"Smothered", "Badge", "Monster" and "Happy Family" are the perfect representatives of the Gomard Meyer style for me. There is always something heartbreakingly intimate and dysfunctional to these stories. While Ms. Sengupta's stories make me think of the universailty of the absurd and heartbreaking, Ms. Gomard Meyer's stories make me feel the individual pain of the heartbreak in these stories. They make me feel the pain of the parents and siblings and children of the particular villains -- even when I don't understand the villain as much as I might in another episode. Fore me, Ms. Gomard Meyer's episodes are intimate.
I agree about the intimate nature of her stories, and Smothered and Happy Family are all excellent models for family dysfunction. I would also add Phantom, Bright Boy, The Pilgrim, and The Saint to that list, but I don't see that family dysfunction is a theme in either Badge or Monster.
Certainly, the cop in Badge saw her family as a motive for her crimes, but it was not her only motive. A look at her kitchen is proof of that. There was also nothing truly personal about the personal gain that the cops in Monster got. Sure, they were happy to receive recognition for their captures, but it wasn't their true motive. Success comes with more than just a pat on the back, and that is what Marstin and the woman in Badge really had in common.
The lone soldier here is The Extra Man. This is the type of story we are more likely to see Stephanie Sengupta write, but with a bit more literary flourish. The shades of Gatsby are evident, but the depth isn't there. I have other issues with this episode that are probably getting in the way of any intimacy that could be found in it.
The dysfunction I saw in "Monster" was the relationship between the mother and her recently paroled son. True, he wasn't the ultimate bad guy, and the mother bites the dust early on, but their relationship is fascinating. The mother is both disgusted by and feels guilty about the way her son turned out. When pushed to the brink, she finally calls him a "malignant narcissist" -- which seems accurate. It's chilling when the mother finds the son's one night stand in her son's bed, and immediately thinks the young woman is dead. It's also interesting to see a middle aged man, just released from prison, living in the room he occupied as an adolescent under his mother's roof. He resents being stunted in his journey to manhood, and envelopes himself in the identity thrust upon him by his infamy as a brutal killer.
In "Badge", the dysfunction thread came in the relationship between the bad cop and her daughters and mother. The bad cop is so driven to ensure the excellence of her children that she not only becomes an inverted role model, but she loses a big chunk of her humanity as well. Her daughters are "things" to be manipulated at will, and it's appropriate that we don't see or learn much about them as individuals. They are, as their bad cop mom sees them, extensions of herself. There's also a thinly veiled disdain that the bad cop displays toward her mother, I think, for not pushing HER harder toward excellence. It's as though she's deliberately trying to right a perceived wrong done to her by her own mother. Three generations of dysfunction in this one.
I agree that "The Extra Man" is the odd episode out here. There are shades of literary references to Gatsby, as you pointed out, and also to The Talented Mr. Ripley, but they're not played out in a satisfying way. Even the relationships between the wealthy, duped investors and their trophy wives falls flat. Perhaps this is one story that might have been handled with greater success by one of the other writers. That's an interesting point to make, because Ms. Gomard Meyer is so successful with other types of material.
PHANTOM is one of my favorite LOCI episodes. The story starts in one direction, jerks back to another, and then hurtles to a terrific stop. The acting in this episode is exceptionally strong, particularly the actor portraying the phantom, and it's so good that it might obscure the fact that the script trusts the actors. It's not overwritten. And it gives Mr. D'Onofrio one of his best scenes in all of LOCI, which is saying a lot.
LOCIfan, I totally forgot about the mother and son in Monster and I'm sure you are right about Badge, as well. It's been a long time since I've seen either episode.
The problems with The Extra Man go beyond the two dimensional secondary characters. Even Goren is off the mark. He looks at a man who has been systematically beaten by someone who is either very controlled, or not emotionally involved, and then had his face bashed in by a killer who pulled a sheet over his face first.
How could our genius see this and think the same person did it? Or that bashing the face in was done out of rage? No, no, no. This story was a disappointment from beginning to end, and I don't think this story would have worked for CI in anyone's hands. I would even expect Briscoe and Green to see that a person enraged enough to literally bash someone's face in would not have thought to pull a sheet over the face of the source of their rage before striking. It's watching the face disappear into a pile of hamburger that would be the pleasure of the killer, and Goren especially would know that cold.
I agree with you about the problems in The Extra Man -- not only was the way he was killed totally misinterpreted, but there were weird problems with basics like fingerprints. I can see if Felix's prints weren't "in the system" for some reason, but they had prints for Didier later in the episode. So why didn't they know that the body wasn't his a lot sooner?
I notice in the list at the top of the thread that later credits have Rene sharing billing -- maybe to head off problems like these in later episodes? Sheer speculation on my part, of course.
She wrote the October 19, 2006 episode Double-Cross of CSI the original series. It was a very good episode. I would almost wonder if this episode was written by someone from L&O:CI. This writer must be interested in religious themes since the L&O:CI episodes "The Gift" and "Saint" both have religious themes as well.
Last Edit: Oct 20, 2006 21:02:24 GMT -5 by filmnoir5
She also wrote Fallen Idol this weeks (2/22/07) episode of CSI. The episode featured the young boy from Happy Family which she wrote in season 3 and it had the plot device of postmortem art which was featured in Posthumous Collection which she wrote in season 4.
Last Edit: Feb 24, 2007 20:46:02 GMT -5 by filmnoir5
Well spotted. Is a change of writers going on,and have we seen the last of Stephanie Sengupta I wonder?
Meyer left early in 2006 before the show was even renewed. Sengupta stated in her interview that Weeping Willow was her last episode this season. I do not know if she was saying she would not be writing any more teleplays for season 6 or if she was saying that Weeping Willow was the last script that she has done for season 6 in terms of "most recent" I do hope she returns. She is still listed as a producer but Meyer is not. Elizabeth Benjamin who wrote the Edgar Award winning Want left last season as well and currently writes for Bones.
Bones and CSI are two of my favorite crime dramas on TV currently outside of CI and SVU but I do think Benjamin and Meyer stories were better on CI because CI is a show where stories can be better developed from the human perspective than Bones or CSI. Both Bones and CSI focus more on anthropology or forensics solving crimes where CI can focus and give more air time to the participants in the stories.
Last Edit: Feb 25, 2007 12:35:53 GMT -5 by filmnoir5