Sassy Hodiak. Sassy Hodiak for miles and miles tonight. Also, grumpy Hodiak, worried dad Hodiak, creeped out by Charles Manson Hodiak, not completely the worst husband ever Hodiak, and don’t mess with my friend, Shafe, Hodiak. When your name comes before the show title, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that your character’s going to get the most emotional diversity.
That being said, tonight’s episode also gave us some great writing for character’s who’ve been under served up to this point. Much of this can be attributed to episode writer and executive producer Sera Gamble. Gamble cut her writer’s teeth working for Supernatural, a show with a bit of a reputation for balancing somewhat insane story arcs and well-executed character development, especially where supporting characters are concerned. That background definitely shows tonight.
The two primary beneficiaries of Gamble’s work this week are perennial doormat Emma and stoner stereotype Mike. I have to say as a reviewer, it’s really nice to have a show address concerns in the episode after you’ve posed them. My concern that Emma would become more plot point than developed character seems to be well on its way to being put to rest. It didn’t even take that much in the way of writing; a few lines to show us just how little innocence she has left, a reaction shot, and one acid trip. Voila! Character development. I’m interested to see what Emma we’ll see next week once she comes down, and—fingers crossed—it’ll be the Emma who began tonight’s episode.
Also high (only a little pun intended) on this week’s developing character list is Mike. And if his resident status as “that stoner guy Shafe is always leaning on” means you weren’t sure until just now that his name is Mike; don’t feel bad. Writing a stereotypical drug dealer in the ‘60s is pretty difficult. Well, at least if you want to write one that isn’t a stereotype. It doesn’t help that we’ve all seen this character before: a reluctant snitch that seems to do nothing but peddle low grade illegals and aspire to some kind of artistic career in his spare time. It’s likely that Mike will not escape this label through this season, as he serves a pretty necessary plot function. So maybe the best we can hope for is that he can at least do what stoner stereotypes do best and give us some off the cuff comedy. Until tonight’s episode that seemed unlikely. And it was certainly a welcome change up. Seriously, I could listen to him complain about his milkshake for like 15 more minutes.
Overall, tonight’s episode may have been the strongest in terms of character development we’ve seen so far. On top of great character moments for Hodiak, Emma, and Mike, we got the chance to see a lot more development from Ken and Shafe. Others get in some pretty impressive moments as well. Opal definitely stands out. But particularly chilling is Manson’s look to the camera after subduing Ken. In theatrical terms, this all comes out of techniques like “landing actions” and “acting is reacting,” but it starts with a great script—one that sets up actors to have brilliant moments; one that gives them room to breath. And that’s what Gamble pulled off tonight. Some really perfect character development.
Okay one last thing. So Hodiak may be a dogged and heroic detective, but clearly he’s a failure at hide ‘n’ seek. Walt’s literally right around the corner. Sam come back! I found Walt! I found… Oh never mind.
Katherine Siegel is a Chicago-based freelance writer and director and a regular contributor to Paste. You can find out more by checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter.