Sunday, May 31, 2015

Battle Creek - Going Down in a Blaze of Glory (1x13 Sympathy for the Devil)

I should be revising/writing right now. I'm on this crazy deadline and have been typing my little fingers to the bone, but I had to come up from the fog to write this post, which I've been wanting to do ever since I watched the season finale of Battle Creek.
Admittedly, in knowing this show had been cancelled, part of me didn't want to watch the final episode because I just knew it was going to be good and make it all worse. But I was wrong. The final episode wasn't just good, it was awesome and now I can categorically say I have never been so upset by the cancellation of a show as I am about Battle Creek. Not since Firefly. In fact, since I'd already been burned by Firefly, I'm going to say this hurt even worse.
I'm not going to pretend like I have any idea how the whole TV network-ratings-money thing works, but like anyone with a computer, access to the internet, and a blog, I have an opinion.
In this age where so many consumers (especially, I would assume, in the ideal targeted 18 to 49 year old demographic) more and more people aren't watching TV when it airs on TV. With DVR technology, catch-up and on-demand episodes, illegal downloading and streaming, plus legit streaming services like Netflix, I just cannot imagine how there is any feasible way to measure any demographic at all.
Someone tell me otherwise.
So the major networks making decisions based on ratings or lack thereof (though I assume a few other things are taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to cancel a show. At least I hope there is!) is like grasping at straws, making ill-informed decisions based on a only a select section of the market which probably doesn't represent the entire viewing population any longer.
Now, obviously I am biased because I loved Battle Creek and the growing bromance between Milt and Russ. But I really think CBS have made an epic mistake in cancelling Battle Creek. And I'm talking legendary, cult-fans will still be talking about it in ten years mistake, just like the whole Firefly fiasco with Fox. There is no doubt now that if Fox had given Firefly a bit more leeway, it would have became a huge hit, as that show actually gained in fans and popularity long after it had been taken off the air. If you're not a huge geek and have no idea what Firefly is, a simple trip over to google will explain everything.
But back to Battle Creek. Its been a long time since I've become so deeply invested in a show so quickly, and with the amount of fiction I consume in TV and books, I'm a tough critic. However Battle Creek had all my favorite elements, and best of all, it was character driven, which is what I really love to see.
I've already written a post about all the things so right with Battle Creek, so I won't go into it again. But I will give some thoughts on the final episode, as painful as it might be.
First off, I just have to say that I was so relieved we found out why Milt was in Battle Creek. And if you haven't see this episode and don't want to know, I'm about to drop some spoilers.
So the episode opened with Milt waking up to an alarm at what I imagine is some ungodly hour considering its still dark. Next we see him waiting to get on the elevator, and for the first time, he's looking really down. Like I'm talking in the darkest, most depressing place imaginable, which is a total reversal to his usual sunny charming self.
Someone else is already on the elevator when it arrives, and he puts on a smile, starting up some polite elevator chit-chat, but its clearly forced. Next, he's sitting in his car, still looking just short of devastated, except this time, his eyes are damp, and we even get a stray tear before he tells himself "forward, positive, embrace the day." He repeats it, but for some reason today, or maybe a lot of days, the mantra just isn't working. From the struggle that briefly crosses his expression, I assume in that moment it was either break down completely or get angry, so he lets out this furious yell before it cuts to a montage of Milt working out in the park, pushing himself and presumably his demons to the point where he's managed to work some of it out of his system. By the time he arrives back at his car, he's looking more together, more like the Milt we're used to seeing. However, when he goes to start the engine, he gets nothing but some weird clicking. Realization dawns on his features a split second before the car explodes. All this, not even three minutes into the episode.
So for half a second, I was like "OMG did they just kill Milt?!" But of course he turns up looking fine, and it comes out later that his car was fully armored, which is why he survived the explosion and gives us a clue that Milt knew something like this might eventually happen.
Milt keeps everyone at the Battle Creek police station in the dark on the fact it was his car that got blown up, and pretty much sends them on a wild goose chase because he believes the car can't be traced back to him. Meanwhile, he confides in Russ, and asks for his help in tracking the person after him.
This is all well and good until the bad guy gets the drop on them, and both Milt and Russ end up in the trunk of a car together.
