Jane Vasco -
Andre Mc Bride -
Maureen Bowers -
Connor King -
OTHER ENHANCED AGENT SERIES
Now and Again
Humans with genetic abnormalities that give them extreme powers are emerging from the mass and teams of agents with a free rein are given the task of hunting them down and inserting a microchip into their neck that switches off their powers. These 'Neuros' are perceived as a threat to the security of the masses, but is it right to take away their gifts and imprison them without trial?
Into one such team comes Jane Vasco, a DEA agent who discovers on her first case that she has the power to heal, even from the death caused by a fall from a tower block. Her power is not that of a Neuro and it turns out to be pretty useful having someone on the team who can be shot, electrocuted, stabbed and just about everything else without actually dying.
PAINKILLER JANE has some interesting ideas, mostly based around the treatment of the chipped Neuros and the Guantanamo Bay-alike prison for them called NICO, which is itself based in Hungary, thus raising questions about extraordinary rendition. Most of these questions, however, are pretty much ignored in favour of police procedural plots that are tweaked to include the presence of a woman who can't die. Even that power is used sparingly since the writers aren't always sure about how to work it into the plot.
There is an underlying mythology or plot arc to the show, but that only emerges later on in the series and by then much of the interest that the show might have had has leaked away.
Kristanna Loken (TERMINATOR 3:RISE OF THE MACHINES) is a fairly bland lead and is saddled with a quite terrible voiceover that tries to give her some interesting things to say, but usually comes off as banal at best and bloody stupid at worst. The rest of the team are just as middle of the road and the characters are barely sketched in, so that it is difficult to care what happens to them.
The plots are slight and usually straightforward, the dialogue is pretty poor, the action when it comes is sporadic and not very exciting and quite frankly all this has been done before elsewhere, and better.Top
Jane Vasco is a DEA agent who comes into contact with a man who can change people's perceptions during a routine drugs bust. She encounters the head of a secret organisation dedicated to neutralising 'neuros' - people with genetic abnormalities that give them strange powers. Drafted into the group, her first job is to infiltrate a company that has a neuro as a top-placed official, but ends up being thrown out of a window. The thing is...she doesn't die.
PAINKILLER JANE is based on a series of comic books and it is to be hoped that they have a better grasp of storytelling than the opening episode of this show.
The polystyrene nature of the acting doesn't help either. Keir Dullea is the 'name' actor, trading on his place in genre history for starring in 2001-A SPACE ODYSSEY, but neither he nor Sterling Hayden (as the corrupt town elder) can be bothered to come up with anything that could be termed as a 'performance' for the piece. That might be down to the script that they are given which is unbelievably clunky and, well just plain awful. Any actor would baulk at giving those lines.
THE STARLOST has a promising premise, but this opener is just a collection of everything that needs to change if the show is to live up to that.Top
People are coming back to life. Or rather, they are being brought back to life by an unknown Neuro. The fact that they are all stealing weapons near to a place where the President is going to visit puts the team on full standby alert. The ultimate answer, however, is much more prosaic.
Neuros, it seems, are easily bored and that's also the case with Jane Vasco. The scenes of her hanging around being bored make her look like a pouting schoolgirl. When the case comes along, however, it's very hard to be excited by it and by the end of the episode and its quite frankly risible premise we're quite bored too.Top
Piece Of Mind
Riley, the team's computer boffin, has his memories stolen by a Neuro who wants to use him as a bargaining chip in getting the team to rob a train.
The motivation of the latest villain to bother the undercover team is so mind-boggingly ridiculous that it leaves the mind-bogglingly stupid on-train security system trailing in the boggling minds stakes. The high-tension kill-anything electric field security system is such a case of overkill that the contents finally revealed are absurdly anticlimactic and its presence is only there to 'kill' Jane again.
This is the episode that gets Jane down to her underwear, for no readily apparent reason other than it might draw in an audience that the stupid plots, bloodless action and teeth-achingly bad voiceover is currently driving away.Top
Catch Me If You Can
Jane receives a message from a Neuro who can see the future and the future that he sees is the death of her entire team if they come after him.
Is the future set or can it be changed? How do you beat a man who has already seen what you are going to do? Interesting enough questions, but here they are reduced to mere window dressing for a fairly poor action plot.Top
Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself
Witnesses and staff at an FBI safe house are having nervous breakdowns that stop shortly after quitting the property. Andre's team are drafted in to see if they can locate any neuro activity that might be causing it.
This is your basic haunted house story with a scientific explanation that could have come straight out of an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, only there it would have been sharper and creepier and more interesting.
Andre fears the loss of those under his command, Maureen fears losing control of the situation and Jane fears that her mother never loved her because she was so different. Insights into the characters that will almost certainly be forgotten by the next episode. There isn't even any action to speak of.
It's good that the show is trying something different, but it needs to try something different and more fun next time.Top
A series of people are suffering from the same nightmare about drowning, leaving them mentally scarred. The trail leads to an asylum and a particularly bad man, but the truth is more relevant to a good man.
