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Tape Delays, Man Crushes, and Octogenarian Crime Sprees: I'm Already Missing "The Unusuals"

I'm really going to miss The Unusuals.

I might be one of the very few people watching this quirky ABC cop dramedy but I have to say that I've enjoyed every single minute of this series from creator Noah Hawley and I think it's a shame that ABC canceled The Unusuals so quickly.

This week's episode ("The Tape Delay"), written by Treena Hancock and Melissa R. Byer, found Walsh and Shraeger organizing a protection detail on a wealthy businessman who had faced a series of mysterious threats, while Banks and Delahoy were on the trail of a octogenarian (guest star Shelley Berman) on a crime spree, Beaumont and Cole tried to get a confession out of a criminal through some elaborate means, Alvarez fixated on his man-crush on Walsh, Beaumont seethed at Walsh for a dream she had, and Delahoy faced some rather unusual (heh) symptoms stemming from his secret brain tumor.

In other words, just another day for the cops at Manhattan's second precinct.

Throughout its short run, The Unusuals has proven a sly and smart character study, deftly balancing some rather odd crimes against, well, some rather oddball cops. It's a police procedural, but it's also a nuanced investigation of the men and women behind the shield, their quirks and foibles, their fears and dreams.

This week's episode proved no different as it forced Shraeger to come to terms both with her judgment in the field (vis-a-vis the businessman who goes missing) and in the office as Walsh convinces her to come clean to her fellow cops about her wealthy background. Walsh believes that as Shraeger is "good police" (a term that always makes me think of The Wire) her coworkers won't care that she comes from the 25th wealthiest family in Manhattan. And, sure enough, when Shraeger gets up on a table at their local hangout and finally tells the cops her deep, dark secret, no one bats an eyelash. Sure, they rib her for it and make Shraeger pick up the next round but you could literally see the weight being lifted from Shraeger's shoulders as she finally bared her soul... and removed the final obstacle that had held her back from truly being a member of the team. (Kudos go to Amber Tamblyn for making Casey Shraeger such a fascinatingly multi-layered character who's at once tough and headstrong and sensitive and feminine.)

The secret shame she had carried around this entire time had vanished but it has its counterpart in Delahoy, who still has not been able to tell anyone about his brain tumor other than shifty medical examiner Dr. Monica Crumb (Susan Parke), who freaks out when Delahoy refers to their lunchtime discussion of his medical condition as a "lunch date." The neat symmetry between ticking time bomb Delahoy (who seemingly can't be killed) and his death-phobic partner Banks, convinced he'll die before he turns 43, has provided the series with a poignant throughline that investigates the knife's edge these cops--and indeed all of us--exist on: here today, gone tomorrow.

Banks has to face up to some of his own issues when he's forced to deal with Tom Speigelman, an 87-year-old man on a city-wide crime spree that's intended to make him feel something after living a lifetime of regrets. Like Speigelman, Banks has lived his own life in soul-quaking fear about dying; too afraid to go anywhere or do anything that might put his mortality in jeopardy. His fixations on things like bullet-proof vests and hand sanitizer prevent him from living in the moment and, well, just living period. In fearing death, Banks has actually given over his life to the very thing he's running away from.

And while I predicted very early on that Walsh and Shraeger's businessman had plotted his own disappearance (and even went so far as to stage a murder and substitute a co-conspirator for his own corpse), I thought it was handled extremely well and I loved the reveal that the shipping container the guy was hiding in with his masseuse mistress wasn't some dank hellhole (out of The Wire Season Two), but rather a gleaming, ultra-white bachelor pad for traveling in style.

And the Alvarez-Walsh subplot--in which Alvarez went out of his way to try to do something outside of work with Walsh--was a nice character moment that revealed just how much outsider Alvarez really wanted to fit in and, well, be Jason Walsh, the ultimate guy's guy (despite his admission earlier in the episode that his mother dressed him as a girl until he was six). Rarely has a "man-crush" been dealt with on television with such humor, sensitivity, and charm.

All in all, yet another fantastic installment of The Unusuals that makes me even more depressed that ABC has axed the series. There's still a few more first-run episodes to enjoy before The Unusuals goes to the precinct in the sky but I have to say that I believe, long after its run has ended, I'll still be thinking about these characters.

Next week on The Unusuals ("The Dentist"), Eddie Alvarez is in charge of the station while Sergeant Brown is away but things don't exactly go to plan; a U.S. Marshall convinces Alvarez to release a perp recently arrested for trying to rob a Chinese restaurant into his custody but, after a fake bomb threat is called in to the precinct, Casey, Alvarez and Walsh discover that the Marshall isn't who he seems to be; Banks decides to stay in his apartment until he turns 43 in order to avoid getting killed.


Sue said…
Well, as you already now, I love "The Unusuals" and am deeply annoyed at ABC for not giving it more of a chance. ABC did the same thing with "The Nine" a couple of years ago. That was another show that I felt had alot to offer.

This show is quirky, yet seems realistic and all of the actors just fit perfectly in their roles.

Perhaps USA Network will pick it up and run with it.
Tempest said…
Nope, you're not alone. "The Unusuals" and "Life" were two of the shows I was really hoping would get picked up. It seems that some of the mid-season shows on ABC don't get the chance they deserve. (I'm still irritated about "Eyes.") I loved the episode where Beaumont was shot and the various reactions of the squad and Walsh's mumbling "I'm her man" to Shraeger at one point.

I don't suppose there's any way we could get ABC to reconsider? I also like the USA idea. Honestly, someone should start a network that just picks up the good shows that the others dump.

Nikki said…
I'm not usually a fan of cop shows (except for The Wire) but The Unusuals is fun and entertaining and the characters are are the actors who play them. I will definitely miss this show!
Kelly said…
I think it was during the second episode that my boyfriend looked at me and said "I really like this show. Too bad it's gonna get cancelled." Cyincal, yes, but proven right time and again. It is a great show and I'll miss it a lot.
wooster182 said…
I think we all knew this show would get cancelled, but it's still been a serious blow for it to actually happen. It was even sadder because this was probably one of the show's strongest episodes with the most character development. Damn, I love this show.

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