Obsessive, Compulsive, Procedural #9: The Finder

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The Finder
USA, 2012, imdb
Thursday, 9PM, Fox
Created by Hart Hanson, based on characters from The Locator book series by Richard Greener

Episode 1.01 “An Orphan Walks Into a Bar”
Directed by Daniel Sackheim
Written by Hart Hanson

Episode 1.02 “Bullets”
Directed by Terrence O’Hara
Written by Matt MacLeod

*****

The Finder series is a new procedural series with an interesting premise and really good characters, betrayed by a writing staff that don’t seem to read their own scripts.

The show falls into the category of quirky, intellectually brilliant, but emotionally damaged investigators like Bones, House, and Body of Proof. Like Sherlock Holmes’ Watson, Walter Sherman (Geoff Shults) is a wounded veteran, although Sherman was wounded in Iraq rather than Afghanistan. Before his injury, Sherman was great at finding people and things for the military, but after he is almost supernaturally gifted at it, though this is balanced by his obsessive compulsion to find things – this compulsion driven by the circumstances of his injury.

I was in Iraq in a Humvee with seven men… I was looking for a very active insurgent bomb maker. My job was to find him. But, what happened was… is that he found me first. Understand? Drove right over one of his IEDs.

Was the explosion what caused your brain damage?

The explosion is what killed six good men. Ripped them apart. And I woke up two months later a changed man.

Changed how?

When I set out find something now, Dr. Sweets, I either find it or I die trying. Now you know what compels me.

-Walter Sherman and Dr. Lance Sweets

In a sense, Walter’s injury is his personal Shakabuku (c.f. Grosse Point Blank) the “swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.” In his state of altered reality, Walter “sees connections other people don’t see” and these connections are presented as dreams or visions.

Walter Sherman was first introduced as a character through a backdoor pilot in the episode The Finder on Bones (Season 6, Episode 19), which also introduced Walter’s partner Leo Knox (Michael Clarke Duncan). Knox is a non-practicing lawyer who handles Sherman’s money and tries to keep him out of trouble. He owes Sherman a debt because Walter found him and prevented him from killing the man who murdered Knox’ family.

The series pilot “An Orphan Walks Into a Bar” introduced the two female members of the cast: Deputy U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada (Mercedes Masohn) and professional juvenile delinquent and gypsy Willa Monday (Maddie Hasson).

The four characters nicely balance each other. Two men, two women. Isabel and Walter both find things/people for a living, Isabel professionally and Walter as an amateur detective. Willa is looking to find a sense of balance in her life, her upbringing distorted by being “raised by wolves” (gypsies), while Leo has found inner peace and simply seeks to stay centered. Isabel and Walter are a romantic couple dancing around their mutual attraction, while Leo and Willa are dancing around admitting that they both want a father-daughter type relationship. Isabel and Willa balance each other as cop and criminal while Leo and Walter balance each other with Leo being a worldly, practical optimist and Walter being an ethereal cynic.

All four characters are members of groups that are both elite and elitist, groups that have their own internal system of justice, groups that are outside the mainstream, making them outsiders from normal society. Except that all four, either by choice or by circumstances find themselves ostracized from the mainstream of their outsider groups, isolating them even more.

Walter is ex-military. Leo is a non-practicing lawyer who dislikes being forced to practice as he is in “Bullets”. Willa is a gypsy, exiled from her clan because she was caught and sentenced to do probation at Walter and Leo’s bar. Isabel’s “career trajectory” with the U.S. Marshals is undermined by her association with Walter and Leo and by the fact that she is, in her own immodest words, “hot, smoking hot.”

This outsider perspective is emphasized by the show’s location, the Ends of the Earth bar on Looking Glass Key, near Key West, the southernmost city in the United States – as close as you can get to being outside the United States without actually leaving the country.

The series is also located in a very specific place in literary geography, specifically, the Florida of Edna Buchanan, Dave Barry, John D. MacDonald and most of all Carl Hiaasen. Their Florida is filled with eccentrics powering a state machine built of corruption that only runs thanks to a thick coating of grease. It’s a state with the slow, friendly smile of a small town and the morals of a city built on the gates of Hell.

The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout.

-Carl Hiaasen

Perhaps the best example of The Finder‘s Florida is the warden in “Bullets” who believes in the death penalty, but who has come to believe that one of his inmates on Death Row is innocent because, “Jesus has told me this man is innocent.” When the warden asks the Governor of Florida to stay the execution, rather than doing what most Governors would do: send the looney to see a psychiatrist, he instead politely declines to stay the execution, but points the warden to Walter, because in small-town Florida of course the Governor knows about Walter.

Equally Florida eccentric is the man-eating drug kingpin Amadea Denaris (Jaime Murray) from “An Orphan Walks Into a Bar” who literally makes Walter, Leo and Isabel walk the plank off her yacht and the two retired vice cops in “Bullets”, who, we are told, inspired the characters from Miami Vice and who are now trapped in their ’80s notoriety and wardrobe.

I have got to admit. Sounds very Florida.

-Isabel Zambada

The problem with The Finder is that it has an opportunity to be unique, but forces Walter to solve murders just like 99% of the other procedurals on TV. One of the strengths of the best current procedurals like The Good Wife, Harry’s Law and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is that their cases are not automatically murders. When The Good Wife does do a murder case, like in this year’s excellent episode “Feeding the Rat”, the episode has real emotional impact. The other procedurals that solve homicides every week are forced to catch a serial killer to up the stakes.

Walter doesn’t care about murder mysteries.

I really don’t.

Walter just likes to find things.

The finding stuff is way more interesting than the murder stuff.

Leo Knox, Walter Sherman, Isabel Zambada, and Dr. Lance Sweets

The Finder knows this, but even though the show’s entire raison d’être is summed up by Sweet’s line, “The finding stuff is way more interesting than the murder stuff,” in each of the three episodes (including the Bones backdoor pilot) that we have seen so far, Walter has investigated a murder. This was especially disappointing in “An Orphan Walks Into a Bar”, when the case went from missing and presumed dead, to missing and presumed a criminal on the run, back to missing and presumed dead and finally to found and a murder victim.

Walter badly needs to be investigating his own The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle or his own The Adventure of the Naval Treaty. I would even settle for Walter trying to find a cat, just as long as the cat’s owner wasn’t murdered.

Michael Ryan

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