Alien Nation #19: Crossing the Line

A serial killer from Matt's past returns to L.A. Emily learns the value of honesty. And first appearance of Det. Beatrice Zapeda.
REVIEW: That old trope? It's easily the weakest part of an episode that ostensibly about guilt, but isn't as strongly themed as most of the series. Matt is haunted by a serial killer that got away from him when he was a uniformed cop, and his descent into obsession when this "Doctor of Death" returns is gripping, if cliched. However, the Doctor isn't a particularly well crafted mass murderer, too rough to be a mastermind, and with unfocused motivations and habits. They had a decent chance to shock the audience by killing off the misused and uninteresting photojournalist Burns - a regular makes a better victim than a guest star, even when you're kind of happy to see him go - but it doesn't go that extra mile. It brings up the question of whether the media are more helpful or harmful to police investigations, but only on a surface level. Otherwise, it goes pretty much where you think it will, to a reprise of the events of long ago - this time with George in danger instead of a helpless nurse - and Matt putting the animal down.

The addition of Detective Zapeda, played by professional TV guest-star Jenny Gago, seems to lead nowhere - George can't really make use of this new partner because Matt never goes on his forced vacation - but looking ahead, it's because she's to be a regular from now on (although she doesn't appear again for a few episodes). She's sexy and competent, but one wonders if she'll bring more to the table than Dobbs, who seems to have disappeared now that we're past the point of needing a foil for Albert (who's evolved beyond the role of simple comic relief, though he does the occasional bit of slapstick). Just a tag-along while Matt goes rogue here, but that's already more than Dobbs ever did.

The subplot concerns Vessna's christening (or rather, its Tanctonese equivalent) and Emily thinking herself responsible for the baby's short illness because she shirked her responsibilities and didn't follow a tradition said to protect the child. That too ends predictably, with the bracelet Emily coveted winding up in the crib. Still, there's a sweetness about all this, and the ceremony shows, among other things, how close George and Matt have become. And that's the real joy of this show. I hope it allows itself a break from the standard cop drama when it goes into TV movies, because it's the characters that make the show, far more than the plots.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- We've seen this story a hundred times, but the characters are as engaging as usual, so I can forgive its lack of ambition.

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