The silent witnesses living a double life
AMONG several dramatically unsatisfying moments of convenience in Baz Lurhmann’s Australia is the matter of the grieving process for a certain 10-year-old, who loses his mother in shattering, traumatic circumstances. Shortly afterwards, the young fellow is curled up on his bed in a ball of loss and misery, but is back to his former grinning self in a trice. All that’s required is a verse or two of Somewhere Over the Rainbow , warbled by Nicole Kidman, and it’s as if his mother never existed.
Something similar occurs in this episode of In Plain Sight , a summer consolation prize of a program about witness-protection operatives. You know the drill: a witness has to testify in a murder trial, which puts the witness and their family in jeopardy. So the authorities give them money, a roof over their heads, new identities in a new town, and everyone hopes for the best. It happens here, it happens everywhere. And it’s not a bad premise at all for a television series.
In the opening scenes in this episode we see a young boy playing innocently in a family swimming pool. Alerted by raised voices, particularly his mother’s, he creeps into the house to investigate. His mother is shot dead as she runs towards him, arms wide. He hollers twice in horror, and the scene fades out. At least the makers of In Plain Sight have the grace to put up a banner saying ‘‘ 18 months ago’’ in these early scenes, and a reference is made to his ongoing nightmares.
While In Plain Sight has its attractions, including feisty operative Mary Shannon ( Mary McCormack), who gives her superiors no end of sassy mouth, the program seems unsure, in this episode at least,
Protectors: Frederick Weller and Mary McCormack from whether it Housewives wants to be Desperate or Law & Order: SVU. When Mary’s boss dumps the welfare of the boy into her hands, she pleads for mercy. ‘‘ Stan, I suck with kids,’’ she concludes.
‘‘ You suck with grown-ups, too,’’ offers her long-suffering partner Marshall Mann ( Frederick Weller). The boy has recovered enough from his unexplored grief to become what Americans call a wise-ass. Seeing his potential foster parents through a two-way mirror, he witnesses them praying. ‘‘ Oh God!’’ he exclaims. ‘‘ What kind of potato-eyed have you set me up with?’’
But it’s life at home for Mary that propels the show into a different orbit. Her freeloading mother keeps her awake at nights by having sex with strangers; and her freeloading sister is, well, freeloading.
It’s hard to be too amused by their desperate antics when mothers are being shot in front of their sons in the main character’s day job.
It’s never easy to be all things to all people.
In Plain Sight