Season 1, Episode 15
Date of airing: February 8, 1997 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 12.1 million viewers, 7.9/14 in Households
As expected, there weren’t a lot of surprises in this episode, as things were going along as they were planned from the beginning. That might be wonderful in retrospect, because the writers clearly kept their sanity and locked their insanity away by removing all twists from this episode and let the story flow in a natural way. Although maybe the storytelling was kept on the downlow a little too obviously, since by the end of the episode I was wondering why Marley, also known as Dobbs, wanted the President dead (okay, explanations aren’t really needed, but killing JFK and this fictional president must mean something, especially when you most likely haven’t attempted another assassination between 1963 and 1997), and if he was the only one involved in this conspiracy or if Marley was hired by another country or even cartel to execute the assassination. If Marley was the only person involved in the whole thing, it means it was the typical lone man terrorist attack, the crazy guy deciding that the world must change, and the only way it can be changed is through violence and death. It’s not at all a government conspiracy, and in a way a kick in the balls for all the people who believe in the conspiracy theory. No, it wasn’t Oswald, it was Marley. Though maybe I don’t think it’s such a good idea to tell your audience that in your show, which isn’t really historical to begin with, Oswald was not the shooter. Not that we are interested in even more JFK conspiracy theories, but EARLY EDITION just created another one. And I was about to get used to the notion that the killer was the cigarette-smoking man.
Anyway, the episode was solid. A little more streamlined than the previous one, since all Gary needed was to find out who framed him, but also a little more serious when it comes to … seriousness and tense drama. Even if you knew that Dobbs was Marley, there still was the potential of Gary being caught by the police, and for Dobbs’s plan to blow up in his face like Hawks and Crumb were supposed to feel the letter bomb in their faces, and from here on, everything could have been possible. But at the end of the day, this episode only had one purpose, and it was to depict what the JFK assassination would have looked like in 1997, and what a different conspiracy (this being a one-man job) would have looked like, if perfectly executed. Maybe Gary was even useless in this plot, as his reason for being here was only to show that one-man plan, and to depict a presidential assassination either succeed or fail. The writers had fun with the premise for sure, but it also meant that the character had to take a few steps back. They became pawns in the story they were in and Marley was running the show from the back of the room. At least it’s logical how Marley was hinging on Gary being in the building at the time, since Marley knew all about tomorrow’s paper and Gary being the next Lucious Snow.
To prevent the characters taking steps back to let Marley run the show, there could have been moments of character drama. At the end there was a sense of the paper having changed Gary (and not just because of Chuck’s voiceovers), but other than that the story didn’t do anything for Gary at all. Chuck became something of a hero here, but only because the writers figured they needed to rewrite his character to suit the story. And Marissa was basically left out of it, only being a voice of … I don’t know what kind of voice she was, but because the police decided not to maybe call her into the precinct and ask some questions about her friend, the suspected killer on the run, makes me think the writers not only used the characters as pawns for the story, but also forgot to actually use them as characters as a whole.
Meanwhile, the winter version of Chicago was shown, which was lovely, and it’s all I have been waiting for. The Christmas episode was a little void of snow, thanks to the fact that the episode wasn’t shot during the winter months, but I’m glad that the producers continued to use the setting as part of the show, and have EARLY EDITION look like it isn’t a soundstage show. There is a different feel in watching a show which uses its outdoor settings, to have Chuck run through the snow, and to have Gary and Marissa meet up between whiteness that was left on the streets. All of this almost makes me want to wish living in Chicago and just enjoy the freezing cold and chaos on the streets after the snow has fallen. I do like depressing weather. I am after all a depressed soul.