This Guy Is Full of Green Light: Burnette's Review of "Golden Years" Episode 4

This is the FOURTH PART of an article by Bryant Burnette summarizing the Golden Years television show.  

This was originally posted at Burnette's blog,

Episode 4 (airdate 08/01/1991)

The fourth episode begins with Dr. Ackerman calling Crewes in a panic, insisting that he needs protection from Andrews, who -- obviously -- will be coming to kill him. Crewes tells Ackerman to get a grip, and the doctor realizes that he's going to have to protect himself, so he decides to steal a bunch of paperwork and make copies of it, presumably so that he can have some leverage against Andrews. In so doing, he turns into a bumbling idiot; he runs into doors, trips over his own feet, stutters, and generally seems like a nincompoop.

All for naught, too; he gets in his car to leave Falco Plains, and the car promptly explodes. Jude, watching from the shadows, has struck again.

His real quarry, meanwhile, has decided to pull into the barn on an apparently deserted farm and give their stolen hearse a paint job. It's now a Christine-esque shade of red that would undoubtedly catch every eye on the road. Remind me to never allow Terry Spann to be in charge of taking me on the lam. She's made more than a few moronic decisions here, but let's not blame her; let's blame Stephen King, who is clearly not cut out to be a rogue government agent.

There is yet another tender scene between Harlan and Gina in which she expresses dismay at the entire situation, not without merit: this time, she's upset because she feels old for the first time. See, because she and Harlan were aging together, she never actually felt the weight of their years, whereas seeing him growing younger by the day is only making her feel more and more decrepit. King is better-suited to the mechanics of an emotional scene like this than he is to the mechanics of evading capture by state-sanctioned killers. That's not to say the scene is perfect; the dialogue is clunky and repetitive, and if not for decent acting, it wouldn't work terribly well at all. Still, there is a core of emotional truth to it that definitely feels like King's skills as a novelist came briefly to the fore.

That is certainly not evident in a horrible scene involving Toddhunter. One of his new assistants approaches the mad doctor to tell him that preparations of some sort -- they are not explained -- are ready. Toddhunter tells him, "Do it now!" The man is about to respond, but Toddhunter cuts him off to tell him how time is tip-tip-tapping away. He starts hollering "Tip-tippy-tap!" and "Do it now!" and so forth, and the actor goes so far over the top that he threatens to enter Bronson-Pinchot-in-The-Langoliers territory. He doesn't quite get there, but it's close. It's an embarrassing scene, and you can bet your life that director Allen Coulter doesn't have it on any of his demo reels.

Later, Toddhunter has a better scene, in which he visits his father's grave. His watch has stopped working, and while he is speaking to his father, he digs up a metal box, which houses a bunch of other dead watches; he puts this new one with the others. This dude is clearly nuts, and thankfully, this scene shows us a bit of that in a useful, non-annoying fashion.

Jude visits Crewes and informs him that, as per the DSA, he is now in charge of the investigation and manhunt surrounding the Williams case. Crewes is not too pleased about this; he's even less pleased when he discovers that he is barred from leaving the base. Andrews packs up his shit and abandons his temporary office at the local police station, which for some reason pisses off the sherriff or the constable or whoever the guy is. In an additional bit of WTF, Andrews is wearing a black t-shirt during this scene that reads "Let Go and Let God." Huh?!?

While they're chilling out at the conveniently abandoned barn, Terry and Harlan have a talk, in which he wonders what their chances are. Terry tells him that when she was at The Shop, everyone told her that John Rainbird was the best; but she thinks Andrews is better, so if he's after them, they don't have much of a chance at all. Yay, a Firestarter connection!

A few scenes later, Terry concocts a plan: if Harlan and Gina can get themselves arrested for shoplifting, and get put in the care of the local law enforcement, they could then use their one phone call to get a lawyer and thereby get some protection of the legal variety. It's not a bad plan, but later, they all come to the realization that if Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't safe in the hands of local police custody, then a small-timer like Harlan Williams definitely wouldn't be safe.

It's interesting to consider how different the implications of this scene are from the novel King published twenty years later, 11/22/63. Here, clearly, King is playing into the paranoia of the times. Golden Years as a whole feeds off of that paranoia; Andrews counsels Ackerman at one point that perfect paranoia is perfect awareness, and this show is so paranoid that it wants us to believe that not even the government can trust the government. Golden Years came only four years after the publication of The Tommyknockers, in which one character constantly thinks of untrustworthy governmental powers under the umbrella "the Dallas Police" (clearly, a Ruby / Oswald reference). Two decades later, in 11/22/63, King had swung all the way around to be convinced that Oswald had acted alone, and, by implication, that Ruby had, too. I'm conflicted, personally; both sides have their persuasions. I'm not taking a stance, and it doesn't bother me the way it apparently bothers some that King's mind on such topics has changed over the years; but it is interesting.

The episode ends with a scene in which our heroes pass a wreck on the side of the road. At Gina's insistence, they stop to see if they can help, and of course, the first cop who stops by recognizes the trio and tries to apprehend them. Terry, always the genius, steals the policeman's cruiser.

I guess we'll find out how that plan works out next week.

This is not a particularly good episode, what with Terry's constant stupidity and Toddhunter's over-the-top insanity.

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