Season 1, Episode 16
Date of airing: February 22, 1997 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 12.8 million viewers, 8.3/15 in Households
Ah, those 1980s and 90s shows that have a two or three-headed cast and focus a lot on the guest stars of the week in a story that might be interesting for a hot second or two, but become one amongst the forgotten after a week, right before the main characters gets into a new adventure. There is probably some high rewatch value in shows like these (if the stories are intriguing), and it turns out the EARLY EDITION writers were planning to carry that kind of show into the twenty-first century. I don’t really mind, since there is always room for anthology television with regular characters, but maybe the stories should in fact be a little more interesting. This episode wasn’t, thanks to Bat Masterson, also known as Mike, not being an intriguing-enough character for me. Or the fact that the story was pretty much a predictable snoozer midway through, when even I came to realize that Ike was the guy who shot Mike’s partner, and that all of this is just a way for Mike to get out of his urges to play the role of Bat Masterson and see it as his one and only life. By the way, is there a medical term for Mike’s condition? Dr. Feinstein definitely wasn’t going into the psychological aspects of her patient, which is probably because the writers decided not to put too many research hours into it. But maybe it would have made this hour a little better if the writers had delivered a more scientific and medical back story for Mike, his decision to step into the role of Bat, and believing that he is Bat.
But oh well, Gary made himself known as the guy who wants to help other people, and his co-stars of the week tend to notice now. Before this episode, the paper directed him to help the people in need and sometimes he stuck around, because he knew there was still trouble to come and his help was still needed (best example would be the episode “Gun”). But in this episode he genuinely wanted to hang out with Bat/Mike and kind of watch over him, just to make sure the old Sheriff doesn’t get int any more trouble. For the first time, Gary became the protector and helper for someone without looking into the paper first, to see if there is new trouble brewing. For the first time Gary became something of a counsellor, for people to talk to when they need someone, because maybe their lives are a little more interesting on an emotional level. Maybe this is an intended change after the ending of “The Wall, Part 2,” which said that Gary is now a changed man because of the events depicted in that episode, but maybe it’s also just a coincidence. EARLY EDITION is after all a 1970s/80s proceduralized show with focus on guest stars, which happened to air in 1997 when shows were about to change and television was about to step into the next century.
Meanwhile, the actual story of the episode was… yeah, it definitely was a snoozer. I could have taken a nap instead, but here was a guy who thought of himself as a hero of the Wild West, a genre I was never really interested in to begin with (too many macho men who have guns and shoot people like there’s no tomorrow is not really my thing), and never was Bat a more aggressive or angry person, as if everything was picture perfect and happy-go-lucky in the 1800s. If Bat Masterson of this episode really existed in 1800s, then the guy would have been murdered by whichever gang came through town first, because there is no way that Bat could have ever survived in the job by being nice and correct and lawful and always choosing the right-sounding words. I’m actually impressed that no one in Chicago during the two weeks Bat/Mike was out on the street found this crazy dude and decided to either beat him up or mug him. I mean, wouldn’t he be a perfect target for a little nightly crime by some random gangster thinking himself as the coolest bandit in town?
The story also made some ridiculous choices. Mike was living in something of a mental institution, so why does one of the orderly guys Dr. Feinstein has hired a pistol for Mike to steal and potentially wave around? When the guy said that Mike stole his gun, all I could do was roll my eyes into the Andromeda galaxy, being shocked about the fact that someone in this joint was actually packing loaded heat. That’s one crazy plot convenience, and one that doesn’t make the episode look better at all. Also, it doesn’t make gun-crazed America look better when the muscle men of mental institutions carry anything more than a night stick. Imagine if the rapey fat bastard from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY had a gun and was all alone with Sarah Connor, as he was licking her face…