Now, a lot of shows wouldn't have been able to pull off the entire middle of this episode, with the two main characters tied up next to each other with nothing to do but talk. Most shows would have skipped over a lot of this in favor of other action, but Milt and Russ are so awesome that they carry it all perfectly.
Russ reasons that what's happening now has to do with the mystery of Milt being in Battle Creek, and is completely right. Milt starts telling him the story of how it all came to be. We see flashbacks, interspersed with Russ's usual sarcasm and cutting wit.
Meanwhile, the team at Battle Creek soon realize Russ and Milt are missing, and mostly led by Font, they manage to work out that Milt was the target. They go to Milt's ex-boss for answers.
But things are looking bad for Russ and Milt, as, after Milt admits the mistakes he made in the pursuit of justice that got an innocent teenager gunned down, the car pulls to a stop and the father or the slain teen pulls Russ out of the trunk first. Milt tells Russ to run, but Russ refuses, saying that Milt is his partner and he's not going to leave him.
Just as their abductor is getting ready to kill Milt, a police car turns up with Font and a uniformed officer. They subdue the shooter, and it seems like everything is all said and done. But I totally didn't see the end coming. Milt gets the gun that the abductor had and turns it on Font. Russ (along with probably everyone watching) wants to know what the hell he's doing.
At first, Russ demands to know if Milt is going to kill the guy, but Russ knows Milt too well. He reasons that Milt is actually going to let the guy go. But Milt doesn't do either. Once the others are disarmed, he takes the magazine out of the gun, leaving only one bullet, and then returns the gun to the abductor. He says that the man has every right to kill him, and that he would kill himself if he could bring his son back.
Just when it looks like Milt might have talked the guy down and everyone takes a breath of relief, the man suddenly raises the gun and shoots Milt almost point-blank.
He goes down and Russ rushes to his side. As Russ puts pressure on the wound in his chest, he tells Milt he's going to be okay. For a second, Milt just stares up at him, trying to catch his breath, but then he grins, and the relief is catching. Milt agrees that he is going to be fine, and we know he's talking about more than just his injury, before the two of them share a tension-relieving laugh. The shot pans out and we're left with the sense, or maybe more the hope that Milt really is going to be okay, and the two of them will be best-buddies forever and Milt will start seeing Battle Creek as more of a home than somewhere the FBI sent him to be alone so he couldn't show anyone up with his perfect by-the-book play any longer.
If this is where Battle Creek ends, then at least we got to know why Milt came to Battle Creek (though other issues such as what the story with his mother is will go unanswered) and it ended on a high note, with this episode easily being one of the best. 
The show seems to have a devoted, yet unfortunately small fan base. And though the usual petition, letter writing, and network feedback campaigns have sprung up, when compared to another new show that was cancelled this year, Forever, (which I haven't watched and don't have an opinion on, apart from the fact that the promos didn't make me want to watch it) the numbers for Battle Creek just don't do enough. The petition to save Forever has something in the realms of 58,000 signatures, while the Facebook page alone has just shy of 500,000 likes.
In comparison, Battle Creek only has 35,000 likes on its Facebook page and the petition is struggling to reach 5000 signatures. There are some slight differences, however. Forever (as far as I know) had much more advertising than Battle Creek and a different (dare I say better) time-slot, but Battle Creek had superior ratings. On average, Forever came it around 5 million, while Battle Creek came in at 6.7 million, nearly two million better (although at one point earlier in the season, the average was up around 8.1 million). So where are all the fans? My guess is that Battle Creek was hitting the higher age demographic who aren't as active on social media, whereas Forever grabbed the ideal demographic of 18 to 49, who are obviously the most active on social media.
If social media is to be the decider and either of these shows caught a second chance by the network changing their minds, or the show getting picked up by Netflix, it seems Forever would be more likely to succeed.
Either way, in the current market (and though we have seen fans rescue shows like Longmire and Hannibal) as a realist I have to say that Battle Creek is probably done and dusted, no matter how brilliant it was. Of course I have a small, hopeful dream that this show will be saved, either by CBS changing their minds (unlikely) or Netflix taking it on (a little more likely, but still not good chances). In the meantime, I'm going to wait for it to come out on DVD, and when it eventually does, binge myself on every deliciously layered episode all over again.

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