Human Target, “The Return of Baptiste”

Apologies for the delay in this write-up, I’ve been swamped with end of the semester business and unfortunately, that will continue for the next week or so. I’ll try to have some things pre-written, but it’s going to be light around these parts for a while I think.

Anyway, this week’s Human Target? Pretty great, right?

If you recall, I haven’t seen most of season one, so I’m not fully familiar with Lennie James’ Baptiste character outside of the fact that people kept talking about him last season. Thus, I know that his return in this episode is something of a big deal, or at least the biggest kind of deal a series like Human Target can have. And although I don’t know all the history between the two characters, this episode does a nice job of filling things in for the viewers through a few lines of expositionary dialogue to Ilsa, who more or less serves as the stand-in for viewers like me. Though judging on the ratings for the first four episodes, I’m not sure there’s anyone like me out there watching the series.

Although I certainly enjoy the team working together and the goofy bits of dialogue that comes from those scenes, putting Chance on his own with Baptiste led to a number of fun sequences. It’s not that Jackie Earl or Chi McBride can’t hold their own with Mark Valley, but there’s definitely something extra there between Valley and Lennie James that is really interesting to watch. Their characters clearly have respect for one another and there’s even some inkling of compassion, but it usually just comes out through fists and quips. It’s classical masculine overcompensation, but in a series like Human Target, that works just fine — especially if it results in a sweet fight inside a bar or a fun chase sequence through the jungle.

Which, speaking of, this episode felt…larger that the other three, or at least the last two. I’m sure the budget is tight and a number of the episodes will feature set shoots and things like that, but I certainly enjoyed the fact that I totally believed this episode took place primarily overseas and the actors were actually outside. I know that might be a small thing and I shouldn’t still be relating the series to Chuck, but I can’t help it and on that series, it’s all sets all the time, so good lord is nice to watch an action television series and have a daylight chase sequence.

Anyway, back to the episode itself: Splitting up the team can only work if the rest of the episode is interesting. Last week’s Ames-centric mess? Not so interesting and so with Winston and Guerrero at the office, it felt even more strained and boring. However, because Chance and Baptiste can hold their own on the mission, the B-plot with Winston and Guerrero teaching Ilsa how to be a field agent was light and ultimately fun. Since I didn’t watch season one, I have less of a problem with Ilsa’s presence, especially because I really like Indira Varma, and her character has seemingly found the right balance between helpful and disrupting. Frankly, it’s just fun to watch Chi McBride and Jackie Earl Haley play frustrated and annoyed and with Ilsa’s “field work,” that was an obvious and enjoyable conclusion. It’s another beat that is completely predictable and obvious, but the performances raise it up just enough for me not to complain much.

Human Target still isn’t unbelievably good or anything, but “Return of Baptiste” is definitely the best episode I’ve ever watched. More like this please.

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