Recap: Intruders, “And Here…You Must Listen” (1×02)

If in the pilot Intruders demonstrated the complexity of its mythology, the second episode demonstrates the show’s proficiency at the most fundamental of genre conventions: the hunt. Wisely choosing to focus around two pursuits – Shepherd’s of Madison/Marcus and Jack’s of his wife Amy – we get some answers and some leads on the questions created in the pilot. Although this episode is good, not great, Intruders is headed in a promising direction.

The best thing about “And Here…You Must Listen” is that we get to know Jack Whelan better. Starting with his visit to the creepiest law offices on the planet and ending with a back alley brawl, Jack’s determined search for Amy reveals how much love and affection he bears for his wife, even as she became more distant and unfamiliar. He’s goofily gallant when he thinks Amy is coming out of the office to get her cell phone, and he fondly recalls taking selfies in happier times. Jack refuses to back down from his search in the face of vague misdirection from Amy’s unsettling (and clearly in on… well, whatever “they” are doing) boss Todd Crane. This is a man committed.

Jack’s investigative skills also suggest that he was once a pretty good cop before some secret event drove him from the LAPD. His search for the cab driver who last saw Amy appears manic and desperate – but that same mania makes him memorable enough that even though the cab drivers don’t break rank to answer Jack, they tell the driver, George Brackett, that this crazy guy Jack is looking for him and wants to meet. Jack even checks to make sure George is legit and telling the truth about seeing Amy before wheedling him into helping with the search by retracing her route. George is a nice guy, and he relents, even though Amy freaked him out; she was going on about being a member of the Russian Tsar’s secret police and assassinating a labor leader in – in 1893. Hmm.

Using some super-convenient but just enigmatic enough cell phone photos belonging to Amy, Jack and George figure out that she – and her mysterious male companion – went to the condo building where none other than Todd Crane lives. Here, Jack’s eagerness to find his wife outweighs his good cop sense, and he and George get into a fight with a burly security team that stops short of shooting Jack because “she said no.” Presumably “she” is Amy.

In one of the best life-preserving decisions ever made by a television guest star, George is done and leaves Jack to his crazy chase. (I may have cheered aloud for George’s good sense.) Shortly, Jack gets a call from his neighbor, who would really like his car back – and who then puts Amy on the phone after Jack explains that she’s missing. I’m not a terribly big fan of the “only sane person looks crazy” trope, but that’s for us to deal with next week.

Meanwhile, Madison/Marcus heads towards Seattle, first stopping in with a Mrs. Ng in Portland to get some of Marcus’ old possessions, including money, a key, and a journal explaining what happens when one is “returned.” So wait – now a character has a narrative of all the shows’ secrets and is going to parcel them out to us as she has time to read? I’m not opposed to us discovering the Qui Reverti secrets as Madison/Marcus does, but the journal/voiceover combination is just…unimaginative. Television is visual, and a close-up of a nine-year-old girl reading a book while in line is not entertaining. Better is the shot of Madison briefly taking back over her body in the cold open, bewildered at where she is and how she got there. As she puts together the clues, she loses herself again as Marcus regains control. It looks as if knowledge is actually Madison’s enemy.

Unfortunately for Madison/Marcus, her journey stalls in Portland when a brisk security guard refuses to let her unaccompanied minor self on the train. Millie Brown isn’t quite as convincing as a crotchety old man as she is a lost young girl, but to be fair she is required to deliver some fairly awful dialogue during this exchange, including Marcus’ apparent catchphrase, “What goes around, comes around.” After a failed but hilarious attempt to convince a random man to act as her father (another good decision by a bit player!), Madison/Marcus’ delays result in Shepherd almost catching her. She barely escapes him to convince a young woman to drive her to Seattle for $500.

Shepherd remains compelling. His visit to Madison’s terrified parents in the guise of a special agent is amusing in how he quickly he jettisons his official-sounding questions for very, very specific ones about Marcus’ catchphrase and Mrs. Ng when his original line of inquiry fails to yield results. We also find out from Mrs. Ng – before Shepherd kills her and her security guy – that Shepherd activated Marcus Fox far too early. Shepherd is acting outside his sanctioned duties when it comes to Marcus, and he’s cleaning up any loose ends, like Mrs. Ng, that might belie his actions.

The central mystery – who are Qui Reverti and what the hell are they doing – continues to interest me, as does Shepherd’s complicated past. Now that Jack is a more active protagonist, I understand better why John Simm was cast in this role. He has a sort of everyman demeanor, but with a haunted yet steely undercurrent. Let’s hope the material rises to his level.

Odds & Ends

– No Gary tonight, and I can’t say that I missed him or his enigmatic investigation. Maybe he’ll become more important as Jack goes further down the rabbit hole.

– I dislike voice over generally, but I really think I hate the Qui Reverti rhetoric that ended the episode. It sounds like it belongs in a sixties horror movie trailer, and clashes tonally with the more washed out, gritty, modern aesthetic of the show and Bear McCreary’s score, both of which I really enjoy.

– There is a new conspiracy dude in a van. He’s named Tim Truth and he is continuing Professor Purdue’s work protecting and encouraging Bill Anderson. I still don’t care – can we just meet Mr. Anderson instead?