We're hitting the family theme hard again this episode. Luke Blade speaks of his assistants as his family, and it's ultimately revealed that his career as an illusionist and current murder spree both stem from the fact that he was tossed back into the foster-care system by his adoptive mother after he started showing signs of suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. Stella points out that he would be "most definitely [her emphasis] harboring feelings of abandonment," and Mac agrees with her, then goes on to point out that what happened to Luke as a child "violate[s] the sacred trust."
Stella, of course, is speaking from experience, and this is a nicely-done, subtle reminder that she understands all too well what it's like to be left to the tender mercies of the system. Her words also tell us that Luke Blade isn't the only one to suffer feelings of abandonment; as centered as Stella has always been -- at least until Frankie and her exposure to HIV, and even in the wake of those events, she's fighting like hell to maintain equilibrium -- there have also always been hints of isolation in her, and of that stoicism that makes it nearly impossible for her to reach out for help.
Luke's assistants as an adult, of course, constitute a created family, and it's not too much of a leap, I think, to draw parallels between that created family and the one that the LoD have formed with each other. There's a strong and genuinely moving sense of family throughout this episode, and like Stella's line about abandonment, the emphasis is a subtle one. It's never stated overtly, but there are small touches throughout that keep the focus solidly on the various ways in which these people care for each other: Stella's phone conversation with Lindsay and the advice she gives her, Mac's concern over Danny's increasing exhaustion levels, even the way Mac takes such pleasure in showing off his little flower trick for Stella and Danny, or the way he teasingly talks Danny into lighting his arm on fire.
It's one thing to come through for other people when all of you are functioning in crisis mode, but it's these small day-to-day shows of support that make or break relationships. It's one thing (a big thing, don't get me wrong) for Mac to decide to throw his support behind Danny during "Run Silent, Run Deep," but it's the small moments between them in this episode that really show us the solidity of their relationship, and tells us that they are now capable of sticking together on that daily basis. (For the most part, anyway: Danny's hurt over being the last one to know about Peyton, and the fact that he was the last to know, are things that still bear further consideration.)
It's also significant, I think, that Mac holds all of his conversations about the notion of family with Stella and/or Danny. Stella is certainly the person he's closest to in the lab, and someone he would probably consider family without hesitation, and for all their fraught history, Danny may not be far behind. Actually, I could argue that much of the fraught history began in the first place because of the high expectations the two of them put on each other.
Viewing the LoD as family, and the idea that family has to support each other in both crisis mode and on a day-to-day basis lets me segue, finally, into Lindsay's testimony in Montana and Danny's impulsive trip out there. And here's where we hit a problem, because this show of support, which should be an emotional high point, doesn't quite work the way it should -- and if you've read my reviews before, you can probably guess everything I'm about to say, but here we go.
Most of the major concerns I have with the depiction of the potential relationship between Danny and Lindsay I've stated before, in most detail in my review of "The Lying Game." I won't reiterate them here, since everything I said there still holds true. In terms of the situation we see in "Sleight Out of Hand" specifically, however, I think this episode is a microcosm for why the relationship hasn't yet rung true: it hasn't been properly set up, emotionally. To address the macrocosm of the relationship (and yes, I am reiterating some of my earlier points after all, but I'll keep it brief), we haven't seen any growing feelings of trust or attraction laid out for us in the show's ongoing narrative; we've been asked to take it on faith. It's one of the classic rules of writing. Show, don't tell. This storyline has too often relied on telling us, rather than showing us, or on allowing the relationship to evolve naturally.
So that, writ large, is what we see here in a very specific way. Danny takes a huge, enormous, presumably emotionally-charged step. Why this goes awry, though, is because it hasn't been, like much of the relationship hasn't been, properly set up, either in the narrative or in the character development. In fact, since Lindsay's been gone, we haven't seen one character so much as mention her until tonight, or ask after her. Specifically, we haven't seen Danny react to her absence. The most vulnerability we've seen him display, in fact, is when he reacts in "Heart of Glass" to finding out he's the last to know about Mac and Peyton. (See that episode discussion for why I think this is significant in terms of Danny's issues with rejection and trust.)
So this development, for me, fell flat because it hasn't been set up either in terms of the ongoing storyline or in terms of Danny's character throughline. I'm not a fan of storytelling that spells out every last detail for the readers or viewers (again, show, don't tell), but in between overdone exposition and a narrative that reveals nothing, there exists a middle ground. We don't need to see every little thought and every bit of character evolution that takes place, but we need to be able to draw a logical line for how that character gets from point A to point B. If we can't see that, then the relationships and the emotional development aren't going to be as affecting as they otherwise have the potential to be, and this is where the problem lies.
