Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 14, 2008)
A little more than half a year after the series’ DVD debut, we find a set called The Fugitive: Season One, Volume Two. As that title implies, this collection packages the year’s second 15 shows, which is exactly half of the opening season’s run. I’ll look at these programs in order. The plot synopses come straight from the DVD’s packaging.
The Garden House: “A newspaperwoman conspires to kill off her rich sister by having new handyman Richard Kimble (David Janssen) do her dirty work.”
Richard Kimble meets Hitchcock in this intriguing murder plot. The episode doesn’t present any remarkable surprises or dynamic characterizations, but it plays out its schemes well. A typically good supporting cast helps, especially with a wonderfully slimy turn by Robert Webber as the manipulative husband. This one starts the second half of Season One on a good note.
Come Watch Me Die: “In an ironic twist, Kimble is sworn in as deputy sheriff and handcuffed to a prisoner being transported to the county seat for a murder charge.”
“Die” easily could’ve been little more than an ironic goof of an episode. Happily, it manages to become something much richer than that. It indulges in a variety of ethical and moral questions as it deals with the case of the accused murderer. I like the way it goes down those paths.
Casting quirk: Bruce Dern appears here as the son of the murdered couple. He already played in one episode earlier in the season! I know a lot of series bring back actors in alternate roles, but geez, it’s only been 14 shows since Dern popped up in “The Other Side of the Mountain”.
Where the Action Is: “In Reno, the owner of a big casino feuds with his high-strung daughter and worries when she takes a liking to the new lifeguard… Richard Kimble!”
Does it seem logical that Kimble would take a job in such a public place? Working as a lifeguard at a casino hotel pool opens him to many, many more eyes than he should want, so his position here doesn’t make much sense.
And I can’t say “Action” does much to compensate for that illogical story decision. The tale about the bratty, bitter rich girl and her oppressive father doesn’t open up to anything particularly interesting, though as wild young Chris, Joanna Franks becomes easily the sexiest Fugitive babe to date. Yeah, she bears a spooky resemblance to Amy Winehouse when we first see her, but she’s a really, really hot version of Winehouse, not the scrawny, scary one we normally see. We also find Telly Savalas – with a little hair! – as her dad. Those casting choices aside, “Action” lacks much oomph.
Search in a Windy City: “Believing that the one-armed man is in Chicago, Kimble contacts a newspaper columnist to organize a search. But then Lt. Gerard (Barry Morse) learns of the plan.”
Finally – Gerard makes his first “Volume 2” appearance! The prior episodes listed him in the credits, but we hadn’t seen him since “Volume 1”. That also means a welcome return to some action, a commodity in short supply over the last few shows. No, The Fugitive doesn’t need slam-bang tension to succeed, but I like to get some of those episodes every once in a while, especially when they further the series' overall plot. “Search” moves things along with an involving and tight tale.
Bloodline: “Kimble grows fond of his new job working for a dog breeder, but then clashes with a married couple who are determined to get away from the kennel owner.”
In my book, this episode’s Cora goes down as the series’ most despicable character: she intentionally releases a dog into the woods and then pushes for that pooch’s demise when the pup injures herself. If that’s not evil, I don’t know what is.
As for the rest of the show, it musters some decent intrigue. The episode boasts a decent mystery via the question of why Cora and her husband so desperately desire the dog’s death. Of course, it makes us love Kimble even more now that we seem him risk his freedom and safety for the benefit of a pooch. Cora is a little too over the top as a villain, but this still turns into an entertaining tale.
Rat in a Corner: “After Kimble helps an injured stick-up artist elude the police, the crook’s sister helps the good doctor – even after she recognizes him.”
That synopsis makes Kimble sound more like an accomplice than he actually is in the show. Yeah, he helps the crook, but he does so due to a threat, not sympathy. “Corner” does try to paint the thief in a moderately positive light, though, as it makes him more than just a two-bit hood. Despite that extra layer of complexity, “Corner” doesn’t really go much of anywhere. It meanders a bit too much, as the story can’t quite flesh out a whole episode.
Guest star alert: while V1 included tons of actors who would later become famous, such sightings have been essentially non-existent in V2. Yeah, we had Bruce Dern, but he appeared in V1 so he doesn’t count. We get Warren Oates here, so at least we finally find someone reasonably well known in V2.
Angels Travel on Lonely Roads (Pt. 1): “Hoping to escape a dragnet that straddles two states, Kimble hitches a ride with Sister Veronica, a nun who tries to restore his faith in God.”
