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22 June 2012 @ 03:04 pm
Shattered (TV Series)  
I've so far managed to watch 8 out of 13 episodes of this Canadian series starring Callum Keith Rennie as well as the original pilot which had a slightly different premise. Shattered is about Ben Sullivan (Rennie), a police detective who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. The comparisons to The United States of Tara are inevitable but let me tell you, this show makes Tara look like a lighthearted sitcom.

The first episode lightly sets up the background story of Ben's disorder. Years ago, he and his wife Ella (Molly Parker) lost their son to a kidnapping, a case that was never solved, a body never recovered. Soon after the incident, Ben's alters began showing up. He'd more or less gotten stuff under control when recently he got assigned a new partner, Amy Lynch (Camille Sullivan). The show has yet to really tell us why, but it's been insinuated that this change has inspired Ben's alters to start popping up again, much to Ella's dismay.

The one thing about The United States of Tara is that Tara's alters each had an incredibly distinct personality. There was no way you could ever not tell the difference between Buck or Alice or T. We even got distinct wardrobe changes. It subsequently made for some entertaining television as well as giving its star, Toni Collette a chance to really broadcast her acting skills. Shattered is a slightly different story.

So far, it looks like Ben has four alters. There's Sam, the physically violent one. Ivan, the verbally abusive, cold-hearted one, Harry, the fun-loving one and an unnamed child-like alter who made a brief appearance. Unlike Tara's alters, the differences between the alters and Ben himself is not all that obvious. For instance, I can never quite tell if I'm seeing Sam or Ivan unless Ella is there to actually call them by name. In this way, I think Shattered actually gives a more realistic picture of what DID looks like. Rather than always being obvious and showy, it's a little more subtle and not always clear how much of the action is being controlled by Ben or one of his alters. Because as much as Sam beats up people or Harry parties with happy abandon, you can always get a glimpse of Ben in there which was an element I rather enjoyed. You could see how each alter was genuinely a part of Ben rather than separate personalities so far removed from one another that you wondered how they could all reside in one person which was often my issue with Tara.

Having said that, my biggest issue with the show is the fact that everyone around Ben has be a combination of dumb and irresponsible in order to keep the premise going. I particularly detest just how incomprehensibly Lynch just accepts Ben's erratic behavior. And I'm not talking about small actions here or there, I'm talking about how during an interrogation Sam will come out and beat the ever living crap out of a suspect with little to no provocation. He also had what can only be described as a meltdown during a bomb scare where three of his alters came out, one after another. Lynch was the only witness to this and yet she just...brushed it off. I mean, literally, no discussion about it. She just seemed annoyed that Ben seemingly panicked during a crisis which, REALLY? He went from weeping uncontrollably to calmly disarming the bomb while sprouting philosophy. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. What sort of detective IS Lynch if she doesn't even inquire about this?

To top it off, Ben actually tells the station's psychiatrist at one point that he's been suffering from blackouts. The shrink's response is that Ben should just visit him weekly. I'm sorry but wouldn't the most natural course of action be that he put Ben on suspension? A man carrying a gun who is prone to blackouts is NOT a good combination. Even the rest of the station has seen Sam's brief appearances and no one seems to really mind that one of their detectives is going around vandalizing cars and burning suitcases of money. I could sort of go along with the idea for about 4 episodes but the fact that no one seems to take note of his escalating crazy made me start to find the entire premise completely ridiculous.

Ben as a character is someone you go back and forth on liking and hating. I feel for him and his unique situation but I also have to hate him when he refuses to get help despite his behavior endangering the lives of his coworkers and driving his wife to return to her drug addiction in order to cope. Still, Ben is so remarkably human in that he's steeped in so much denial over his condition and his inability to engage in any sort of meaningful discussion with the right people in order to get help. It's particularly problematic that his alters tend to appear whenever Ella tries to get him to face his problems. Even when he's Ben he just keeps shirking off any damages caused by his other personalities. When Ella confronts him with the fact that as Harry, he's been having an ongoing relationship with a hooker, Ben's response is to just insist that's "not him" so no further conversation will be had about it.

The biggest asset this show has going for it is the acting. Everyone is pretty uniformly good in their roles. I'd said before that the set up of Tara gave Collette a chance to shine since she had to switch back and forth from so many distinct characters. The challenge for Rennie is that he has to play different characters but they're not all that distinct and perhaps shouldn't be. It requires more subtlety on his part and more attention from the audience but it largely works and is the main reason why I'm going to finish out the series despite my waning interest on the overall conceit.

The tone of the show started out as super depressing but lightened up a little as the show went on, though not by much. My personal favorite episode so far is the 4th one where Harry comes out at Ben's workplace and proceeds to watch porn on the work computer and snack on cookies. This is arguably as light as the show gets. Harry is probably my favorite of Ben's alters as he only lives to eat, drink, and satisfy his libido. In a show this somber, it's always nice to have at least one character who just wants to have fun. Plus, I strangely liked Harry's relationship with Naomi, the hooker-girlfriend. I'm hoping she returns in the later half of the show.

The original pilot had a slightly different premise which in someways made more sense. Ben was named Kyle and was a private investigator. He'd lost both his wife and daughter, which led to him having a psychotic break. He was an ex-cop because in this universe someone exercised common sense and had him kicked off the force after seeing his insane behavior. But I didn't like the fact that in the pilot you had Kyle's alters being played by three separate actors. The bulk of the sequences were Kyle sitting in his apartment conversing with them with only one of them ever making an appearance in Kyle's body. It was an interesting way to go but it made the show feel a little too gimmicky and it robbed Rennie of the chance to show off his acting talents. Still, I sort of wished they'd kept in the plot of Rennie's character being a former police officer. It would make the show as it is now so much easier to watch.

In short, I recommend this show if you have some free time and enjoy police procedurals. Just be sure to be in a happy place while you do and be prepared to put your suspension of disbelief through the wringer.