Now, I'll be honest and also note that the particular romantic paradigm that they've attempted to set up between Danny and Lindsay is not one that I, personally, am most drawn to. This is an aesthetic preference, and it's tied into an essay I have brewing about why I think that people trying to save each other is ultimately an anti-romantic, rather than romantic, act, and why I think that people's damage -- people's scars -- should be respected and acknowledged.
Our damage makes us who we are as much as our strength does, and particularly for people who draw much of their strength from their hurts, to attempt to pretend those wounds don't exist, or that they can be eradicated by a relationship -- any relationship, romantic or platonic or familial -- is to attempt to dismiss an intrinsic part of that person's character. (Yes, this also ties into why I want them to not ignore Mac's parade of issues in the Peyton storyline.) And I'll stop here, because that is, as I said, another essay entirely.
While it's not an angle that I personally would choose to pursue, I've also realized, while I've been thinking all this over, that I wouldn't be opposed to a relationship between Danny and Lindsay in theory, even one that's based on a particular paradigm that I don't automatically connect with. It's the way in which the relationship has been set up that I've had difficulty with. The connections between them that we're supposed to believe in haven't been earned, because we haven't been allowed to see an evolution between them, or any of the steps that they've allegedly taken from distrust to trust to any kind of deeper affection.
Love and trust have to be earned. So does emotional investment. I need to be able to invest in the process and the struggle before I can invest in a relationship.
And I want Lindsay to stand on her own two feet as a character, and shine as an individual person the way I know she can, the way we've seen hints of here and there.
Now that she's taken a big step toward resolving some of the issues of her past, maybe she can begin to do that. She needs to be allowed to be herself now; she needs to be developed as a person independent of any other character or romantic relationship.
And there's something else: the fact that she's taken this step and helped to put the murderer away does not, cannot, mean she's all better now. Ten or fifteen years of trauma in the wake of a violent crime can't be erased in one day, or in a series of weeks or months; they also can't be erased by any other person but Lindsay herself. I don't want her to become a victim or a martyr, but I do want her trauma to be respected.
Briefly noted: "No ordinary slice of life." Oh, god, Mac...that's horrible even for you. Really, genuinely horrible. I was amused, though, by the little sidelong glance he gives Danny after he tosses that out, waiting for a reaction, and by how it's the fact that Danny doesn't even react to the pun that first makes Mac notice how tired he is.
Danny gets loopy when he's tired. This doesn't surprise me in the least.
The conversation between Flack and Hawkes about Mob lingo and Houdini is interesting. The banter is great, and could be read as teasing, but there's also a definite angry edge to their exchange. It may start off as friendly teasing, much like the exchanges between Mac and Stella and Danny, but it rather quickly takes a much nastier turn. I don't know what the source of this tension is, but it's an interesting little moment.
"Merlin, what are you doing here?" Mac's dexterity with the flower trick is fabulous, as is the way he just casually goes about doing it while blithely ignoring the increasingly puzzled looks Stella and Danny are giving him. I also loved his quiet delight when he pulled the trick off; he seemed as happy with the fact that he was able to do it in the first place as he was in their reactions.
"Why do I even bother if you know all the answers, Mac?" I mentioned this earlier while talking about the family themes, but I have to mention it again here: this scene was a delight from beginning to end, from the banter about knowledge and science and how Danny wants Mac's office if he goes up in flames, to the little flash of genuine caring and concern we see in the midst of the teasing, to Mac's slightly scary glee in setting his goddamn arm on fire. Or getting Danny to do it. I sense that Mac likes fire, or the somewhat less disturbing choice of illusions, almost as much as he likes big pointy weapons.
Also, Mac not even hesitating before shooting out the glass in the water tank? So very made of win.
On the whole, there was much manly competence on display in this episode. I confess it's one of my bulletproof kinks, and I applaud it wholeheartedly.
Fashion Watch: Mac wears a dark gray pinstriped suit with a dark brown shirt and a black overcoat. Later, he wears a solid light blue shirt with a black pinstriped suit.
...Oh, honey. Look, about that first outfit. Just because they're all neutral/base colors doesn't mean you can pile them on one on top of the other all slapdash; black plus brown plus dark gray does not work as a harmonious whole. You needed to swap out the black overcoat for a gray one, or the dark gray suit for a black one. Or, ideally, ditch the brown shirt for a white or blue one.
Stella wears a belted leather trenchcoat over a cap-sleeved black top with a diamond-shaped neckline. Later, she wears a wine-colored blazer (not the suede one from last week, and although this is very nice, it doesn't come anywhere close to the sheer gorgeousness of that jacket) over a pink top that I didn't get a good look at.
Danny wears a (surprisingly fresh and mostly unwrinkled-looking, given how long he's probably been sweating in it) light blue shirt over a white wifebeater with jeans and that brown jacket of his.
Flack wears a white shirt with thin gray stripes with a navy suit, and a dark gray tie with a geometric pattern. Hawkes spends his brief onscreen time in a red collared knit.