I’ll save my comments about this one until I view its conclusion.
Angels Travel on Lonely Roads (Pt. 2): “Kimble and Sister Veronica are befriended by a kindly lodge owner, but her handyman grows suspicious of the unlikely traveling companions.”
“Roads” might’ve made a decent single episode – “might’ve” being the key word, as the consistently grating presence of Sister Veronica and its predictable story arc rob it of much potential. Still, the program’s flaws could’ve been more forgivable at a shorter length. Taken to almost two hours, the simplistic plot and annoying characters turn “Roads” into one of my least favorite Fugitive experiences.
Flight from the Final Demon: “After Kimble is rescued by a co-worker, the two go on the run. But his new friend’s guilty conscience keeps getting them into trouble.”
Though it looks like it’ll be superficial at the start, “Demon” ends up as an unusually rich and dramatic episode. It reminds us why Kimble prefers to flee on his own, and it also shows the other side of the coin with someone who killed but wasn’t convicted. The program takes some interesting turns and really draws us into its tale. This is one of V2’s best pieces.
Later-to-be-famous guest star alert: Carroll O’Connor shows up as the sheriff who pursues Kimble.
Taps for a Dead War: “While working at a roller rink, Kimble is reunited with the Korean War buddy who saved his life, and who is now a bitter, disfigured alcoholic.”
Since people recognize Kimble all the time, it’s nice to see at least a minor twist in which someone doesn’t simply connect him to a “wanted” poster. The war connection creates an interesting turn, as it forces Kimble into a difficult position. The Joe character is a little too over the top, and it’s also clear he has an ulterior motive, but even with those issues, “Taps” becomes another substantial and involving program.
Guest star update: Lee Grant pops up in this one.
Somebody to Remember: “When Kimble’s pal Gus discovers he only has six months to live, he suggests a plan that will fool Lt. Gerard into thinking Kimble has left the country.”
Finally – the return of Gerard! I suppose the series doesn’t want to overuse him, but he’s been MIA for too much of V2, so I’m happy when he returns. Too bad the Gus character suffers from the same kind of overacting that marred the prior episode’s Joe. Despite that, I find a lot to like about “Remember”. The show takes on a clever twist with the attempt to fool Gerard and keeps us consistently interested. All that and Madlyn Rhue, the sexiest – and most conniving - Fugitive babe since Joanna Franks!
Never Stop Running: “When Kimble is asked to help a sick boy, he discovers the child was not only kidnapped, but is a hemophiliac in dire need of hospital care.”
Nothing in “Running” comes across as fresh for The Fugitive, as we’ve already seen plenty of similar stories; Kimble sure does encounter lots of criminals during his run! Nonetheless, “Running” works very well. The boy’s illness creates a ticking time bomb effect and adds drama to the tale.
We get another future star in “Running”: Claude Akins plays the kidnapper.
The Homecoming: “A woman traumatized by vicious dogs returns home from a sanitarium and discovers her widowed father has taken a much younger bride.”
After the tension of “Running”, the more predictable Southern melodrama of “Homecoming” seems a bit lackluster. Oh, it throws in a few twists, but not quite enough to make it memorable and overcome the device of the scheming trophy wife. This ends up as a pretty mediocre episode.
Storm Center: “After her wealthy boyfriend is washed overboard during a hurricane, a woman from Kimble’s past tries to convince him to run away with her.”
Two consecutive episodes with sleazy blonde bimbos? We get a better twist with this show’s Marcie since she connects with a pre-fugitive Kimble, and Marcie’s edgy nature makes her more entertaining as well, especially since she inspires a rougher side of Kimble. Despite the redundancy of another money-grubbing blonde, “Storm” works well.
The End Game: “As Lt. Gerard closes in on his prey, Kimble nervously hides out with two old eccentrics who argue over his innocence.”
And so Season One comes to a close. I’ve griped a bit about the paucity of Gerard stories in V2, so it’s good to finish with one. I understand that the series can’t focus on Gerard’s pursuit all the time, as it’d be impossible to sustain that tension effectively across 30 shows a year, but I’d like more than we get during V2.
In any case, “End Game” nicely finishes S1 and sets the table for S2 at the same time. I like the way it explores the mental manipulations in which Gerard indulges to try to predict Kimble’s thoughts, and the show comes packed with tension. The twist with the two bickering housemates adds a clever and funny twist as well. It’s a great conclusion to S1 – and it makes me look forward to S2.