by Charles Mahoney
I really don’t know what to make of “Pan Am” anymore. Every week we get a buffet of stories, which range from powerful, to middling, to crippling. This weeks episode had no less than five different subplots, all of which were only tenuously connected to each other. Surprisingly, this did not result in a total trainwreck. Quite the opposite, actually: while it lacked the consistency and focus of “Unscheduled Departure,” last nights episode was still a fast-paced, fun installment that kept things moving.
It wasn’t all good though. sKate’s struggle with the sexist pilot from WWII and Ted’s attempt to trick his ex-love interest both seemed petty and silly. Look, I get it; the old times were sexist times. But “Pan Am” needs to find a way to say this in a new, and innovative ways. There’s not much to be gained from a curmudgeonly old pilot grumbling about the “good ol’ days,” while providing no reason why those days were any good. Furthermore, Ted is just so darn bland I have a hard time really feeling any scene that he is in. I don’t hate Michael Mosley’s acting but he just has no charisma at all. He’s trying so hard to be slimy, roguish, and awkwardly adorable, and he winds up being nothing at all.
With that said, the rest of the subplots actually went pretty well. Maggie’s boyfriend was unbelievable and annoying, but it’s hard to argue against his point: Maggie really isn’t as adventurous as she thinks she is. Of course, when she does wind up being adventurous, it’s more personal and domestic then her boyfriend might have hoped. It’s adventuring away from the painfully irritating bohemian that she’s dating, and into the arms (relatively speaking) of an pro-nuclear weapons senator. I’m curious to see where their relationship will go, since they are both obviously personally attracted but politically opposed. Actually, as long as I never have to see Molly’s walking anachronism of a boyfriend again, I think I’ll be pretty good.
Surprisingly, Kate’s story went swimmingly tonight, and it almost (almost) made up for the ridiculousness her spy story has brought to “Pan Am.” Gradually drawn deeper and deeper into an FBI mission, Kate finally realized in this episode how over her head she was. Despite what her handler may say, there is no easy exit from the FBI. And it’s not just because the FBI is an evil government agency (though “Pan Am’s” FBI is indeed very evil. Kate has glimpsed a side of the world she never knew before, and now realizes how much danger people like Bridget and Niko are in. The episodes final moments show Kate deciding to stay with the FBI until the end; though she says this with an action, rather than a word.
And then there was Colette’s story. I love Colette, and so do most other people, but up until now she hasn’t had much to do on the show. This episode brought the first real development in her relationship with Ted, and provided a nice bit of social commentary too. I liked how Colette was angry with Ted for betraying her, even though it was his parents fault. It makes sense, since Ted brought her into the line of fire without giving her proper protection. Not to excuse his father’s vaguely racist, incredibly protective outburst, which was filled with misplaced moral righteousness. The 1960’s were a different time, but even that seemed pretty uncouth.
As the noose tightens around “Pan Am’s” neck, the show is going into overdrive mode. And while I’m normally against having so much stuff, it actually works with this shows escapist tone. Sure, it’s ridiculous, but it’s also a ton of fun because it never stops moving. It leaves enough time to develop its storylines, without spending too much time and becoming strained. Was last night’s episode of “Pan Am” a classic? Of course not: it was far too garish and busy for that. But it was an incredibly enjoyable hour of television, and that counts for something too.
Charles Mahoney is arts editor. Email him at email@example.com