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Review: As Backstories Become Clearer, ‘Intruders’ Needs to Find Focus or Risk Derailing

Review: As Backstories Become Clearer, 'Intruders' Needs to Find Focus or Risk Derailing

Yes, Madison claims to have performed Mozart on May 29, 1791. On the same day, the maestro’s daughter was found killed, thought to be the third victim of an unknown hunter of young girls. Murder as a young girl is a demise that Madison herself has narrowly avoided, but it seems that there isn’t any Madison left at all. Now, it is only Marcus, and every time actress Millie Brown opens her mouth to curse out another surprised adult, I expect to hear the grisly, demonic voice of Reagan from “The Exorcist.” 

That there is no voice-over for Marcus to speak through Madison’s lips is perhaps the most intoxicating thing about Brown’s performance. She embodies the chill of a girl possessed by an ancient soul, without a single prosthetic or voice-dub. Her descent is now complete. If it was shocking when she murdered her cat — and it was — then what are we supposed to think when she beats a grown woman to death? Now the killer who may never be found is the young girl.

Marcus has mastered two voices: one to play the role of the innocent girl and another as his natural, intimidating self. He is quite effective at manipulation, and obviously has an impressive memory, but where are these skills leading him? Fleeing Madison’s beach house en route to Seattle, the nature of Marcus’ journey in Madison’s body is still in question. “No book was made for Marcus Fox,” Richard Shepherd is told in Episode 2. Now that he has one, it is unclear what he plans to do. A crucial clue is dropped in the end of the series’ first episode: “You brought me back too soon, and I know why,” he warned Shepherd. 

READ MORE: Review: ‘Intruders’ on BBC America Finds Suspense in Interwoven Stories, But Loses It in Action

This week, in flashback, Shepherd meets with an old man we hadn’t met before, named Marcus Fox. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll continue to refer to the soul inhabiting Madison’s body as Marcus, and this man from Shepherd’s memory as Mr. Fox, though presumably they are one and the same. Shepherd and Mr. Fox strike a deal since Mr. Fox is afraid that the 9 (referred to by this name, with no direct mention of the Qui Reverti this week) have been convinced to finally kill him for good. Shepherd, he hopes, will let him live, shepherd him in secret when his time comes and help him take vengeance against the 9. Here, the origin of the magic sand dollar is revealed, given to Shepherd by Mr. Fox to be returned when the time was right. According to Marcus’ earlier phone call, the time wasn’t right yet.

More than Marcus’ story, this explains much of Shepherd’s actions in the series, not including the Anderson murders. Because of his allegiance with Mr. Fox — that is, letting him live against the 9’s wishes — could Shepherd be on the outs with the 9 after Marcus’ survival became known? That would explain his willingness to murder the book lady, possibly the only one who knew that Marcus was in Madison and who had noticed that Marcus Fox was never supposed to come back again. With her out of the picture, the only other character capable of bringing Shepherd’s treason to light has taken the form of a 9-year old girl. All that is left is to know why he made such a risk by bringing him back too soon.

His past relationship with Mr. Fox was revealed in flashback, a common thread of the first three episodes of “Intruders”: Madison also has a brief flashback to happy times with her family. Jack has many of these. Flashbacks for the sake not only of revealing plot details but as a way of looking at how characters are shaped by their pasts are a universal trait of the present age of newer, more thoughtful stories on television. 

But unlike Don Draper of “Mad Men” or Tony and Carmela of “The Sopranos,” their series’ central character or pair, no one has been established as the keystone of “Intruders,” with everyone’s psyche being given equal weight. This is holding “Intruders” back. It needs to settle on a direction. Just when it begins picking up speed in one of its storylines, it cuts to another and the momentum is lost.

The other story is this episode centers around Jack, whose wife Amy has returned home safe and sound. While the mysterious relationship between the 9, Richard Shepherd and Marcus is becoming more fascinating as it marches on, the Whelan subplot was dead on arrival. Predictably, Amy says they need to separate, and Jack flips out.

Their arguments over the two nights after Amy’s return are meant to be gradual reveals of the show’s subtexts, but the endless, unsubtle double-entendre of their dialogue is becoming a drag. I can only commend the cleverness of Jack saying things like, “in this or any other life” so many times. It is finally revealed what happened to send Jack into retirement — he shot and killed three men — but with the causes of that event still hidden it was not the rewarding reveal I had hoped. Even the budding allusions to a duality theme, noted last week with the hopes they would gain meaning but stay subtle, have already been blown out of proportion. A good writer can come up with a subtext like this — that there is no singular identity people inhabit — but a great one can make his or her point without lines like “That Jack,” or “this Amy.” At least “Intruders” is making an effort to confront the real issues, like the fact that no one memorizes phone numbers anymore. So there’s that.

Gary Fisher was back for the final moments of “Time Has Come Today,” to alert Jack of his wife’s likely involvement with the Qui Reverti and the Anderson murders. The previews of Episode 4 hinted that Fisher’s law practice has been roped into some fishy business that lead him to find Jack. I’m glad that the show hasn’t just forgotten the Bill Anderson story, but I’m not looking forward to hearing Fisher tell Jack a bunch of things we already know. 

Amy did confess her involvement with the immortal cult, calling Jack her shepherd and saying that only the ignorant cannot conquer death, but without knowledge the audience already has, he only thought she was a hippy. Come on, Jack. Try to keep up.

Grade: C

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