Backstrom‘s “Bogeyman” reveals a major piece of the Backstrom train wreck puzzle and it is a doozie, my friends. The detective pursues the case of missing 14-year-old Talia Lennox, a case which he immediately identifies as connected to the unsolved abduction of Lacy Siddon, which sent Backstrom careening over the edge seven years previously. The case is indeed harrowing, but I think we’ll find going forward that the bureau’s lack of faith in (and treatment of) Backstrom seven years ago will prove just as devastating and enlightening as the continuing case itself. Kudos to Rainn Wilson for his masterful delivery of a man obsessed convicted and eventually completely unhinged by a world he finds peopled with corpses who don’t know they are dead.
Through the eyes of Detective Sergeant John Almond, “Bogeyman” also provides a glimmer of hope for some long-needed future redemption for the acerbic, protocol-eschewing and indiscriminately bigoted lieutenant who now leads the Portland Special Crimes Unit. As a storyline bonus, Backstrom provides his own sordid detail about his nasty childhood, and is the catalyst for a big, though not unexpected, reveal about Valentine’s past. In brief, all of this Backstrom-y goodness makes “Bogeyman” the best and most interesting episode yet.
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Evil is Seductive Because Satan is Clever
“Bogeyman” opens with Almond’s church in the crapper due to being three months behind in paying the lease and the electric bill. The grandest purpose of this scene is to introduce, through Almond’s sermon to his congregation of believers, the natures of good and evil as they exist on earth. The Backstrom fairies, of course, used this as a metaphor for the slovenliness of Backstrom versus his innate goodness, his redeemable soul. Wha? Yeah. Just wait, you’ll see it as the episode progresses. Another Almond quote wraps the episode up rather nicely and much more directly than the opening quote: “Evil is seductive because Satan is clever. Temptation is beautiful; that’s what makes it tempting. The devil dresses evil up. Makes it look good. Evil sparkles, shines, while good avoids the spotlight. But good will always find the light.”
Backstrom’s Crucible Returns
Backstrom calls a desperate Sunday afternoon powwow with the Special Crimes team when he learns that Talia Lennox, a teen with mismatched eyes and similar features to past victim Lacy Siddon, has gone missing. Immediately he knows the two cases are related. Backstrom’s conviction is absolute and as pervasive as his not really misguided obsession with the guilt of his boyhood neighborhood tormenters Nick and Sam D’Agostino. Backstrom’s conviction feels significantly different this time, however, in that there is a psychotic evil to this case that scares the poo out of Backstrom. He doesn’t cower as he did with the D’Agostinos. He goes into full-on attack mode.
Seven years ago the Lacy Siddon case was never solved. There was no evidence of a sexual predator and no body. When he was made to abandon the case, that’s when Backstrom quit the force. Almond had worked the Siddon case with Backstrom and surprises him with the news that he believed Backstrom was right seven years ago and believes he’s right again.
Immediately a search for Talia’s cell phone begins. Nadia is able to determine who Talia had texted recently and where the cell phone was last used — in a dark tunnel where bad things happen — but neither the messages nor the phone’s current location can be determined.
A Sea Full of Black in a Room Full of Rainbows
A search of Talia’s room reveals the usual happy-happy unicorn and rainbow crap that most girls of a certain age have, but hidden in the closet is a trove of dark depressed clothing including several black hoodies. A visit to Talia’s ‘school for troubled girls’ nets some designer drugs bearing the dark image of a hooded man who we later learn goes by the name ‘Minus.’
Backstrom and Gravely find those drugs in Amber’s pockets. Amber is one of several darkly hooded girls gathered in the school yard which Gravely refers to as a heaven for perverts. Amber provides the name of Talia’s latest boyfriend, Claudio ‘Coitus Virgin’ Moretti, who claims Talia left him for someone older and more experienced whom she met on the Internet; someone bad. A search of Talia’s computer reveals a website featuring Minus, the Hooded Man, who wasn’t as good a guy as Claudio, but that made him better in Talia’s eyes because Good is Good but Bad is Better.
