Human Target's Surprising Lesson

In my last column, I said I was looking forward to seeing the new Fox mid-season drama Human Target. Although that wasn’t exactly a recommendation of the show, the statement still felt risky. After seeing the first two episodes, I feel I owe you a deeper analysis—maybe an apology. A few weeks and episodes have left me searching for words to articulate all that I hoped I would see and didn’t. Human Target is every scene the action-packed drama that I expected with, as yet, none of the well-crafted human characters and conflicts that allow viewers to see themselves in the stories—something I consciously look for in the shows I write about, but more importantly, something I think many of us gravitate toward in the shows that become our favorites.

To be fair, it’s early. Human Target may evolve over time. Bodyguard Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) seems to have a hidden back story that may eventually cause the show to transcend the basic formula of victim plus hero minus villain equals crime solved. Not so in the first two episodes. In the pilot, Chance is called upon to protect the designer of a state-of-the-art, high speed passenger train who has been threatened, whose pursuer turns out to be the husband she betrayed. Following the predictable crime drama formula is the least of the second episode’s problems. While trying to protect an Internet hacker on a commercial jet bound for Seattle, Chance sets the plane on fire, flies the plane, turns the plane upside down (literally), crashes the plane’s computer, connects the plane computer system to a laptop, flips the plane back right side up, lands safely, and only one innocent, by-standing passenger has even a minor injury. Human Target is nothing if not grounded in reality. I will admit my standards are probably high.  But so far, I have found this show to be the television equivalent of eating cheese puffs. I like both well enough when they are placed in front of me, but not well enough to seek them out on a regular basis.

Artificial cheesiness notwithstanding, there is a piece of dialogue in each of Human Target’s first two episodes that has caused me to think on a deeper spiritual level. At some point in each episode, either in the midst of crisis or after it has passed, a character that has trusted Chance with her life asks, “What’s your name?” The implication of this question is that these people want to know who it is they have trusted with their lives. If they are going to face disaster, they want to know who is facing it with them. When they come through the crisis, they want to know who saved their lives.

“What’s your name?” It is a fair question. The answer is the beginning of relationship. It helps us decide if a person or his or her orders are worth following.  Even though we are a long way from the contrived situations that make way for Human Target’s superhero, Christopher Chance, we trust someone other than ourselves with our lives every day. Even if we don’t embrace trust in its fullest measure, we still trust on the most basic level that our next breath will be there. We don’t have to choose trust on this level. We don’t have to like it, and we can attribute it to whatever or whomever we want.  Nothing we can control changes the reality that, without needing our approval, God holds our lives in His hands. If this is true, doesn’t it follow that we should be at least curious enough about him to learn His name?

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Joel Kelley commented…

Let me start my comments off by saying that I'm a big fan of 24, House, Lie to Me, Lost, Alias... so now you know me. OK I'll peel back a layer and reveal to you that I'm a guy so I'm a sucker for action including but not limited to explosions, gun fights, fist fights, speeding vehicles... I will also reveal to you that my lifetime GPA was about 3.5 - so I'm no literary genius by any stretch. Don't you think you're indulging Hollywood by trying to extracting in-depth, complex themes and meanings from shows like Human Target? Can't I sit back and enjoy a fast-paced, action packed show that is not tethered to reality? Why can't I have my cheese puffs and eat them too? After a day of work and an evening of entertaining my 7 month old why can't I sit back and enjoy an unintelligent, unrealistic action/thriller TV show? So far Fox is 100% with this show - and by that I mean, it is highly entertaining (don't confuse that with intelligent... please) without being saturated with sexuality. As far as I'm concerned this show is a smash hit and as long is it makes by eyes big with lots of action and thrill and makes me chuckle with goofy/witty dialog without sexuality - call me a fan.

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