Joanna Going

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) s01e03 – Det. Dave Russell vs Kim Decker 1982

Nine months before the murder, we discover what a great kid thirty-four year-old sixteen year-old Kyle Gallner was before drugs. This episode doesn’t just—finally—give Joanna Going something to do as the eventual murder victim, it also introduces the history between Peter Sarsgaard and Gallner. See, Gallner goes to the cops to report his girlfriend (Morgan Taylor Campbell) had her brother rough him up or something, but it turns out Gallner’s getting high again.

So Sarsgaard does this walking tour through how much Gallner’s screwed up his life since he’s started using again and Sarsgaard doesn’t like what he sees. There’s also Gallner’s violence against Taylor Campbell.

Meanwhile Gallner’s got a whole “teen drug dealer” story arc with unmemorable Kodi Smith-McPhee—seriously, how does this guy go around with dyed blond hair and a big leather jacket and leave almost no impression… maybe because the show treats him like a constant mystery and Smith-McPhee plays it as anything but.

Anyway, the episode introduces Ebon Moss-Bachrach as the cool older friend who hooks Gallner up with a drug connection so Gallner can sell and make even more money. Things don’t work out exactly, however, and it all ends with Going finally cutting Gallner off. We’ve now seen him descend from promising young man getting his life back together—seriously though, the show has no comment on the parents’ interesting idea that the best thing to do with their drug addict teenage son is to financially support him living independently from them; I feel like it deserved some explanation, but apparently it’s a normal thing in 1983 L.A.

Moss-Bachrach is a little better than the norm, but only because of some base competency. He’s never good or anything. Just not as bad as some of the acting around him.

Interrogation (2020) s01e07 – Det. Carol Young & Det. Brian Chen vs Melanie Pruitt 2005

The year is 2005, so twenty years after the first episode—1983—and, therefore, Kyle Gallner playing closer to his actual age. It doesn’t really help with his performance. With his shaved head and serious prisoner eyeglasses and seventies porn ‘stache, every once in a while—when he’s not talking—you imagine they must’ve wanted someone else for the part who might be good. It’s a big swing of a performance for Gallner and a cringe-y fail of one.

Maybe Eddie Furlong.

This episode is about Gallner getting out of prison because Peter Sarsgaard was either a dirty cop or an incompetent one. Sarsgaard’s in old age makeup—really good old age makeup—and moping around because it’s 2005 and he doesn’t get to be as racist anymore. He can still be racist, obviously, like how the original D.A. Erich Anderson is low key racist and sexist to Black reporter April Grace in the first scene—setting up the cops and prosecutors as scumbags, which is something considering we then have to spend the entire episode with Sprague Grayden (who’s quite bad) and Tim Chiou (who’s scenery for Grayden) trying to figure out how to railroad Gallner back into prison. Their boss, current D.A. Joanna Adler (also not, you know, good), really hates Gallner’s high profile defense attorney, Eric Roberts (who’s phenomenal and makes the episode worth watching) and wants to get him good.

Gallner’s side of the story has Andre Royo in the background; presumably he was introduced in a previous episode—oh, yeah, this episode entirely hinges on information previously introduced so the whole “watch in any order you want” is utter nonsense and lazy storytelling from the show’s creators. This episode of “Interrogation” reveals it to be a bullshit White riff on “When They See Us,” only not a fiftieth as good. Also Ernest R. Dickerson’s direction is… bad. Like, real bad. Especially when it’s Gallner acclimating to freedom.

His storyline involves hooking up with prison bunny Alice Wetterlund, who’s also not good but far from Grayden. The only worse writing in the episode (courtesy Barbara Curry) than Wetterlund and Gallner’s “romance” subplot is when Grayden and Chiou propose their theory of the crime to Adler and we get to see how dumb everyone involved in the show must be when it comes to doing drugs. It’s not just it appears no one involved has ever done drugs… they haven’t even seen Trainspotting. It’s seriously the worst drugged out youth scene I’ve seen… since eighties television probably.

As for the “real” interrogation scene? It takes a few minutes and, since it involves Grayden, it’s pretty bad. Though it’s a great look for the cops, as they threaten to slut-shame a preschool teacher for being sexually active as a teen.

“Interrogation” is a show about how awful cops are and how cool it is they’re awful.

It’s also a show where somehow Dickerson manages to make the Santa Monica boardwalk look like it’s in Toronto.

I guess there’s some funny moments when it tries to be trendy, as Wetterlund tells Gallner to podcast so he can “own [his] story” and “tell [his] truth.”

Also for some reason still doesn’t get any good screen time murder victim Joanna Going is dressed like a clown.

I’m wondering if they decided you could watch the show in any order because otherwise it might be even worse. Though it’s hard to imagine the bad being much worse.

But Eric Roberts. Damn. You watch it and you feel the loss of him not having a great acting career in your bones.

Interrogation (2020) s01e01 – Det. Dave Russell vs Eric Fisher 1983

Poor Kyle Gallner. Thirty-four years old and still playing a seventeen year-old, which—at one point—would’ve been some kind of record (or near one). But playing half his age is nothing compared to Gallner’s wig. It’s 1983 L.A. and Gallner’s got a full… what would it be called, metalhead? He just found his mom dead and had to take two steak knives out of her back to help her breathe before he called the cops—it’s pre-911, which I only know because I learned things about history from “Quantum Leap.”

Anyway, top-billed Peter Sarsgaard thinks Gallner killed her so he’s going to crack him in the box! Sarsgaard brings zero personality to the part—other than being a possibly dirty cop—and seems to be trying to channel Kiefer Sutherland.

The “Interrogation” is based on a real case, real interview transcripts, just with lots of related reenactments.

The first episode sets up the series as the CBS All Access answer to “Mindhunter,” only with a bit of “Serial” thrown in.

David Strathairn plays Gallner’s dad, who thinks he’s innocent but also maybe not, and Joanna Going is the mom. It’s a blink and you miss it part for Going, who’s literally an object.

While the show goes out of its way to set up the “realism” of the interrogations, nothing else’s realism is very clear. Is a scene with two people presumably “true” or might it be a dramatization. Making some of it “real” and some of it real-ish doesn’t do much for the show, which is—so far—only going to be engaging because of the crime investigation itself.

Like, Sarsgaard not sympathetic as the cop—unless you gravitate to fascists—and Gallner’s a thirty-four year-old in a bad wig playing a teenager… theoretically it could give Strathairn a good part but certainly not yet.

Frank Whaley’s in it for something like two scenes and he pretty much walks away with the cop scenes, if only because he makes you want to watch “Luke Cage: Season One” again.

Then comes the streaming gimmick—you can watch the subsequent episodes in any order you choose! Except the finale, I think.

There’s a certain cool factor to the early eighties L.A. getting visualized but… it’s a limited one.

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