Alien Nation #17: Partners

About to receive his baby's pod, George is framed by Matt's old partner.
REVIEW: Though it eventually adds an extra wrinkle with the involvement of a not-so-legit "businessman" you almost forgot about acting from behind the scenes, it nevertheless remains that the "old partner returns and [REVEAL!] he's corrupt" is one of the oldest tropes in the book. There's very little to this A-plot that doesn't smell of cliché, and consequently, my attention tended to waver. Even the old partner's death felt formulaic, and the only redeeming values are that 1) we may partly be seeing where Sikes got his "maverick cop" attitude, and 2) the aggressive way Internal Affairs are going after George may be racially motivated.

It does a lot better when we take the episode's themes into account; it isn't called Partners without reason. Matt's loyalty to his old partner matches what he's shown towards George, and in both cases, he becomes their "godfather", which is a neat trick. With George, this is literal truth, he and Susan embracing human custom by giving their next child a godparent. Amusingly, they've read Mario Puzo's Godfather and think there's a connection, and there is! It's to be found in the A-plot when Matt has to metaphorically give his old partner the kiss of death. The scene where he tells Theo he thought of him like a brother but no more deliberately echoes Michael's rejection of Fredo in The Godfather Part II.

The other partners are George and Susan who not only must carry a child to term between them, but are sympathetically bonded so that George feels her contractions, etc. (And Buck feels his father's, and so on.) While the whole Newcomer reproduction angle is where the novelty lies, the way it's used for broad slapstick comedy is at odds with the dark grit of the main story. It doesn't quite work. (Much better, for example, is the dark comedy moment when George leaves an unconscious goon behind him when he makes bail; the crazy aerobics and vomiting Newcomers are rather unfunny.) Similarly, while the transfer of the pod explains some of the insane things that have been alluded to in the past few episodes (did the writers give themselves a puzzle to solve? if so, it must have been a fun exercise), the viewer's attitude might vacillate awkwardly between wonder and disgust. I love the Tanctonese song they put under it, and respect the thought that has gone into making Tanctonese reproduction so different from that of humans, but it's still a little rude, as the Brits might say. Interesting, but I'm never quite sure how to feel about it... which doesn't need to be a weakness.

- The cliched plot and haphazard tone take away from an important family moment, though once again, strong themes save the episode from infamy.



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