Recap and review of Vegas – Season 1 Episode 10 – Estinto
One of the things that frustrates me about Vegas, as a viewer and recapper, is its maddening inconsistency. The show often purports to be about weightier subjects than the murder of a mob associate. Occasionally the show succeeds, yet as in tonight’s “Estinto”, the show doesn’t seem to want to be anything more than just another procedural. And that’s genuinely disheartening for a show with such early promise. It’s not that the episode sucks, necessarily. It’s fine for what it is: a step-by-step procedural that follows a single murder investigation through a byzantine labyrinth of conflicting suspects and motivations. Yet there really isn’t much to dig into beyond that simple conceit. It’s a perfect episode of TV as part of a late afternoon marathon session on TNT, but not much more. And to get to the rerun phase, it has to get past its first season and accrue enough episodes for a network like TNT to be willing to syndicate it. At this rate, and with these low-hanging ambitions, I’m not entirely sure it’s going to get the chance. And that genuinely disappoints me, as I feel like the show could be a lot more than the tepid, inconsequential episode of TV we got tonight.
“Estinto” follows the murder of Del Merrick, a man whom Vincent (Michael Chiklis) has been contracting for his building operations. After warning Del about getting greedy in his payoffs, he turns up dead in a cement mixer, leading ADA Katherine O’Connell (Carrie-Ann Moss) to immediately suspect mob connections. But Ralph (Dennis Quaid) isn’t so quick to hop on the bandwagon, and the investigation reveals that Merrick was an uncommonly complex individual, with as many people praising his name as there were intent on seeing him dead. A man named Watanabe blamed Merrick for his daughter’s death, owing to Merrick’s hand in the construction of one of the Japanese-American internment camps that were such a dark period of America’s involvement in World War II. Of course, I don’t really know how Watanabe figured Merrick’s construction of the camp somehow led to his daughter’s death of pneumonia, since point A doesn’t really lead to point B in that scenario. Hell, if it hadn’t been Merrick, the government would have found some other schmo. But the grudge, such as it was, didn’t last, as the men ended up bonding once Watanabe tracked Merrick down, slashed him open, and then thought better of letting the man die. Peculiar, to say the least. But Watanabe is free and clear.
Merrick’s complexities don’t end there either, as Ralph’s investigation leads him to the doorstep of a church where an ex-prostitute Merrick helped out of the gutter is now a preacher. Ralph listens to her sob story with dutiful attention, and again, Merrick is portrayed as a crooked man of subtle values. Not that it ever stopped him from banging the wife of one of his associates, as it’s later revealed. Yet, strangely, neither of these revelations lead to his murderer. As it turns out, the murderer was hiding in plain sight the whole time, as killers tend to be on shows like these. Merrick’s widow (Melinda Page Hamilton) is revealed to have planned the murder alongside his right-hand man (D.B. Sweeney), who discovered the body in the first place. I was sort of disappointed to have called it from almost the moment the body was discovered, as it seemed a fairly obvious resolution to the plot, and the casting of D.B. Sweeney just skirted the edge of what I’d consider a “casting spoiler.” That said, the storyline was interesting enough to anchor the hour, even if the victim was a far more complex character than any of the living.
Take, for instance, Dixon Lamb (Taylor Handley), who is given an undercover assignment by Ralph to track down a thief in Vincent’s casino. Dixon is the show’s most one-dimensional character, a horndog with little in the way of actual substance, though he shows brief flashes of it when relating to his sexy coworker Yvonne (Aimee Garcia) just why Christmas isn’t really something the Lambs get all that into. We probably could have guessed that it was because Ralph’s wife (and Dixon’s mother) died during the holidays, but it’s still nice to see a brief glimmer of pathos dance across Dixon’s often-blank face. Yet Dixon’s story also sees him drawn closer to Vincent, who offers him a penthouse suite as thanks for catching the crook, and I’m not sure if the potential of Dixon being seduced by the trappings of Vincent’s high-rolling world hold much interest for me, though I guess it’ll at least dirty up Dixon’s character a bit. It’s still more interesting than the romantic life of Dixon’s uncle. Yes, Jack (Jason O’Mara) and Mia Rizzo (Sarah Jones) finally hook up, first sharing a dance “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” by Hank Locklin (in the least subtle music cue in the history of ever), and later sharing a kiss in Mia’s hotel room, even as Mia is trying to talk herself out of the relationship by pretty much stating that her family and his mix like oil and water. It’s implied that the kiss is about to lead to a lot more, as they pull each other’s clothes off as we cut away, but I’m hard-pressed to care much about this dalliance when O’Mara and Jones have only a slight chemistry between them. It’s hardly the kind of chemistry that can prop up a story this thin. That said, it’s still exponentially better chemistry than what exists between Quaid and Moss, who nearly share a kiss tonight. Sorry, but I’ll pass on that one.
As for Vincent himself, he’s still dealing with singer Diane Desmond (Ivana Milicevic), who won’t ease the hell up on her attempted seductions. Vincent eventually discovers that, while her desire to be with Vincent is genuine, she’s working as a mole for the Feds. He kicks her out of the club, and out of his life, threatening to kill her if she ever comes back. As the episode comes to a close, Vincent discovers just how little he’ll have to worry about that ever happening, as he finds Diane with a needle in her arm, dead from an overdose. I don’t think you could pay me to be sad to see that character go, but I will say that her death at least opens up some interesting storyline possibilities, as far as creating tension between Vincent and boss Johnny Rizzo (Michael Wiseman), to whom Diane was married. I can only hope that such developments occur sooner rather than later, as I’m not sure how much longer the show can tip-toe around anything huge ever happening. Atmosphere and aesthetic only go so far.
“Estinto” isn’t horrible, but it does leave me questioning just what this show’s intentions are, going forward. Are they going to pull the trigger on more extensive serialization? Or is the show content to simply remain a rote procedural? I certainly hope the show regains some of its earlier ambitions, as the talent is there in the cast and production to turn this into a solid hour of TV, if not necessarily a prestige drama.