When we left “Intruders” at the end of the pilot, 9-year old Madison (Millie Brown) was on her way out the door to run away from home, adding a final warning to Richard Shepherd over the phone: “What goes around comes around.” Independent of the Sheriff’s office’s investigation, “Special Agent Shepherd” – (Richard Shepherd (James Frain) is getting lazier with the fake names) – says, “I will find her and I will bring her back from where she came.” So, where did she come from? Two episodes in, “Intruders” is still holding off on supplying the answers, but more and more bits of explanation sneak into the dialogue.
Madison has very clearly now been left behind for a more sinister, conniving and frankly more mature persona. Presumably, this is Marcus (whose full name is revealed to be Marcus Fox), as Shepherd addressed her on the beach. “It’s not like our daughter to just walk off,” suggests her mother, and hey, she’s probably right. Now that Marcus/Madison is on the run, it seems that everyone is converging on Seattle in Episode 2, “And Here… You Must Listen.”
This is most evident in Madison’s story — hers is the most closely connected to the structural mysteries of the series, because we witnessed her change and closely follow her interactions with Shepherd. The key to the audience’s understanding of the Qui Reverti, and the puzzle “Intruders” presents regarding immortality, lies with her.
In fact, it literally lies with her — during her travels, Madison picks up a book, evidently in Portland (this is only shown through a hazy, nearly indiscernible flashback). The scenes of her reading the book are narrated with exactly the voice and tone you’d expect: Roughened by age, speaking in a near-whisper, the only thing more cliché than the voice is the manipulative, horror-esque score. This book is handed to people just as they need to be shepherded, it seems — convincing them of the plausibility of immortality, and warning them of its side effects.
The 9 book says bluntly that the insistence that we all die is nothing but a lie; it keeps people in check by making them fearful. Podcaster Tim Truth (creative handle there, Timmy), who replaces the late-great-Oz “Professor Purdue” Turner, agrees: This is the great lie, he tells Turner’s radio audience. Of his departed predecessor, Truth shares that the official report lists his death as a suicide, which is “a coincidence on par with the Warren Commission.” Well said, Timmy, well said. What is worth taking away from these landmark podcasts is that the conspiracy freaks are in fact right — something confirmed by Madison’s book as well as the Qui Reverti’s assassination of Turner and destruction of the still-absent Bill Anderson’s lab.
Shepherd is deep into the hunt for Madison/Marcus, with the same feracity he killed Turner. A few times in Portland he comes ever-so-close to finding the girl, but the most compelling stop in his trajectory comes when he meets the Chinese woman, who gave Madison the book in Portland. Interrogating this new character, Shepherd, played with increasing skill by James Frain, physically displays the fire with which he wants to catch his target: Even though she begs that her 72nd (divisible by 9, mind you) birthday is in a month, Shepherd kills the woman, showing once again how heartless he can be.
Though she does turn up in almost too simple a manner (she got a new phone and went home), Amy Whelan’s mysteries are unsolved, and compliment the more alluring Qui Reverti track. The Whelan storyline in “And Here… You Must Listen” plays less like supernatural suspense and more like espionage thriller, as “Intruders” once more flirts with genre-bending. Told non-linearly with a dream sequence that depicts a “changing” Amy (Mira Sorvino) – closely associating her actions with both the girl from 1990 and with Madison in a way beyond their shared birthdays – this plot sees Jack (John Simm) frantically searching Seattle.
When Jack tracked down the cab driver who last saw her, the episode becomes a silly pseudo-tribute to the “Bourne” trilogy. Originally minding their own business but keeping an increasingly close eye on Jack, a pair of spies (or something) attack him and taxi driver George outside of Amy’s boss’s condo. Inexplicably, they flee without causing further damage.
My personal theory regarding these men is that they have nothing with Amy being shepherded or the Qui Reverti, and instead are a red herring, which would be a welcome twist from the otherwise plainly written series. Earlier, Jack shows up in the office of Todd Crane, Amy’s boss. He’d been calling the office and turns up uninvited, and Crane has Jack watched on his way out of the building. He even quips, in a voice way too dramatic for friendly conversation, “Is there something I should know, Jack?” Would it be that hard to think Crane, a powerful Seattle legal firm partner has personal security contacts, who he can have follow oddly-behaving associates?
Gary Fisher, a character who I believe has much more significance than the show is letting on, is absent from “And Here… You Must Listen.” In the last episode, he is the one who first refers to the mysterious reason Jack is no longer a police officer, and who says that Jack’s home is not safe to talk in about the Anderson killings. Without a doubt, there is something meaningful going on between these two high school football buddies. If Episode 2 had embraced this curious subplot and brought it forward, it would’ve been more rewarding.
Ultimately, “Intruders” is beginning to look like a thesis on duality. Jack was a cop, but is now a writer. Madison has become Marcus. Amy is a Russian spy from 1883. Madison’s mother was sleeping with another man (literally “two-timing”). As might be Amy, because she wasn’t in George’s cab alone. This theme is admirable for a show that, without deeper meaning, risks becoming just another TV thriller. If developed further and hopefully with more subtlety, this thematic approach to the supernatural material could make for smart entertainment, but for now “Intruders” needs to build its weak characters, or redirect itself to the interesting ones like Gary Fisher. Hey, with the sporadic non-linear moments, maybe Oz Turner can even get some more screen time.