Wookiee Hut TV Reviews presents:
Due South
Juliet is Bleeding
Review by Kelly Grosskreutz

Starring: Catherine Bruhier, Tony Craig, Paul Gross, Daniel Kash, David Marciano, and Beau Starr

Guest-Starring: Jim Bracchitta, Louis Di Bianco, Hannes Jaenicke, Sherry Miller, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Lee Purcell

Writers: Kathy Slevin and Jeff King

Director: George Bloomfield

Rating: Victory Star Destroyer

“Juliet is Bleeding” is the seventh Due South episode of the second season. One might wonder why I am choosing to review a lone episode of a television series, but quite simply, I felt the need to. My first instinct is to give this episode a higher rating, but I can’t, and therein lies the need to review this episode in itself.

Detective Ray Vecchio (Marciano) takes three of his friends out for a night on the town and ends up in an altercation with a shady childhood enemy, Frankie Zuko. Later that evening, one of Ray’s friends dies in a set-up intended for Ray. The Chicago Police Department wants to fry Frankie for the death, but Fraser (Gross), one of Ray’s friends and a Mountie, wonders if someone else might be trying to set Frankie up for a fall. Meanwhile, Ray renews his acquaintance with a childhood love. Unfortunately, she also happens to be Frankie’s sister.

I cannot write this review without including major spoilers for this episode and for the rest of the series, especially the episodes "Bird in the Hand" and "Victoria's Secret," so if for some reason you are reading this without having seen these episodes and/or Due South but intend to, don’t read any farther.

The first part of this episode is beautifully written and should have remained the focus of the entire episode. Although Frankie Zuko appeared once before in the first season, enough is shown here of the enmity between he and Ray that someone who missed that episode could figure it out in a hurry. It is quickly (re)established that Frankie has dealings on the wrong side of the law, that he and Ray have known each other since childhood, that they can’t stand each other, and that the last time they ran into each other, Fraser had a painful altercation with some of Frankie’s associates. Why, then, did the writers feel the need to introduce Irene Zuko?

All Irene served to accomplish in the above scene was to be caught in the middle of Ray and Frankie’s enmity. The writers could have found another way to begin the fight without her being the catalyst. Events that followed from this fight would have transpired just the same with or without Irene Zuko.

Irene is more or less forgotten about in the minds of the viewers, though, after the next sequence of events. And that is how it should be. Just when you think the episode is as emotionally charged as its going to get from the fight and its aftermath, we come to the shocking death sequence.

This was well done. There is foreshadowing for this that one notices on a repeated viewing, but otherwise it comes out of nowhere and floors the first-time viewer. One may easily miss the bit with Ray counting out glasses earlier in the restaurant, but I think even the first-time viewer starts experiencing a slight bit of unease when the music changes for the darker even though Ray and Louis’s banter is friendly and light-hearted. This scene is also the one time I feel Tony Craig (Huey) really gets to shine through as an actor. His reaction to Louis’s death is heart-breaking and sounded so real.

This sort of delivery on behalf of the actors is the hallmark of the entire episode. It is nice that Craig, an actor who is usually more in the background and portrays a relatively level-headed character, gets a chance to show a greater range. We see not only his immediate reaction to his partner’s murder, but also his ongoing grief and rage, also well executed.

We continue on through the funeral sequence and to the plot, which involves who blew up the Riv and killed Louis Gardino. I have to say I don’t think any of the regulars were out of character where this was concerned. With all the set-up earlier of Frankie and Ray’s relationship, it would only be logical for two emotionally-involved police officers to conclude Frankie was behind the murder, especially since the bomb was affixed to Ray’s car. Fraser, on the other hand, is Fraser, and therefore isn’t about to condemn anyone, no matter how much he personally might hate the individual, for a crime unless he can prove the person is guilty of it. And he quickly realizes that the evidence they do have does not point to Frankie, and that someone not involved with the police is making every effort to make it appear that Frankie is guilty.

