Kyle Gallner

Interrogation (2020) s01e04 – L.A. County Psychologist Marjorie Thompson vs. Eric Fisher 1984

One of the few benefits of watching “Interrogation” in a non-linear fashion is initially missing out on certain trope episodes, like this one. This one is the trial, with a very poorly exposited look at Kyle Gallner’s trip through the criminal justice system as a minor.

Albeit as a thirty-four year-old playing a minor.

See, Gallner initially went into juvie, with psychiatrist—third “Wire” casting and totally wasted—Sonja Sohn showing up for the episode to try to decide whether or not Gallner should be tried as a minor or not.

Obvious spoiler—and not just if you jump around the episodes—is Gallner does end up tried and convicted as an adult and, although Peter Sarsgaard still has it out for Gallner… Sohn never gets to really give her take. She’s just supportive in the therapy sessions, but apparently thought Gallner was a stone cold killer the whole time.

Would have been interesting to get her take, as her name in the episode title almost suggests the sessions would be based on… actual psychiatric sessions but… sealed or something? Again, “Interrogation”’s abject lack of concern for historical accuracy—all in the name of “non-linear” “cold case” investigating (by the viewer)—becomes yet another reason not to take the show very seriously.

Other reasons not to take the show very seriously? Kyle Gallner’s wigs. He gets a special wig for trial this episode and it’s a really, really bad one. Though I suppose it goes well with his oversized eighties suit.

Pat Healy plays Gallner’s lawyer. Healy’s a little better than the norm on “Interrogation.” But he doesn’t get a showcase spot like Sohn, so the show’s not setting him up for failure.

There’s a little more with Sarsgaard’s dad, Michael Harney, being crappy to Sarsgaard; Frank Whaley’s around for a bit. Lots of the episode is David Strathairn’s, which isn’t great. There’s no great or anything good for more Strathairn in this show. This episode we find out Strathairn pushed Gallner into making the deal for a juvie conviction, which backfires. Of vague interest is how Strathairn already has wife number two—Melinda McGraw—so soon after the murder of the first wife.

Makes you wonder why no one ever looked into the dad as a suspect. Not even the show.

Also… Ray Santiago as the jailhouse snitch who helps put Gallner away? Another person who should have a talk with their agent about how not every job is necessarily a good one.

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) s01e02 – I.A. Sgt. Ian Lynch vs Eric Fisher 2003

Now let’s rewind “Interrogation” to the second episode and see what would be getting introduced if you watched the show in episode order and not randomly, even though the timeline is fractured randomly in regular episode order too.

This episode takes place in 2003 and fully introduces Vincent D’Onofrio. His interview—not “Interrogation”—with Kyle Gallner is—again, presumably—based on the actual historical interview. Again, don’t want to harp on the show’s inability to deliver on its basic premise, but… it’s such an easy target, why not just bang on it every time you walk past.

You’d think, based on this episode, D’Onofrio’s going to be a big important character throughout. You would be wrong. Ditto Andre Royo. Both might be important in the historical sense regarding the real life case, but on the show… not so much.

This episode also introduces Elijah Nelson as Gallner’s new cell mate, who’s maybe schizophrenic but never diagnosed. He’s the one who comes across evidence because of his attention to detail. It’s very bold contrivance for the second episode, which also has Gallner in his shaved-head phase already. Watching the series “out of order,” you can’t fully appreciate how much the show creators thought they’d be able to rely on Gallner to shoulder the series’s weight.

There’s a big surprise from Nelson too, which only makes sense in the second episode and not when you see the result of it in later ones. The order thing is such bullshit.

Insert a Nelson Mutz “ha ha” gif here… but the joke’s on the viewer.

There’s a flashback to before the murder, when Gallner’s in rehab with Kodi Smit-McPhee (third-billed, which is ludicrous) and Morgan Taylor Campbell. I was waiting for a big Smit-McPhee part given how import the character seems to be in the story but… nope.

Taylor Campbell makes much more of an impressive just because it’s weird to see Gallner with a girlfriend.

Lots for Peter Sarsgaard in the modern (2003) era too, including a whole subplot with daughter Barbie Robertson starting to realize he’s a rather problematic cop.

