitriol all over Backstrom, calling him a hateful loser who will never surpass Blues phenomenalness Everett stands there stunned -- or is he doing that Backstrom thing where he's absorbing every word and nuance Blue exudes? What ever he's doing, he's totally unaware of what his face is doing and that's part of what I love about Backstrom. His heart is always on his sleeve and it in no way diminishes him. Maybe it's a tactic to make his prey think they are getting to him, weakening him, when the exact opposite is what's happening. It's always after a moment like this that Backstrom does something unexpected and brilliant.
Back to the story ... Blue was an abusive SOB even when Backstrom was a little kid, so his excuse for hating Everett stinks of bovine feces and more. People aren't born with nasty perspectives on humanity, bug brain, they learn those things from watching others. Usually their parents. So, Blue, add some steaming hot donkey turds to your already stanky existance.
Little Man in Big Boots, Big Man in a Little Pond
Valentine sneaks up behind Blue who's suddenly got diarrhea of the mouth, and quietly eviscerates everything Blue said about Backstrom. No one knows Everett better than his brother does, so we believe him when he validates Backstrom as twice the cop Blue could ever be. There's something honest and pure about the little thief that rings completely true.
But that's not all. Gregory Valentine drops the bomb on Blue: I am your son and you should get the hell out of here. So, what was tickling Backstroms spidey senses while he was absorbing Blue's aura? Well, Blue had said that Norwest will never hurt anyone ever again, right? How could he know that so certainly? He could if he's whacked Norwest himself. Bazinga, baby. Suck on that.
Low and behold, the team finds Norwest's corpse right where Norwest earlier said Blue leaves all of his victims. Holy carrion, Batman, Blue really and truly is the antichrist; which means Backstrom has always been right and things are going to be okay. Things can be made whole, right? Well, just wait.
Will Backstrom Arrest Blue For the Right Reasons?
Almond and Backstrom have a chat about what should happen next as Niedermayer sits vigil over Norwest and Blue roams around unaware that he's been outsmarted. Almond makes a plea for Backstrom's immortal soul and advises he only turn Daddy Dearest in for the right reasons. He shouldn't turn his father in just because he hates him, but to do it because he's a bastard, a dick and a murderer whom Backstrom has sufficient evidence against to convict and throw him away until the end of days. Backstrom makes the call to the authorities about Norwest's corpse.
Blue arrives at the crime scene only to be relieved of his firearm and his badge. He refuses to give up his boots which could link him to the crime. Isn't that interesting? Now you're thinking, why would Blue be so careless as to leave boot prints at the crime scene, much less wear those same boots when he visits the crime scene later. Is it because he's stupid? No, Blue may be many things, but he is not stupid. It's just that he thought he was smarter than everyone else walking the earth. He never expected that anyone would find Norwest's corpse. After all, no one had found any of his previous kills, right? Blue severely underestimated his son's brilliance and that was his undoing.
What does this all mean? Has Backstrom defeated his nemesis, the bogeyman? Can he now go forward and live a happy life? Patience, young Padawan, we're not quite there.
I'm Me and I'm an Alcoholic
Lou takes Backstrom to the lake where his mother's ashes were strewn. In a surprising show of faith in the possibility of something more, something otherworldly, Backstrom asks his mother for a sign that he did the right thing about Blue. Seemingly disappointed, he floats the baby bowl his mother made him out into the water, then attends an AA meeting at Almond's church where he admits that he did feel something when he spoke to his mother.
At the AA podium Backstrom admits to his numerous addictions. He says that for the very first time in his life he feels like he's part of a team. He talks about his new-found brother, the loss of the love of his life, his failed career, and his peace with his mother's death. He admits that he is powerless against his addictions and he's never felt worse. As he speaks, tears well up in his eyes and dribble down his cheeks. There's that vulnerable face again, but for the first time it isn't hiding anything. He has surrendered. For a moment I wait to see if he's gonna brush this all off like he did when he gave Dr. Deb the sobriety token, but he doesn't.
What Comes Next?
That is the question, is it not? Has Backstrom truly hit rock bottom and will he take his life more seriously? As Rainn Wilson, Genevieve Angelson, Dennis Haysbert, Kristoffer Polaha, Page Kennedy, Beatrice Rosen, Thomas Dekker, Robert Forster, Rizwan Manji, Lolita Davidivitch and Sarah Chalke saunter off, arm in arm, into the sunset, I have hope that we have not seen the end of Backstrom, the man nor the show. I want to see more and know more about this interesting character and his band of bandits.
Did the Backstrom Fairies, lead by Mr. Hart Hanson, achieve their goal, fulfill their promise? What do you think?
Backstrom airs Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)