Anyone who knows Fraser also knows that he can’t be unaffected by Louis’s death, and I’m glad we got to see that when he talked to Frankie's man, Charlie. This scene is somewhat similar to his dealings with Gerrard in "Bird in the Hand." He is not fond of Frankie at all, more or less admits to wanting to rip Frankie’s head off, but also saying he does what he does because of the law and because he wants to see justice done for Louis. It’s very key that Fraser actually wants to see justice done, whereas his friends, who are normally good cops, are only interested in revenge. Completely in character for a man who had the chance more than once to murder his father’s killer and chose not to.

The writers spend over half of the episode continuing with this theme. I only wish they would have kept their focus on this element. Louis Gardino was a regular character on the series, and the first person killed on the show that was close with both the cast and the viewers. Louis could be a jerk at times, but the viewers still accepted him as one of the guys, and I think the episode would have been more satisfying if they had stayed centered around his death and its circumstances instead of trying to add an emotionally-charged romantic subplot as well.

Take the end of this episode. Ray and Huey are staking out Frankie’s, waiting to hear Frankie say something incriminating. All of a sudden, Ray and Huey hear an altercation between Frankie and Irene, ending in brother and sister slapping each other. Frankie has not said anything incriminating. All he has done is be a jerk to his sister.

The story has already established that Ray and Huey have an emotional stake in this because of Louis’s death. Therefore I thought the true tragedy of this sequence is that Ray is still emotionally involved, but now his motivation is Irene and not Louis.

Before Ray charges into the house, Fraser, who happens to be walking by, stops him and they have a heated exchange in Frankie’s front lawn. Fraser is beseeching Ray to use his head and think about what he’s doing. The basis for Fraser’s arguments is Ray’s hatred of Frankie and his desire to take Frankie down for Louis’s murder. It’s unfortunate, therefore, that Ray at this moment is not charging into the house for this reason, but solely because of Irene. Yet his rebuttals to Fraser would seem to indicate that Ray is doing this because of his desire to take Frankie down for Louis's murder. Their argument and Ray’s motivation do not add up, and in this episode, if in any, it should. Another reason why Irene Zuko should not have been in this episode.

On the other hand, I admit I did like Ray and Irene together. I thought Marciano and Moss had great screen chemistry. It is unfortunate that these two actors couldn’t have a romantic storyline in a different episode. I honestly think it would have worked better if she had been introduced in a different episode. My two suggestions are to either have made her a completely different person or bring back Frankie at a different date and focus more on the Ray/Irene/Frankie dynamic.

Even with all of that said, the problems I have with introducing the Ray/Irene relationship at this juncture are easily overlooked at the end. The shootout and the aftermath are, again, realistically portrayed, and I admire the writers and the actors for this.

How many times during a shootout does it seem to go on for quite awhile or the key points of it carried out rather slowly so the viewer knows what goes on during every nuance of the battle? Instead, this final confrontation was over in less than thirty seconds, as I imagine a lot of these sorts of things really are. It actually takes longer for the observer to figure out just what happened than it does for the actual battle to take place.

On that theme, we come to Irene Zuko’s wounding. Again, how often do we see people shot on TV and in the movies? How many times do we just shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, well, so-and-so was shot, she’ll be ok,” or “So-and-so was shot, oh, well, that’s too bad,” and don’t really care beyond that? Especially when it’s a minor character or a one-time guest star?

This shooting, again, blew that perception out of the water. When we first see Irene in the aftermath and see the blood on her blouse, my first thought was of the “She got shot, it’s not a big deal, she’ll be ok” variety. She does not appear that badly wounded, and she is not a regular, so it’s easy not to think too much on this. Marciano’s reaction to this, though, brought home how realistic this could be. He could not have done any better in this scene. I get shivers running down my spine just thinking of his voice rising uncontrollably in volume and pitch in this scene. It made it harder to write this shooting off as just another shooting. However, I can't help wishing again that this whole subplot hadn’t been tacked on to this particular episode.

As one could guess from reading this, the wedging in of the Ray/Irene subplot was a major factor in keeping this episode from getting a higher rating. There are a few other things, though, that stood out to me that also contributed to the given rating.

