Ellen Humphreys

Interrogation (2020) s01e05 – Det. Dave Russell vs Chris Keller 1983

Still the eighties, still the investigation. Though we do get to see David Strathairn and Peter Sarsgaard facing off after the murder. Sarsgaard is very whispery with Strathairn, who’s telling him to investigate Kyle Gallner’s friend, third-billed but rarely onscreen for very long Kodi Smit-McPhee.

This episode—eventually—has Sarsgaard interviewing Smit-McPhee in order to rule him out as a suspect. Unfortunately for Sarsgaard, Smit-McPhee seems really guilty. He lies about visiting Joanna Going—wow, she really gets the crap work in the flashbacks, time and again—and then there’s a goofy knife fight as Smit-McPhee self-aggrandizes in his interview with Sarsgaaard.

Is it an interrogation? Not really. But it seems like there’d be interview tapes or a transcript to dramatize. For a while it seems like Sarsgaard might actually be giving a better performance when his shady cop is actually doing his job—Frank Whaley’s back, playing the voice of reason and good cop here—but it doesn’t last long with Sarsgaard.

He’s bad again before he gets home and the show reveals why he doesn’t pursue valid second suspect Smit-McPhee. See, Smit-McPhee was in another state so good family man Sarsgaard had to abandon pregnant wife Ellen Humphreys to go interview him. In the other state—New Mexico, I think; doesn’t matter—there’s a female detective, which has some unspoken subtext, played by Roberta Colindrez. Colindrez lets Sarsgaard know pretty early on if he wants to play it dirty on this case, she’ll help him. He gets indignant about her suggestion he’s not going to do his job well.

So why does Sarsgaard let Smit-McPhee go after lying and go all in on Gallner—who spends the episode a juvenile in county jail, in the “Snitch Tank,” where Sarsgaard sends him to try to gin up a jail house witness—Sarsgaard goes all in on Gallner because Humphreys has a miscarriage and she’s really needy about it and so he’s not going to neglect her just to get the right killer.

Kind of a wow reveal, kind of an icky, passively misogynistic reveal—see, Sarsgaard would never have been a bad cop if it weren’t for his needy wife and her female problems—but, hey, on par for “Interrogation.”

Given the kid gloves the show usually takes with Sarsgaard’s dirty cop, it’s a bit of a surprise to see them go all in on the miscarriage explanation.

Interrogation (2020) s01e06 – Henry Fisher vs Eric Fisher 1992

The reason you can watch “Interrogation” in any order you want—according to the opening titles—is because cold case detectives don’t pick at old cases linearly. So, by watching “Interrogation,” you’re a cold case detective too!

Eye-roll emoji.

This episode doesn’t feature any recorded interrogations for the show to faithfully dramatize. It’s all historically questionable stuff, except maybe all the White people in 1992 L.A. being low-key racist about the Rodney King verdict. Unless they just say the quiet parts out loud as the riots start.

There are three plot lines. Cop Peter Sarsgaard is in uniform and cracking heads during the riots, checking in with estranged wife Ellen Humphreys (in a shockingly thankless role) while David Strathairn finds out he’s dying and new girlfriend or wife Melinda McGraw tells him he’s got to settle things with still incarcerated son Kyle Gallner.

Now, skipping from episode one to episode six—nine years in “real” time—I’m not sure if I missed any character development with anyone, but it doesn’t seem like it. Gallner’s really, really, really bad. And Strathairn’s on par. After hoping for decades David Strathairn would make it… well, he’s made it to this. Hacking it out in streaming shows. It’s a meteoric and rather depressing fail.

Chad L. Coleman shows up for a couple scenes as the prison lawyer who Gallner asks for help but doesn’t have time for Gallner because Gallner hangs out with White supremacist prison boss Jeff Kober. Kober doesn’t so much give a performance as posture as a vaguely prison Nazi prison Nazi. They don’t want to say prison Nazi because “Interrogation” is feckless.

Big surprise of this episode? Flashbacks to before the murder revealing Gallner was adopted and mom Joanna Going never wanted him. She was terribly abusive to him and Strathairn just stood by and did nothing. So, you know, it’s cool if Gallner killed her. After a stunningly misogynist characterization of Going (both from Strathairn and the flashback itself), Gallner erupts and challenges Strathairn’s recollection.

The way Gallner remembers it, Going didn’t like him because he’s Strathairn’s biological son from an affair and Strathairn forced Going to adopt him. So Going was a saint.

Though the saint stuff is literally a single scene and the demonizing was four shocking minutes.

Not sure what kind of impact “Interrogation” is going for, but so far, it’s just showcasing how Strathairn not winning an Oscar for Good Night, and Good Luck broke him and how Gallner’s… really not capable of succeeding in this part.

At least Sarsgaard isn’t in it too much. Small victory.

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