Turns out Sarsgaard knew Gallner from before the murder—which I don’t think gets covered in the first episode (or anywhere else)—and appears to be a motivating factor for why Sarsgaard is so sure about Gallner.

The show’s real bad at Sarsgaard’s motivations. Probably because they didn’t want to be sued.

Frank Whaley shows up again, also in old age makeup. The makeup effects are easily the best thing about “Interrogation.”

Interrogation (2020) s01e09 – P.I. Charlie Shannon vs Amy Harlow 2003

As I continue putting way too much thought into “Interrogation,” this episode stands distinctly in the “anti” non-linear department. This episode sets up both the pilot—so the penultimate episode loops back to the first—but also seems to be setting up the next—last—episode.

It’s all about P.I. Andre Royo interviewing Emma Caulfield Frost, who has a totally different story about what happened with the murder. Of course, Royo doesn’t have anywhere near as much to do as Vinessa Antoine, who’s playing his (very new) girlfriend. She accompanies him on the investigation and is the only reason he’s able to get the story.

Now, in flashbacks Frost’s character is played by someone else—Autry Haddon-Wilson (who stands out in “Interrogation” by not being bad)—but Kyle Gallner still plays his seventeen year-old self. It’s a tad disconcerting, seeing Haydon-Wilson in for Frost but whatever. She’s got this new scoop, which has Royo excited to tell Vincent D’Onofrio, which is this going to set up the first episode with Gallner meeting with the reporters.

Royo’s been ineffectual in the series but it’s nothing compared to his turn in this episode, when he chastises the reporters for not being “real reporters” because they don’t want to investigate the story or something. He clearly needs Antoine along to do some social engineering. Whether director Patrick Cady or Royo came up with it, someone definitely decided to have Royo play some of his deliveries like Bubbles from “The Wire,” which only goes to show off what a bad part Royo’s got for the deliveries to work so “well.”

But, hey, as a showcase for Vinessa Antoine, it’s solid. She should definitely get some better roles. And she might even have a decent enough demo reel off the show; she’s only got good moments, something pretty much no one else gets in “Interrogation.”

Also… so, if the “Interrogation” is based on actual recordings as the show originally said… the real-life P.I. turned over the tapes to the show’s creators? It’s like fake fake true crime with its historical accountability.

Interrogation (2020) s01e08 – P.I. Charlie Shannon vs Eric Fisher 1996

There’s no “Interrogation” this episode. Nothing based on a recording or a transcript, just one hundred percent dramatization. “Interrogation” is like a true crime show only with recognizable (if not better) actors and no interviews with the actual people. It’s an exemplar of how not to do a show like “Interrogation.”

This episode jumps all over—well, not all over, it jumps ahead. The show—in its parts—is extremely linear. Would it play better linear? Eh. It’s comprehensible in its fractured state, which it wouldn’t be if it were actually fractured but whatever. Fixing “Interrogation” seems like a waste of time. Kind of like how the show treats Peter Sarsgaard’s top-billed “only dirty this one time” cop. This episode continues his decline, his family leaving him, his retired cop dad (Michael Harney, who’s all right) being mean to him. No one wants to spend time with Sarsgaard; he’s a time suck.

So the episode starts in 1993 with Kyle Gallner’s parole getting denied. It’s denied for multiple reasons, but also contributing is Sarsgaard lying in a letter to the parole board. Gallner’s hopes and dreams are dashed except when David Strathairn dies, he leaves Gallner the money to hire a new P.I. Fast forward to 1996, he hires celebrity P.I. Andre Royo. It’s nice to see Royo, but he’s just phoning it in. It’s shocking how little Royo gets to do, especially considering his character’s name is in the title this episode.

Then it jumps ahead a final time to 2003 when Royo gets Vincent D’Onofrio involved. D’Onofrio’s an Internal Affairs cop; Royo and Gallner can prove Sarsgaard perjured himself.

I’d been waiting for a good Royo episode and instead he’s just a bland P.I. with lacking chemistry opposite Gallner; to be fair, Gallner’s a chemistry suck with everything, but still. Chad L. Coleman is back for a little bit too. Of the two “Wire” castings, I suppose Coleman’s is more of a waste. Who knows… if Gallner were better, it’d be a much different show.

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) 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.

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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