First major nitpick: WHY are Ray and Huey working this case?! These are the last two guys that should be working this case. I understand that Lt. Welsh can understand their feelings, and the personal side of him would want these two guys to be involved in seeing justice done for their friend. We even have precedent for this in "Victoria’s Secret" when Welsh, Huey, and Louis were trying to prove Fraser and Ray innocent. But there is a key difference. In "Victoria’s Secret," Huey, Louis, and Welsh were striving to see justice done. Welsh let Ray keep his gun in that episode after suspending him because he knew Ray should not be suspended, Ray would unofficially work the case anyway, someone close to Fraser had shown no compunction for killing, and Welsh knew Ray would ultimately do everything he could to protect Fraser.

But in this case, Ray and Huey had no desire to see justice done. All they wanted was revenge. They saw a friend killed before their eyes, they got it into their heads that Frankie Zuko was responsible, they already hated him even before this incident, and all they wanted to see was Frankie’s head on a platter. It is painfully obvious. Welsh had to have seen how incapable Huey was of working this case when Huey started flipping out in the bullpen about the way the unnamed cop was handling the evidence. This is when Welsh should have pulled Huey off of the case. As for Ray, forgetting that Louis was also his friend and he’s hated Frankie since they were both children, did everyone forget that Welsh had just suspended Ray not half an hour before Louis died? Welsh took leave of his senses here.

One could argue that Welsh himself was emotionally involved with this case. "Victoria’s Secret" established that there is precedent for Welsh becoming emotionally involved with his subordinates, therefore his feelings for his three detectives might have hindered his judgment at first. I thought for sure, though, that when he called Ray and Huey into his office after Frankie was set free that he was going to pull them off the case. Instead, we see them staking out Frankie’s. Maybe Welsh thought they would be all right sitting in a van, but I still say he should’ve had someone else in charge of this investigation whose head was a little clearer.

Second major nitpick: Commander O’Neill. This woman only has two lines of dialogue in this episode, yet she manages to come across as a complete moron. And this woman is Welsh’s superior? The first thing out of her mouth in the aftermath of the explosion is, “If it was a bomb, and they haven’t even collected up the pieces yet –“ Uh, did she even take a look at the car? Listen to the accounts of the eyewitnesses? Anyone who watches the news and sees reports on the Mideast could tell you that a bomb destroyed Ray’s car.

Let’s analyze what they had before anyone found bomb remnants. The car was fine until Louis unlocked it and opened the door. The key was nowhere near the ignition. Something was obviously set to explode when the driver’s side door was opened. It was also obviously not some random spark (say from a cigarette, which could be ruled out since no one was smoking) because the car didn't just start on fire, but exploded in the space of two seconds, exploded with enough force to take out windows across the block. Within seconds, the entire car, front and back, was engulfed with flames, not just one part of it, and not just the gas tank. All of this evidence, to me, indicates a bomb. Finding the pieces is just confirmation of this. And yet this woman questions whether it was even a bomb?

Last major nitpick: This episode contains one of the biggest bloopers of the entire series, to my knowledge. Partway through the episode, we see an establishing shot of the 27th Precinct building. A cop car is charging down the street, lights flashing, siren blaring. A few cars, most of them police cars, are parked along the curb in front of the building. And, very noticeably, we see a green 1971 Buick Riviera parked directly in front of the Precinct building. Very interesting, considering a car of that exact same make, model, and color just blew up in that very same location not too long before. Couldn’t they have used a different establishing shot? Considering the episode's content, this shot was in rather poor taste.

These three nitpicks, along with my thoughts on the placement of the Ray/Irene subplot, force me to downgrade this episode. I wanted to give it the highest rating possible, really I did, but these things forced me to grade this episode harsher than I would have liked to. It is truly unfortunate that I cannot do this, since Tony Craig’s performance rates a Super Star Destroyer and David Marciano's performance rates a Death Star.

Reviewed March 25, 2004 by Kelly M. Grosskreutz.