Recap: Intruders, “The Shepherds and the Fox” (1×05)

Now THAT’S more like it.

I’ve been waiting – hoping – for Intruders to realize the promise in its premise. Immortal souls fighting for control of new bodies is an interesting twist on old ideas, but the show never seemed sure of what tone it was trying to set. Gritty? Serious? Campy? But finally, in “The Shepherds and the Fox,” the dialogue, direction, and music all come together into a supernatural take on a classic noir. Fortunately, it fits the story well.

Director Daniel Stamm has an excellent feel for using locations and framing to add meaning to each scene. His work feels more stylized and deliberate than that of Eduardo Sánchez, who directed the first four episodes in a direct and observational style. Interestingly, this is the first script not credited solely to creator Glen Morgan. While I still believe in Morgan’s vision for the show, I think adding his brother Darin Morgan to lead writing duty was a strong decision.

The episode still isn’t perfect – the quick edits between plotlines (although less frequent) are disruptive and diminish the impact when they’re actually used to draw connections between things. I’m not sure I understood the necessity of bringing back Robert Forster just to kill him quickly, but that might just be because I really like Robert Forster and was excited to see more of him as a Shepherd.

It also can’t be a coincidence that my favorite episode so far had no conspiracy theory radio show.

Anyway, let’s get back to the plot, because a lot happened in this episode. James Frain is probably the one actor who understood what show he was in all along, and his Richard Shepherd gets some fleshing out this week with the return of his old mentor. Frank Shepherd comes to Richard’s gray, anonymous hotel room with an Americano, some harsh chastisement for sloppy work, and a straightforward question. Did Richard activate Marcus Fox?

Richard tries desperately to dance around the question, using the old “how dare you ask me that” indignation trick to throw Frank off. But Frank, who is clearly a company man first, persists until Richard has to outright lie and say no. Frank leaves on super-secret Rose business, but Richard knows this won’t end his questions. Unlike Frank, Richard doubts his purpose as a Shepherd – if the Qui Reverti have a chance to come back, shouldn’t everyone?

Jack, now drinking and smoking like the hardboiled, reluctant, ex-cop investigator he’s become, finds himself adrift after Bill Anderson’s murder. He tells the police that he was only trying to help an old friend. The cop investigating the shooting – the same cop who nine years before broke through Marcus’ front door to find a house of horrors – neatly sums up all of our thoughts when he entreats Jack, “Please tell me you’re not going to try to help anyone else any time soon, you hear me?” While nursing his broken heart and a bottle at a cheap motel, Jack gets a call from the all-knowing Rose, ordering him to meet someone the next day at Pier 9 at 10am, if he doesn’t want them to come to him first.

The ensuing scene at the pier is my favorite of the episode, and perhaps the whole series. The isolated location manages to be both verdant and threatening, helped along amply by the haunting music and long shots of Jack, standing alone, and then striding down the pier while he talks to Gary. I’ve said before that the idea of the lush Pacific Northwest having an evil purpose was an interesting one, and this is the first time that the show has foregrounded the specific menace of the locale.

It’s here that Jack nearly meets his demise at the hands of Frank, as Jack reminds us that his entire real stake in this situation is his wife’s well-being, and that all he wants is for Qui Reverti to leave Amy the hell alone. Frank then promises that Jack will see Amy again – but not in this lifetime, and although Jack puts up a fight, Frank overwhelms him and has Jack in his gun sight. Until suddenly, Frank is the one dead, shot by Richard, who saves Jack while tying up his own loose ends. This is twice, warns Richard – if I see you a third time, it’s because I’ve been sent to kill you. Ominous words.

As I predicted last week, Jack discovers Gary was not being completely up front with him about the investigation. Gary already knew about Bill Anderson’s ghost machine, because he felt its effects – and they enabled him to see Donna (finally!) looking out from behind the eyes of his baby girl, Emily. The knowledge sent Gary down a rabbit hole investigating the machine, Qui Reverti, and the Psychomachy Trust. Obsession and fear destroyed Gary, losing him his family after he tried to shake Donna’s soul out of his child’s eyes. Now, broken and terrified, he’s running up debt renting a room at the Le Soleil, across the hall from Rose, desperate to catch a glimpse of her.

The biggest problem for Qui Reverti is not Gary, however. It’s Marcus, who nearly a decade ago buried a number of bodies under the basement floorboards of his Seattle house. In present day, Madison/Marcus fails to gain access to the Burnell Lytton building in her youthful guise, so she heads back to Marcus’ old home (a Qui Reverti no-no). Madison temporarily breaks through, and heartbreakingly, she thinks she’s home. Madison keeps control long enough to call her mother, but not long enough to spare the life of the house’s new owner, a man rather affronted by Madison’s lack of manners. The renovations – no crown molding – trigger Marcus’ memory and dominance, and Madison/Marcus brutally murders her second victim since reincarnating. Although Richard is able to find her, Madison/Marcus steals his car, and escapes once again before Richard can eradicate his mistake.

We’ve known all along who the two souls battling within Madison are, but if Gary’s right, everyone has two. And now, because Jack catches a glimpse through the peephole, we know who the other person within Amy is (or at least what name she goes by): Rose. Rose/Amy is not a victim of Qui Reverti, but the one pulling the strings. Jack’s future just got a lot more complicated.

Odds & Ends

-I’m not sure why Frank and Richard still look the same as they did twenty years ago when they visited Donna. Is it a magical gift from Qui Reverti? Or am I just thinking too hard about it?

-Marcus’ home in the cold open was an excellent set, from the fish tank of sand dollars to the eccentric display of knives to the way the bodies were nestled into the floor. One thing this show does consistently well is cold opens – they’re almost like mini-episodes in and of themselves.

-I found two shots particularly chilling tonight. The first was during the pier scene where we’re looking at Jack’s back as he stands alone, staring at the water, with a bright red life preserver hanging off to the side. The other was in the cold gray of Richard’s hotel room, also looking at his back as he stands alone, while his head falls in sorrow of what he has to do and his hand goes to his gun. These two men are isolated both by their own past bad decisions and forces beyond their control.

-Donna’s suicide note to Gary tries to explain how hard she fought, and how the person inside her doesn’t want to hurt anyone else anymore. If that’s true, why was Marcus, who clearly wants to live, about to do the same thing?