Later Almond uncovers this same image on the bottom of Talia’s bedroom desk drawer along with the acronym, “G.I.G.B.B.I.B.” which stand for the motto: “Good is Good, but Bad is Better.”
Amber Fakes A Kidnapping for Profit
Talia’s Mommy Dearest receives a ransom note demanding $50,000 for the return of her daughter. Immediately Backstrom smells a rat and insists the note is fake, but protocol demands the FBI be brought in on the case. Gravely is made FBI liaison while the rest of the team pursues the potential homicide of the missing girl.
The FBI demands proof of life and is sent a video from a cloaked anonymous cyber cafe which Nadia Paquet interestingly admits frequenting but won’t say why. Backstrom notices a tattoo on Talia’s arm in the video. It’s the same image Almond found in Talia’s room and on the pills Backstrom lifted off Amber at school. Backstrom insists the video is fake and drags Amber in for questioning. He gets Amber to admit faking the ransom note and sending the video of Talia to the FBI. He then forces Amber to take off her hoodie, revealing the same tattoo Talia had on her arm. Thus unravels the story of Minus, the Hooded Man, who promises a better life for misguided young girls. This better life is had in The Land of the Fallen, but you have to be invited there. Talia was invited; Amber was not. Amber says that’s why she sent the fake ransom note. Amber’s father agrees to let Backstrom have her cell phone and records.
Paquet Fakes-out Amber
Paquet, pretending to be Minus, invites Amber to meet at the tunnel where they suspect Talia was ambushed and taken away by her captor, the Hooded man. Amber agrees to meet, but instead of Minus she finds Valentine waiting for her. He and Backstrom interrogate her and learn that the Hooded Man had a limp and a cane. Amber cries. Backstrom thinks it’s because she’s guilty, but Valentine knows better from his own experiences. He correctly guesses that she cries because she knows Backstrom is right that there is no beautiful hooded savior who can take her to a better world because there is no better world. The knowledge of this breaks Amber’s heart. That and that she knows Talia has been abducted by someone very, very bad (and not in a good way). She also says Minus had a limp and used a cane with the hooded man on the top.
As Backstrom and Valentine were waiting for Amber to arrive at the nasty tunnel they had a conversation during which they discuss Backstrom’s own Bogeyman. When Everett was a young boy, his brothers told him the Bogeyman would get him the moment he fell asleep. To avoid being stolen by the Bogeyman, little Everett stayed awake for three days, eventually going psychotic and being locked up in the looney bin for six weeks. Now we know that a) Backstrom’s brothers were ass hats, and b) Backstrom’s history with mental disorders goes way back to his childhood.
Valentine Reveals His Own Crucible
Back at home, an exasperated Backstrom asks Valentine about his own Bogeyman and mentions that he read the police report of how Valentine had been abducted, held and sexually assaulted for three days. In order to get inside Minus’ mind, Backstrom wants to know how a predator lures his prey.
Tearfully, Valentine explains that the Bogeyman starts out kind makes you feel special and deeply loved. And you believe him because in his own twisted way, the Bogeyman really loves you. It’s a moving scene during which a lot passes between Valentine and Backstrom in the silences. There is clearly a close relationship between these two which continues to be more interesting as the mythology reveals itself. I find myself feeling a great deal of affection and respect for Valentine. He’s rouge-ishly adorable in a little boy kind of way. Though he has clearly seen the crummier side of life, he still has a youthful optimistic quality about him. Most importantly, he cares a great deal for Backstrom and is most likely the reason Backstrom hasn’t drank himself to death yet.
The final part of Val’s story about his Bogeyman is how his captor branded him with cigarette burns which Val later covered with tattoos. This makes Backstrom wonder where the girls got their Hooded Man tattoos.
Follow the Ink
Backstrom and the team stake out the tattoo parlor first thing in the morning and who should appear to open shop but tattoo artist Wesley Lewis (Fred Koehler) who just so happens to walk with a limp. Boom!
