Due South: s03 e07 – Seeing is Believing


Due South

Listen very carefully, for I am about to make two contradictory statements. The first is that, without David Marciano as Ray Vecchio, Due South is nothing like as good as it originally was, and definitely less funny by a marked degree. The second is that this was an excellent, very clever and shot through with humour episode. Let us now pick these two opposing statements apart to decide why.

By this point, we’re exactly halfway through the third season and have had sufficient opportunity to get to know Callum Keith Rennie as New Ray. Remember that he’s supposedly posing as Ray Vecchio whilst Real Ray is deep undercover in the Mob. That was only six weeks ago but the series seems to have forgotten this. Nobody uses new Ray’s surname but he’s openly acknowledged as being the ex-husband of ADA Stella Kowalski (a returning cameo by Anne Marie Loder). As for Rennie, he is no Marciano when it comes to being funny. He’s cynical and Chicago-abrasive, but he doesn’t inspire laughter, he isn’t very good at absurdity and in order to distinguish him from Vecchio, he’s been given melancholy, over his failed marriage to Stella: Kowalski lacks Marciano’s buoyancy.

This means that in order to keep the series humourous, the writers have to push the envelope a bit further in the direction of absurdity, which risks – and a bit too often succeeds – in coming out as silliness. There’s certainly some of that in this episode.

The set-up is ingenious. An Inuit gate has been donated to Chicago, installed in a mall and is about to be officially dedicated. On hand are our good cop buddies and their respective bosses, Lt. Harding Welsh (Beau Starr) and Inspector Meg Thatcher (Camilla Scott, getting a good, meaty role this week). When Frasier starts going on about the sacred nature of the Stones, the party heads off in different directions. Frasier heads off too, pursuing and capturing a purse snatcher. In his absence, Ray, the Lieutenant and Thatcher all observe an argument taking place between an older man and a younger pair, the outcome of which is that he ends up stabbed and they, clamming up tighter than a clammed-up thing, are taken to the station.

A murder has taken place, with three trained Police observers as the only witnesses. Unfortunately, they disagree completely on whodunnit. Ray is adamant the guy stabbed the older man, a noted mobster, Thatcher insists it was the girl, and Walsh is determined it was a mob hit and the two planned it together. Him, her or both?

It was an ingenious set up. With no-one willing to relinquish their theory, and indeed snapping aggressively at each other, Fraser became the fulcrum in trying to reach a resolution. Until they could decide who to charge, nobody could be charged and the risk was that the killer(s) would be back out on the street, home free, because nobody could prove whodunnit.

The story played out in a largely static episode, with the five central actors (including Francesca Vecchio, trying to get a capucchino machine in past Walsh, wedded to the tradition that cops always drink bad coffee, brushing up against Fraser in a bare midriff shirt and generally hanging about) going back and forth with their theories. The various stages of argument sustained what might have, in other hands, been a limited and limiting notion very successfully. First we got each of Judy and Keith confessing to being the killer, though Fraser quickly demonstrated that she at least was lying, then each fingered the other, confusing the situation even worse.

The story did edge quite clearly towards silliness, despite being on firm psychological ground, in showing how the individual preoccupations of each witness influenced their theory: Ray’s broken marriage, Thatcher’s occasionally barely controllable lust for Fraser’s manly charms and Walsh’s loveless cynicism. In the case of Thatcher, this got a bit too overblown, and embarrassing. Then the episode dipped into surrealism as each witness then visually reconstructed what they saw – or what their theories led them to believe they say – casting themselves as players in the scene.

The end was inevitable. Ray, Thatcher and Walsh were cast members, in for the long run. You can’t have one of them be proved right. The answer had to come from outside, a hitherto unsuspected player who, rather than the victim being stabbed at close range by a knife none of the witnesses had actually seen – elicited under hypnosis – had thrown from concealment. The purse snatcher was actually a planned distraction to enable the killer to act whilst everybody else was looking the other way.

So, an excellent conclusion and one that ended with a good joke. Fraser had been supposed to be hypnotising Thatcher only but actually got everyone, Ray, Walsh and Francesca. We saw his setting up a post-hypnotic suggestion for Ray, to shut him down and have him apologise when he started ranting at our favourite Mountie, but the best bit was, when Thatcher started bawling Fraser out for talking with Ray as opposed to running her back to the consulate, right now, Fraser came out with one for her, which immediately had her inviting him to stay all afternoon and talk to his friend…

As I said, the show as a whole has lost its comedic forte and Callum Keith Rennie simply cannot balance out Paul Gross in anything like as funny, yet supportive way that David Marciano achieved, but this episode was actually both ingenious and excellent. It goes to show, doesn’t it?

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