This episode is a straight up police procedural that has been slightly tweaked to include a Neuro. It's an investigation into finding the common link between the victims that leads to the cause and then has a twist in the tail. It could have come from any cop show with very little change. Jane herself has one finger snap back into place, but that's it.
The voiceover is a heavy-handed as ever, the characters as cold and uncaring and uncharismatic. They're also not too bright, waiting too long and allowing the final tragedy to happen.
On top of that, the team's doctor suggests that Jane might be a Neuro herself. Well, duh.Top
A man walks off a roof, another drives off a cliff. They are not suicides, but people in witness protection who are targeted by a Neuro who can build a whole world that his victim will see and believe utterly.
This is another police procedural story that never really becomes anything else. The world that the Neuro produces is never convincing in its portrayal here and the moral grey area that the story tries to build in just doesn't work since all the characters seem equally amoral.Top
Jane wakes up with no memory of murdering her colleague. In a secure hospital where she will undergo painful operations in the name of helping to eradicate Neuros, she comes to believe that all is not as it seems.
At last an episode of PAINKILLER JANE that actually works. The set up is simple enough, but keeps the audience guessing at just what is going on in the hospital and what the final target actually is. This is then marred by having the bad guys make some errors that are so elementary as to undermine the whole thing.Top
Trial By Fire
Connor is on trial for his life when he is caught at the latest scene of a series of arsons. Since the team can't tell what he was really up, the evidence is all against him. It is up to the team, then, to find the real culprit before their friend is thrown in prison.
Considering the power that the secret group have actually wielded in the past (Jane's own police enquiry was simply halted in the first episode) it doesn't make a lot of sense that the case against Connor can't be simply dropped by orders from on high. The fact that he refuses to tell anything to anyone because he is protecting someone or something also doesn't make a lot of sense.
The rest is a straight police procedural that throws in a neuro right at the end and has Jane shot a couple of times to pretend that it's something more genre. It isn't.Top
Portraits Of Lauren Gray
When a model is found dead of old age despite being young, Jane and Maureen go undercover as fashion models to smoke out the neuro responsible.
In a business where staying young is the holy grail, the vampire-like ability to steal someone else's youth would be a temptation impossible to resist. There are some digs at the fashion and beauty indutries, but they were always easy targets and it doesn't hurt that it gives the two lead actresses and excuse to glam up for a change.
Unfortunately, it's all too predictable apart form the manner in which Jane's previous injuries turn out to be the undoing of the neuro.Top
Ghost In The Machine
Connor is plagued by ill-luck, but Jane believes it to be something more than that. Digging into his past, she learns that several members of a team he used to belong to are all dead and the something that killed them is after him.
When the screaming punks that provide an initial side moment at the beginning of the episode turn out to be the best thing in it then you know that something's wrong. There seems to be a growing tension between Jane and Connor as well, something that neither actor is able to really turn into anything significant.
Another terribly average episode.Top
Something Nasty In The Neighborhood
The team discover a small town where there is a zero crime rate, zero youth problems and from which Federal Agents are in the habit of not returning. Suspecting a neuro to be at the heart of the mystery, they go in to find out who is controlling the town, but the cost of success is higher than they could have imagined.
It's all a bit STEPFORD WIVES as the people in the town all act like they're brainwashed and the medium by which this is acheived is obvious early on.
What is absolutely unexpected is the loss of one of the team and how it comes about. Taking out a major character midseason is a bold move and makes the threat more serious. Jane may not be able to die, but everyone else can. Maybe there's hope for the show yet.Top
Two neuros are assassinated just as the team are about to chip them. It then becomes clear that they are not neuros despite possessing serious powers. There is a link in their past and that link leads to a US Congresswoman, but how do you deal with a woman who can make you do whatever she asks?
Mind control features for the second episode in a row, suggesting that the writers are running out of ideas for the threats that the neuros could possibly create. Apart from the powers, it is a straight police procedural that relies heavily on clues being generated from the computer rather than from actualy policework.Top
The Amazing Howie
Riley practices magic and each year takes part in an audition to join the exclusive club The Magic Palace. This year, though, he is up against the Amazing Howie, a man whose illusions seem impossible. When the rest of the team don't believe him, Riley goes after his man alone.
The hunting of the neuros that is central to the whole format of PAINKILLER JANE has always resided in a morally grey area and this episodes dives directly into that grey area as Riley identifies a neuro, but one who is so patently no threat to anyone that the idea of taking away his power and locking him up is worse than any crime that he might possibly commit. This is hammered home when the truck that comes to pick him up contains restraints that are far beyond anything that is necessary to restrain even a neuro once his power is removed.
The debate between wonder and science is a nice touch, though, and the relationship between the two amateur magicians is well played. It's hard to say that releasing Howie to a life of being hunted wherever he goes is doing him a favour.Top
Jane visits a neuro who has the power to heal and he heals her of the genetic anomaly in her brain. This has the unexpected side effect of making her subconscious mind a destructive force all of its own.