The Power of Prayer Circles
The team joined by several uniforms and rescue dogs descends upon an old junkyard which Lewis must have pointed them to. Searching everywhere, they come up empty handed except for some women’s clothing and the trappings of a baby. Backstrom knows that if they don’t charge Lewis with something, he will be free to leave and immediately kill Talia. The only way to protect Talia is to keep Lewis locked up, but how?
When all seems hopeless, Almond invites the team into a prayer circle right there in the junkyard. Backstrom reluctantly joins in after Moto reminds him he’d said he was wiling to do anything necessary to get the Talia back. As they pray, Backstrom realizes it’s unlawful to tattoo underage people and — voila — he has a legitimate reason to detain Lewis.
With Lewis in custody, Backstrom goes at him with everything he’s got. The two take turns trying to manipulate each other. Lewis is small in stature with a boyish face making it unbelievable that he could be Minus, so at first I’m really not sure. Throughout Backstrom is introspective, but also feverishly paying attention to every nuance of Lewis’ psyche. Playing on the distorted love Valentine said a predator has for his prey, Backstrom convinces Lewis that he himself doesn’t really care if the girl lives or dies, so unless Lewis gives up her location, she will probably die of suffocation.
Lewis caves and directs them back to a dog house at the junk yard. Under the dog house, the team finds a padlocked entry to a huge hole in the ground. Inside the hole: Talia Lennox, Lacy Siddon and the child Lacy had with Lewis. Wow.
When their findings confirm unequivocally that Backstrom had been right all along, Bacsktrom’s legs give way and he collapses. It’s a huge moment for this man who has been ridiculed and doubted his whole life. This is also the end of a chapter that began with him losing all faith and leaving the force. Perhaps some healing can begin if he’s now able to face the other elements that have contributed to his current wretched situation.
Almond’s Church Saved from the Crapper
Back in church with everyone but Backstrom in attendance, Almond thanks God for the safe return of the girls and the baby, then thanks God for Everett Backstrom. His closing words round out the episode perfectly and, once again, provide an even brighter glimmer of hope for our detective: “Good can also confuse us in deportment and appearance… “
As Almond delivers that final line, we see a drunken Backstrom cuddling a bottle and burping in his sleep. And finally, it looks like his sleep is a peaceful one.
Final Thoughts: What Makes Backstrom’s Slurs (Gulp) Palatable?
I think I finally figured it out, folks. I almost cringe every time Backstrom slurs his way through a scene offending any and everyone with his stereotypical epithets targeting every diverse group known to man. I’ve mentioned before that these verbal attacks are successful in disarming those around him and putting suspects on edge — a clear advantage when trying to get information from people loathe to give it. But here’s the other thing: Backstrom is surrounded by people who in their reactions and comments make it clear that they neither subscribe to Backstrom’s ‘opinions’ nor do they find them appropriate in any way. Quite the opposite — they look upon the detective with a great deal of disdain. This informs us, the viewers, that the Backstrom fairies neither think those slurs are true, nor are they appropriate. This allows us all to laugh at the absurdity of Backstrom’s comments.
Backstrom’s Disdain for Protocol Justified
This isn’t a Backstrom or a FOX reveal. Rather it is my personal suspicion about why Backstrom has no problem flipping the bird to every rule in the book (and all those who uphold them) when it comes to police protocol. As I alluded to in my opening paragraphs, it has to do with how the system responded to him when Backstrom knew he was right about what had happened to Lacy Siddon all those years ago even though there wasn’t a shred of evidence.
It stands to reason that he would have had copious experiences where he was in tune with the universe, as Niedermayer so aptly put it in the premiere, and was able to divine or intuit the truth of a situation but, instead of being believed and respected, he was ridiculed or disciplined. Perhaps lives were needlessly lost because the bureaucrats failed to have faith in him. Perhaps the torment he received from the department over the Siddon case was such that it finally broke him. So, why does he continue to disdain the system that has accepted him back into the fold as head of the Special Crimes Unit? Because he still sees all those in the system as enemies in his fight against evil such that he is above the laws of protocol. Will he be able to redeem himself before his infractions get him locked up again? We’ll have to wait and see, my friends.
Backstrom airs on Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)