Recap video and review of Vegas – Season 1 Episode 7 – Bad Seeds
“Bad Seeds” is the best episode of Vegas to date, in large part because it takes a break from its tacked-on procedural aspects to focus on the central narrative between Sheriff Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) and Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis), whose troubles with the Milwaukee mob are mounting by the day. The episode is something of a character study in how both Vincent and Ralph adapt to the circumstances, specifically when they’re thrown together in the second half of the episode. We briefly get a sense, in the opening moments of a particularly tense dinner scene, that these two men could possibly have been friends under different circumstances. Of course, that sentiment is all shot to hell when Lamb finally opens up to Savino, and Vincent uses the opportunity to push the Sheriff’s buttons with a cynically-manipulative, emotional power play. Scenes like these give the episode a sense of dramatic heft that has often been lacking from the relatively low-stakes story being told in previous episodes. The conflicts here feel as though they’re building to something more substantial in the future, and the series can only profit by this approach.
The story this week involves Savino discovering that Milwaukee has deployed the ice-cold killer known only as Jones (Damon Herriman) to assassinate the would-be kingpin. When Jones kills one of Savino’s men (and an elderly woman – merely collateral damage), Ralph is brought into the investigation, and the Milwaukee plot is quickly inferred by Vincent, especially after a close call at the Savoy, where Jones nearly gains access to Savino’s private quarters. A brief shootout leaves an officer (who recognized Jones from the airport and was able to piece together the fallacies of his cover story) bleeding profusely from a bullet to the abdomen. He may have missed this time, but Jones won’t miss again, and Vincent knows this. And so Ralph takes Vincent into protective custody, taking him back to his ranch to toil in the baking sun. They later share steaks and have a terse conversation about Ralph’s late wife, who was killed in a car accident while Ralph was stationed overseas in the war. Ralph carries around a complex guilt about the loss, as he could have come home, but instead took an extension. Vincent toys with Ralph, playing on the Sheriff’s guilt by arguing that perhaps his wife would still be alive if he’d come home, as opposed to doing his duty out of some gung-ho notion of patriotism. That earns Vincent a hard right cross from Ralph, the first meaningful physical contact between the two. It’s almost a shame that the conflict had to become physical at all, since so much of it worked at just a verbal level, with the two men verbally sparring in between genuine moments of quiet understanding.
This all leads to a climactic shootout at Ralph’s ranch, as Jones closes in on his bait, and Ralph has to save Savino’s life at the last moment. It’s a solid arc that culminates in a fittingly dramatic action sequence that effectively neutralizes the threat of Jones, though there’s still the peskier issue of Johnny Rizzo (Michael Weisman) selling Vincent out to organization head Angelo (Jonathan Banks), convincing him that Vincent’s attempts to acquire ownership of The Tumbleweed Club has caused too much ruckus, and he has to be taken care of in order to square things with Chicago. Vincent’s resignation to his fate is surprisingly moving, as he kisses his wife, Laura (Vinessa Shaw) one last time as he leaves with Rizzo and Angelo in what he knows, and accepts, is a setup. His suspicions are confirmed when they drive out to the middle of the desert, Rizzo draws a gun and Angelo apologizes for the necessity of what’s to come. Vincent’s plea that Rizzo bury him deep so that his kids don’t see his bloated corpse in the papers is weirdly touching, and makes me wish we knew more about Vincent’s home life, beyond just the fact that he has an occasionally tumultuous relationship with his beautiful, street-savvy wife.
This all leads to a conclusion that shouldn’t be that surprising, since it’s not like the show is really going to kill off one of its leads seven episodes in, Rizzo turns the gun on Angelo and pulls the trigger. And yet, it’s still shocking in its bluntness. There’s a matter-of-fact approach to how nonchalantly Angelo is disposed of, and just like that, Rizzo is the man at the top of the organization. It’s a bold move that shows how quickly all the political maneuvering and power plays in the world fall by the wayside against the blunt, extricating force of a bullet to the head. Sometimes might is right in this game, and brawn is its own sort of brains. I’m way more interested in the potential of this new Savino/Rizzo dynamic than just about anything else on the show – definitely more than Rizzo’s daughter Mia (Sarah Jones) and her continued flirtation with Jack Lamb (Jason O’Mara), which doesn’t really amount to anything this week, and serves to detract screen time from more fruitful storylines. Sarah Jones is absolutely stunning though, so the subplot isn’t entirely without redemption, I suppose.
There are also several loose ends from last week that require tying off, namely the mayoral election. Savino looks to close the gap for his puppet candidate George Grady (Gil Bellows) by rigging some of the voting booths although, as it turns out, he might not even need to, as Grady is doing far better in the polls than initially anticipated. By episode’s end, it’s revealed that Grady clinched the election, ousting incumbent Mayor Ted Bennett (Michael O’Neill), who shares a poignant farewell with Ralph, and congratulates him on his official ascendance to the office of Sheriff (as Ralph had run unopposed). The political landscape of Las Vegas is changing every bit as much as the physical landscape itself, and the further clash between the old guard and the new direction of the city provides one of the primary motivating themes of the series in its early run so far. This storyline is likely to bear fruit in the future, but for now, it’s interesting enough just to see the various dealings and maneuverings involved in attaining, and retaining, power in Las Vegas. “Bad Seeds” is an episode that indicates just what this show could be if its loftier ambitions were realized, and that’s a thrilling prospect, because the show is seriously good when it strips away the narrative excesses of the procedural, “case of the week” format. This is not to say that the approach doesn’t have its merits, but sometimes a simpler, more focused approach is better when trying to progress an arc that likely is going to stretch out over the entire season, as the business with Savino and the mob is going to, to say nothing of his conflict with Ralph. Those conflicts are rich with dramatic potential, and it would behoove the creative forces behind the show to take advantage of every opportunity to tell a more nuanced story. Vegas isn’t prestige television in the mold of more ambitious cable series, but it can certainly be an edifying hour of conflict, thematic resonance, and narrative cohesion each Tuesday night. “Bad Seeds” feels like a big step in that direction.