Controlling your thoughts is difficult at the best of times, but when they are pretty much trashing the place then it gets much worse. We're back to the rights and wrongs of 'chipping' neuros, especially one whose talent could heal hundreds of people. Surely control is better than taking that power away. Logic, though, isn't always the basis of PAINKILLER JANE plots.Top
Thanks For The Memories
Jane comes home to find that her boyfriend no longer remembers her and has a child. Her team's HQ has completely disappeared and the people that she knew are either under attack or trying to kill her. In desperation, she goes to a neuro who can copy her memories to make sure that the story gets out.
This is one of those clips shows in which a framing device allows for the use of a number of bits of previous episodes to create a new one at a fraction of the price. With only fifteen episodes before this, everything is too recent and it is extremely annoying that the show has resorted to such penny pinching exercises so soon. The excuse here might be initially intriguing, but as soon as it is clear that it's only a framing device interest wanes rapidly and the fact that 'it was all a dream' just adds insult to injury.Top
The Chinese ambassador is in the city and there is intelligence to suggest that a Neuro intends to be assassinate him from a building overlooking a certain intersection through which the motorcade will pass. Racing across town, the team take out the neuro, but since his power is the ability to start the day all over again whilst retaining information as to what happened, he is able to overcome their interference, forcing them to react a whole new way.
It’s GROUNDHOG DAY done PAINKILLER JANE style and, like the movie, it manages to avoid making things so familiar on each rerun as to be utterly repetitive and boring. That said, the plot isn’t exactly sparkling and involves a certain amount of running through the same events over and over, so a sense of déjà vu does set in.
No plausible reason is given for the assassination attempt and the manner in which it is finally carried out beggars belief. When inside a bulletproof car you don’t drive around with the windows open. Still, the rewind button means that everything can be put right.Top
Jane receives some memories from a dying Neuro that take her back to her first case working for Andre and the Vonotek Corporation. The secrets behind Jane’s ability to heal herself lie within, but learning those secrets will cost Jane her boyfriend and more.
The mystery of Jane’s abilities and how they are tied up in Vonotek are explained in this episode and that revelation of the show’s mythology and background makes it one of the more interesting ones. Admittedly, the explanations are rather banal and don’t make any sense (she was picked because she was young and fit? What sort of an explanation is that?), but the ending does pack a bit of an emotional twist that sets the main character up for future plot moves.Top
What Lies Beneath
NICO, the prison for chipped Neuros in Hungary, suffers the breakout of six Neuros, so Andre’s team is despatched to find out how it could have happened. What they discover is that the breakout was led by a shapeshifter and that not everything is quite as straightforward as a it seems.
The moral ambiguity over the chipping of Neuros is compounded now by the fact of imprisoning them for the crime of being what they are even if they have now been neutralised. This might have made for an interesting examination of the theology of the show, but the sledgehammer touch of having the head medical man be something of a psycho with a penchant for brutal and unnecessary operations undermines all that. What he has done is clearly unacceptable and so his arguments for doing them is never likely to be accepted.Top
The Beast Of Bolnar
The Hungarian village closest to NICO is Bolnar and at night the village closes its shutters and locks its doors between 8 and 9pm because there is a beast that kills anyone who is outside at the time. The team detect Neuro activity and set about trapping the beast, but it turns out to be like nothing they have encountered before and maybe the solution lies somewhere else altogether.
The new head doctor at NICO name checks the ‘monster from Id’ line from FORBIDDEN PLANET from which much of the basic plot here is taken. The ‘creature’s origin is fairly obvious from early on and spends most of the time unseen and therefore pretty unimpressive.
The same word can describe the rest of the episode since the dialogue is pretty poor and only the scenery in front of which the final episodes are shot add anything worth watching.Top
A neuro that Andre chipped after falling in love with turns out to be at NICO and also seems to be carrying out crimes nearby despite the fact that her chip is working and she is on tranquilisers.
The fact that the opening credits lists two actresses with the same surname it is pretty obvious what is going to be going on in this episode and there are no surprises along the way. An evil twin? Really? Is that the best that the show could come up with?
The final showdown in the church ought to be filled with tension, but all the visual homages to John Woo (doves in a church anyone) can't disguise the fact that this has none of that director's skill and ends on a total damp squib.Top
The team find themselves trapped in an anti-neuro panic room when Jane goes off the reservation and several deadly neuros go on the rampage.
The lunatics have taken over the asylum, or in this case the neuros have taken over NICO. The brainwashing that was carried out on Jane in Jane 113 is finally put to some use, but that fizzles out when Riley and the Hungarian superdoc figure it out, once again robbing the plot of any sort of big finale.
That said, the plot of neuros on the rampage with people turning to dust and being set on fire and the like is a simple, streamlined piece of action that suits the show and actually makes this one of the better episodes.
It's not enough to take the show through to a second series, though, despite setting up the premise for continued stories.Top
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