Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 10, 2009)
We head into another year of Richard Kimble’s flight during Season Two of The Fugitive. As was the case with Season One, the second year encompassed 30 episodes, so its DVD release splits things down the middle. Season Two, Volume One packages the year’s first 15 shows, which is exactly half of the season’s run. I’ll look at these programs in order. The plot synopses come straight from the DVD’s packaging.
Man In a Chariot: “When a wheelchair-bound professor on TV claims he can get Richard Kimble an acquittal, Kimble meets with him, and his new trial is acted out by law students.”
I wonder if it was a coincidence that the confident law professor was played by Ed Begley, one of the jurors from 12 Angry Men. Whether intentional or not, that choice actually creates a bit of a distraction; while Begley does fine in the part, his connection to that famous jury drama makes his casting seem like a stunt.
Despite that minor concern, “Chariot” starts Season Two pretty well. The concept of a retrial for Kimble entertains, and Begley’s Professor Lazer creates an intriguing personality, with his forceful but prickly personality; he’s unusually three-dimensional for a guest spot. This turns into a quality episode.
World’s End: “A woman in love with Kimble who closely followed the trial contacts him through an ad. She’s hired a private detective who claims he’s found the one-armed man.”
“End” provides a rare opportunity to get some backstory. Usually the series focuses on the here and now, as it addresses Kimble’s flight. Some of that occurs here – primarily due to this season’s first appearance by dogged pursuer Lt. Gerard – but we also find out a little more about Kimble’s past. The combination of the two sides ensures an interesting show.
Guest star alert: Suzanne Pleshette appears as the woman obsessed with Kimble.
Man On a String: “After Kimble helps an attractive waitress with her car, he later learns that he is her only alibi when she’s accused of killing her married lover.”
While many episodes feature women who fall for Kimble, this show’s Lucy stands out as one of the most brazen; she’s clearly ready to give our hero a ride from the second she sees him. Lois Nettleton plays the role in a sexy way tempered with just enough crazy to make us wonder about her culpability. That performance adds bite to “String”, though it doesn’t keep us in suspense about her potential guilt as long as I’d like; the program works best when we’re unsure about her involvement in the murder. Still, a reasonable amount of intrigue occurs, and some good acting bolsters the episode.
By the way, “String” strongly implies that Kimble gets it on with Lucey. I’m not sure, but I think this is the first time we see such a strong indication that Kimble is sexually active and not still celibate after his wife’s demise. Maybe prior shows offered a similar hint, but I don’t recall such obvious evidence of a tryst.
When the Bough Breaks: “While riding the boxcars, Kimble meets a young mother and baby and offers them help. Later he learns she is actually childless and wanted for kidnapping.”
The last episode’s Lucey showed a hint of crazy, but this show’s Carol goes for a full-fledged case of the bonkers. In fact, as played by Diana Hyland, she’s so clearly nuts that it’s hard to imagine Kimble ever saw her as sane. Despite that somewhat over the top performance, the program works due to the way it tells its story. It slowly develops its complicated plot and does so in a satisfying way.
Nemesis: “Using Lt. Gerard’s car in a getaway, Kimble barely escapes capture but then discovers the detective’s young son hidden in the back.”
The series’ cat and mouse chase takes a cool twist in “Nemesis”. It certainly gives Gerard’s pursuit a more personal element, as well as reason to think differently of Kimble. Even without the subtext, though, “Nemesis” provides a tight piece of work. I like Gerard episodes best of all, and “Nemesis” gives us one of the series’ most interesting entries.
Tiger Left, Tiger Right: “Gardener Richard Kimble is kidnapped by mistake. The real victim was to be his wealthy employer, who has no interest in rescuing the accused murderer.”
Episodes that involve Kimble with law enforcement usually prove interesting; they put him in a precarious position and force him to navigate treacherous waters. That side of things adds some zest to “Tiger”, as does the clever twist of Kimble’s kidnapping. The situation forces him to be more resourceful than usual, so expect a solid episode.
Tug of War: “A sick old man and a brash young sheriff have a bitter rivalry that escalates when they both insist on bringing in a captured Richard Kimble.”
“Tug” combines interesting twists and better-drawn characters than usual. I like the rivalry over who’ll claim Kimble’s arrest, as that creates an unusual dimension. I also think the episode paints its guest characters in a particularly compelling way. Since Kimble meets new folks each week, we never get much time with them, but this program paints its new participants well. These factors ensure that it becomes a fine piece.
Dark Corner: “Kimble is befriended by a family of dairy farmers whose beautiful blind daughter uses him to land her sister’s boyfriend.”
