In Plain Sight Finale: “What is this, some kind of joke?”

A smoking gun

I read a comment about an episode of In Plain Sight saying something like “this show stays faithful to a recipe, someone has trouble getting into witsec, Mary helps,” etc. describing the steps of each episode. The commenter wasn’t wrong—this show is a procedural, and not one that veers from its typical plot very often. And while the very procedural types of shows are usually the ones I forego watching to catch the latest Breaking Bad episode, In Plain Sight manages to keep me interested. Better late than never spoilers for the finale and other miscellaneous observations after the break.

What’s not in plain sight here?

This show must do something different, then. I could tell you something along the lines of “it’s the character interaction, not the case, that keeps you interested in procedurals.” And that’s true here—I like spending an hour each week with these characters (well, most of them).

But there’s another important difference between this and other cop procedurals (for example, Law & Order, The Mentalist, etc.). In Plain Sight spends more time with its witnesses than most procedurals do with their victims/criminals. In a typical episode of The Mentalist, you might get a few scenes with the criminal of the week, but the victim generally dies in the first few minutes of the show. All this means that these criminals and victims are almost always going to be pretty flat. You might get a motive, or a look into the seedy activities of a victim, that sort of thing, but you’re probably not going to care much about them.

On In Plain Sight, however, you spend a lot of time with the witness of the week. The marshals usually care about the witnesses, and this caring is different than the sort you see from Law & Order detectives, where it’s mostly on the level of “I want justice for this victim!” And even when the marshals don’t particularly like their witnesses, you’re still seeing a lot of interaction and usually some kind of character development or at least some insight into who they are.

Take “Duplicate Bridge” and its main witness, Norman (who built a faulty bridge and at the end blew it and himself up). The story of this episode is similar to other procedurals: a crime is introduced (the faulty bridge) and the marshals set about finding where Norman has gone, what he’s done, etc. The climax is what sets In Plain Sight apart. When Marshall tries to talk Norman out of committing suicide, it’s not your typical cop trying to bring a criminal back from the edge. Marshall really doesn’t want Norman to kill himself because they’re connected—Norman is Marshall’s witness, a bond that doesn’t really exist between, say, the serial killers and the cops on Criminal Minds.

I meant this to be a short review of the finale, but I got a bit sidetracked, so without further ado…

About this finale, finally.

Getting a Stan sub-plot was nice in that he’s a fun character but rarely gets to do anything other than be the boss (kind of like Lance Reddick’s character on Fringe, who is great fun but rarely does anything too exciting). Unfortunately the outcome of this B story was easy to see coming, with Stan eventually coming clean about the witness. And while Stan’s little adventure in this episode wasn’t filled with twists and turns, it was at least showing another element of the witness protection biz, something that I (and probably many other viewers) am not intimately familiar with.

The main story wasn’t terribly remarkable, but I did enjoy that this was a finale without a lot of finale one-upmanship. Last year Mary was shot, and the year before that there was crazy family drama, so it was nice this year to just get a solid episode with lots of good banter and a satisfying ending. Mary and Gabe (guest star Joe Spano, who I have always enjoyed as grumpy FBI guy on NCIS) discussing the priest walks into a bar joke was a highlight.

Also, the relationship-esque thing going on between Faber and Mary is a lot more fun than Mary and Raphael’s fiancée-ship ever was. For one, Faber isn’t always coming off as an angry emotional character, which is painful to watch when that’s the only dimension a character has. See the rest of Mary’s family for examples of this. I just hope they don’t completely forget about Faber in the next season.

Highlights and notes:

  • I always like how this show alternates between dealing with witnesses the characters like (see “Death Becomes Her”) and witnesses they don’t (see “Her Days Are Numbered,” a good joke title that I only got just now).
  • Still don’t care about stuff going on with Brandi and the new brother who is, of course, shady. Reminds me of Tara on True Blood, who seems to be in every episode but never really does much.
  • Is the dad going to finally appear next season? What with introducing another character who cares about Papa Shannon, seems like a possibility.
  • Mary just needs to get away and do a cowboy. Does Faber count?
  • Marshall’s speech to Mary about how she needs to find someone who challenges her reminds me of the hinting at Marshall/Mary romantic feelings that’s gone on in the past, which makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want the show to go there.
  • What happened to Allison Janney? I loved the meta-joke about her working for the president when she first appeared, but the character went nowhere.
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