Episode 106 of The Player; The Norseman offers up some real “OMG” TV. Not only is this the second time that star Wesley Snipes gets to kick major bad guy butt in the (soon to be) short-lived series, but the penny finally dropped as to just who is playing Agent Rose Nolan. KaDee Strickland (who has come along way from her killer role in the US remake of The Grudge and other roles in horror “followups” like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid) is the too interested FBI agent who is protected enough that Mr. Johnson takes time to threaten her personally.
Nolan has touched base with Cal Brown (Damon Gupton), Alex Kane’s best buddy who is also a detective on the LVPD, a number of times and Johnson is worried enough about the snoopy agent that he calls his contact in the bureau (Richard Roundtree). At first the contact tells Mr. Johnson that he will have the annoyance removed from Vegas. Later he reveals the the woman is protected and that he cannot touch her.
Casting revelations aside, the plot of this episode could be seen as their “Halloween” special with a Norse-God worshipping serial killer who strikes roughly every 10 years in Las Vegas. The murderer kills two victims each time he strikes. The dead are decapitated and have their hands chopped off as well.
Brown came close to catching the killer in 2005 and he, along with Alex, believe that Bron Thornvald has returned. Alex’s niece Dani (Courtney Grosbeak) shows up after having a blowout with her mother, who lives in Phoenix, when mom learns of her hummingbird tattoo. Her appearance enables the girl to become endangered by the real “Norseman” (played by Patrick Brennan who was an Irish cult leader on TNT’s The Last Ship) who her uncle catches before he can complete his last sacrifice.
This episode allowed Snipes to once again show off his considerable martial arts skills by letting his character intervene after Alex saves Dani from being killed by the Norseman. Johnson (Snipes) shows up and explains to the serial killer that he cleans up. Cue some intense, and very impressive looking, choreographed fighting with Snipes welding a bow (staff) against a massive axe.
It is a shame that NBC have decided, apparently, to cancel this action heavy series. Arguably the show took some time to become fully cohesive and it did face heavy opposition from “live” sports programs in the same slot (something that NBC decided, in its infinite wisdom to ignore when scheduling the new show) but before the series could find its feet, the network shot down the last four episodes in the first (Only?) season.
This total lack of faith in what should be a definite crowd pleasing show is puzzling and not a little frustrating. The Player has a splendidly impressive cast. Charity Wakefield as Ms. King aka The Dealer, Philip Winchester as “The Player” and Wesley Snipes as the Pit Boss. Damon Gupton as the “best friend cop” (who is starting to fit right in after a cold start) and guest stars/regulars like KaDee Strickland and Richard Roundtree.
In this episode alone, the writers came up with a clever storyline that paid attention to the time of year (Halloween) and gave the audience a show with nuances, or at least a backdrop, of the holiday. Of course the killer strikes on trick or treat day as well. Granted it was a bit too fortuitous that Dani showed up just in time to be threatened because obviously it is more intense if Alex Kane has to protect someone he really cares about…
That little bit of contrivance aside, the episode showed just what the series is capable of. Letting Wesley Snipes roll his shirt sleeves up and show off his fighting prowess, letting Philip Winchester continue to prove that he is the best action star/actor on the small screen this year and allowing Charity Wakefield to do what she does best, captivate the scene whenever she appears.
Perhaps NBC is suffering from Longmire’s syndrome. While the two series’ are not similar in terms of views and popularity, the target audience for both shows cannot be too different. A&E cancelled the most popular scripted show that they aired because of demographics. The fans of the Wyoming cowboy cop who tuned in each week or recorded episodes via the DVR were deemed too old. The Player may also be in the same boat.
NBC stupidly placed The Player against live sports, a kiss of death move that means that they either did not understand the real demographic for the new series or that they misunderstood the show entirely. Either way it does not look too promising for other show’s that fall outside the targeted 19 – 45 age group that networks prefer.
This is great television. Shootouts, well choreographed fights, solid performances by the cast and storylines, with a plot device that could run for a plethora of seasons, that are not too out of this world so that they beggar belief should have been a no-brainer. Plus there is the whole “Where’s Ginny” thing still going on, with more clues for Alex to worry like a bone. Great stuff indeed but doomed because someone in the network “does not get it.”
The Norseman episode even featured what looks to be a homage to The Terminator police scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator overpowers an entire precinct just like the serial killer rampages through the Vegas PD to escape. Not to mention that the villain bears more than a passing resemblance to Clancy Brown’s character (The Kurgan) in Highlander.
The Player airs Thursdays on NBC. Tune in, while the show runs out its first season and see action television of the highest calibre and enjoy the performances and some damned clever writing. This series has a lot of OMG TV moments, enjoy them while you can.