If you follow these mini-reviews, you’ll probably figure out that I like the Fugitive episodes that follow the pursuit side of things and could live without the ones that involve romance and soap opera. That’s why I’m not wild about “Corner”. It feels like Tennessee Williams’ take on the series, and it rarely proves very interesting. It also requires some leaps of logic, such as the sheriff’s odd rationale behind his failure to chase Kimble. It’s not a terrible show, but “Corner” is one of the weaker ones this season.
Escape Into Black: “After an explosion, Kimble loses most of his memory. While a doctor urges him to turn himself in, a social worker locates the one-armed man.”
Wow – well into the series’ second year, we finally get to meet the actual One-Armed Man. Not a red herring, but the real guy. That’s a good twist, and one that adds intrigue to “Black”. After so many shows, it must be tough to come up with ways to put Kimble on the verge of success that slips away, but “Black” does so in a positive manner. This turns into one of the package’s more interesting programs.
The Cage: “While dodging the advances of a beautiful girl whose father disapproves, Kimble’s forced to remain in their fishing village after it’s been quarantined.”
I’m always amazed at how Kimble comes into town and all the ladies fall for him. That theme gets old, partially because it leads to a soap opera trend in the episodes. “Cage” falls under those lines, and it doesn’t do much to entertain. With its flat story and overacting, it ends up as a dull episode.
Cry Uncle: “After three foster center kids offer him shelter, Kimble passes as the uncle of one of them – a troubled teenage boy desperate to get out.”
“Uncle” feels a bit like a placeholder episode. The theme of the juvenile delinquent doesn’t seem particularly fresh or interesting, and the abrasive one-note performance by Donald Losby as the young lead doesn’t help. There’s a little too much “Afterschool Special” in this ordinary program.
“Uncle” boasts multiple guest stars. We find Ron Howard as one of the kids, and Brett Somers appears as a caretaker.
Detour On a Road Going Nowhere: “A robbed safe forces Kimble to flee a lodge. But the treacherous shuttle trip down the mountain – and an armed thief on board – prove even more dangerous.”
“Detour” provides an unusually complex tale packed into the episode’s 50 minutes. It combines some of the series’ staples – romance, danger, melodrama, suspense – and balances them in a concise way. Though it threatens to suffer from “Jack of All Trades Syndrome”, “Detour” melds its elements well and turns into a winner.
The Iron Maiden: “When a Congresswoman gets trapped in an underground shaft with Kimble and a work crew, their photo makes the newswire and is seen by Lt. Gerard.”
The Fugitive often showed a progressive mindset. For instance, back in “Escape into Black”, the show featured an African-American doctor but made little fuss over that concept. That means it’s a bit disappointing that “Iron” positions its disaster around a woman who twists her ankle on her high heel; it’s not a severe mistake, but it seems more sexist than we usually expect from the series.
That slip aside, “Iron” turns into a solid episode. The disaster adds good tension to the episode, and the return of Lt. Gerard makes matters even livelier. This offers one of the tighter focused shows this season, and it entertains.
Devil’s Carnival: “In bayou country, Kimble gets picked up hitchhiking by a local. Unaware that he is also a fugitive, they are both promptly thrown in jail.”
In some ways, “Carnival” feels redundant after “Iron”. Both imprison Kimble in some way; though “Carnival” does so in a more literal way, the two shows stick Kimble in apparently inescapable situations.
Despite the moderately repetitive elements, “Carnival” manages to stand on its own. It allows Kimble to be a more active participant in his escape and it integrates some unusual subplots. I think “Iron” provides the more involving episode, but “Carnival” does fine for itself as well.
“Carnival” offers a two-fer in terms of well-known guest stars. We find both Warren Oates and Strother Martin here.
Ballad for a Ghost: “A well-known singer who reminds Kimble of his late wife promises she won’t reveal his identity if he doesn’t let anyone know she’s terminally ill.”
You know what I don’t understand? If he’s on the lam, why doesn’t Kimble grow a beard and wear glasses to hide his identity? Sure, he darkens his hair from its pre-escape gray, but he does nothing else to obscure his face even though plenty of non-gray photos have been taken of him.
I bring this up because a “Ghost” character recognizes him, and that seems more and more likely to happen as the series continues. The longer Kimble stays out there, the more people will know of his story and will potentially recognize him. Grow a beard, dude!
While I don’t understand why Kimble the character wouldn’t make these changes, I do comprehend why the series wouldn’t want its lead to alter his appearance. They have to keep Kimble hunky so ladies can immediately fall in love with him! That appears to be the story here, but in truth, matters are more complex than that. “Ghost” subverts the standard Fugitive line in other ways as well; just when I think it’ll be predictable, it takes a twist. Although I usually don’t much care for the more melodramatic “emotional” episodes, “Ghost” proves rich and satisfying.