Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why I Watch The Human Target

I think I've discovered what it is that really draws me into The Human Target, and it's not just the really awesome action sequences and the slowly building mythology. I know there was a fair amount of sad faces over Chi McBride being somewhat underused thus far, but his partnership with Mark Valley's Christopher Chance reminds me very strongly of Jet and Spike from Cowboy Bebop, and the whole series at large is very reminiscent of that brilliant anime series (as someone who has never gotten into a single other anime series, I believe it's a sign of the quality of Cowboy Bebop that I love it so much).

Just look at those pictures and try to tell me how different those scenes are.

I don't know how influenced the current incarnation of Human Target is by the 1992 series, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if this relationship in Human Target was influenced by Jet and Spike from Cowboy Bebop rather than anything from there. As for the rest of the Bebop, Guerrero is obviously Ed and his flaky, casual attitude is very reminiscent of Ed's excellent craziness. The host of female figures that wander in and out of Human Target play the role of Faye (although I hear a permanent female lead is coming in next season and maybe we'll get a real Faye going on). But in the end, it all comes back to Chance and Winston.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine a few years ago about the Cowboy Bebop cast. He commented about how he thought Jet was a rather unnecessary character next to Spike, Faye, Ed, and Ein, who all had their own purposes. I defended Jet, because I really like Jet and he is really the unifying link. His partnership and friendship with Spike was what was at the beginning and it was what was at the end.

Jet and Winston have a lot of those stick-in-the-mud sidekick characteristics to Spike and Chance's more reckless attitudes - they both tend to chide the lead character a lot, do a fair amount of yelling and sighing and eye-rolling, and sit to the sidelines a fair amount of the time. On the other hand, of course, it's proven in both Winston and Jet's cases that they are capable of much ass-kicking. Their histories are similar, as they are both former cops, just like Spike and Chance are the same person for their shady histories (Spike being an ex-mobster and Chance being an ex-assassin). Layer on top of that the characters of Baptiste and Vicious and their former-friend/protege-turned-rival relationships with Chance and Spike and it's kind of hard to distinguish the differences between these two series. They also both alternate between mission-of-the-week/bounty-of-the-week and the overall mythology of the series. And, of course, the mysterious dead(?) dame - Victoria is Chance's Julia - a badass woman worth falling for.

Human Target and Cowboy Bebop have their differences too, of course, namely that the bounty hunters of Cowboy Bebop are mildly less successful than Winston, Chance, and Guerrero, but even then, both Spike and Chance are infamous for causing major, expensive damage in the line of duty. Bounty hunting is also much different than the work Chance does, of course, which is essentially the opposite of bounty hunting.

But besides the series' similarities and differences, the central relationship between the reckless lead and his more sobering partner is one of my favorite parts of Human Target which, to be quite honest, makes better use of this relationship than Cowboy Bebop (but then Cowboy Bebop's got Faye, whom I adore to bits and pieces and I love all of her scenes with Spike so freakin' much).

Human Target doesn't attract a huge audience, which isn't surprising but is still a bit of a disappointment. It follows the good television rule of half procedural and half mythology, allowing current fans to be pleased while not shutting out potential fans. I'm really pleased Human Target's got a second season at all, even if it is in the death slot of Friday. I'm really excited to see more of the adventures Chance, Winston, and Guerrero go on and see a hint more of the mythology. Of course, I doubt the show will last much longer, but I can live with that. After all, Cowboy Bebop only has 26 half-hour episodes and it's still brilliant.

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