Homicide: Life on the Street

Season 6 Episode 7


Aired Friday 10:00 PM Dec 05, 1997 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
53 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

A man falls between the cars of a subway train in front of horrified witnesses. Was he pushed? While the man is still alive, the prognosis is he will be dead the moment they extract from the position he currently occupies: pinned between the train and platform. Homicide is called in light of this condition and the fact he may have been pushed. Pembleton questions the victim, and Bayliss questions the witnesses, especially a strange one named Larry Biedron. The victim has no relatives in the Baltimore area. He does have a girlfriend who is supposed to be jogging in the area; Lewis and Falsone try to find her to bring her to the scene.moreless

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  • This was memorable television

    Stellar performances by Andre Braugher and Vincent D'Onofrio. Why isn't this series rebroadcast on any cable channels?
  • A landmark moment in television

    Perhaps because the producers of Homicide thought that they were being viewed by the executives at NBC as a ‘dead letter’, they would feature in season 6 a sizable number of stories that highlight living people who had been ‘murdered’--- just not cold yet. And not in the same way Sean Garrabrek in ‘A Doll’s Eyes’ was either--- these people were still fighting and alive. Many of these episodes would be moving, but few would be as powerful as the first one written but was ultimately shown out of order --- ‘The Subway’. Indeed, this show is not only one of the most compelling of the season, but one of the best episodes in series history.

    In the previous five seasons, it seemed that Homicide had looked at grief and shock of murder from every angle imaginable. Turns out they left one out--- the victim. John Lange leaves for his job one Friday morning, kisses his girlfriend goodbye, enters the subway, walks down the platform--- and falls in front of an oncoming train. He gets pinned between the train and the platform. The pressure of the subway is the only thing keeping his insides from falling out. The instant the pressure is eased, he will die. Without it, he’ll live maybe an hour. Everyone--- the paramedics, the police, and Detective Frank Pembleton--- knows that he’s going to die.

    So does John Lange. He is still conscious, and because his spinal cord has been severed, he doesn’t feel any pain. It therefore comes as a huge shock when Pembleton tries to talk to him about getting his girlfriend down to the subway to say goodbye. We watch him as he realizes what is going to happen, and it is stunning. This is a huge shock, not only for the viewer but for Frank. Like all detectives, he sees the dead, not the death. He may speak for the dead, but he doesn’t speak with the dead. And that’s what Frank does for an hour--- he asks him about next of kin, getting his account of what happened, and finally contemplating the fate of a man who is dying because he chose to ride the subway into work instead of driving in like he does every other day.

    It is not easy to watch a man die. Our relief from this agony comes from the comparatively less grim efforts to find out why Lange fell and trying to reach next of kin. Bayliss spends the hour learning about the man who pushed him is a lunatic who had spent time in an institution for pushing another man in front of a train. Falsone and Lewis get called in on what is ultimately a futile search for Lange’s girlfriend who is jogging by the river and every few minutes we get some release as the detectives make the effort. The only relief that Lange gets is the ‘one-in-a-million’ chance from the paramedic that he will somehow survive the removal.

    But there are no miracles---or relief. This is Homicide. Lange’s death is random and arbitrary. Falsone and Meldrick never locate his girlfriend, so he never gets to say goodbye. Lange succumbs on the platform. For everyone else--- even the rattled Frank Pembleton--- life must go on. The train starts running. And Lange’s girlfriend jogs by just in time to see the firemen and the paramedics pull away from the station---- leaving with only a cursory look. It is the ultimate ironic twist.

    To merely summarize this episode robs it of its power. It is essentially a static scene, yet the emotion and anguish that we see is absolutely unforgettable. This may be Andre Braugher’s finest hour, and considering his body of work, that’s saying a lot. For once, his role is not that of grand inquisitor, but that of caregiver and confessor. He will be the last person that John Lange will ever talk to, and he must keep the victim calm, relate to this man, while keeping his own emotions in check. It is an extraordinary work. Braugher would win his only Emmy this season, and while I don’t know if this was the episode that he submitted for consideration, its hard to imagine a better example of his range and ability.

    Just as brilliant is the work of Vincent D’Onofrio as John Lange. The range and power of his performance is astonishing--- he shows more human emotion in this one hour than he has ever done in five-plus years as the lead on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. His work is riveting and absolutely unforgettable. Watching a ‘dead man’ go through the five stages of grief is not something that is easily forgotten and D’Onofrio pulls it out without a hint of overacting. This is the work of an astonishing performer.

    ‘The Subway’ may be the most famous episode of a remarkable series. The praise from critics bordered on the extraordinary. It received two Emmy nominations--- Best Guest Actor for D’Onofrio and Best Teleplay, plus probably Braugher’s. It would win an unprecedented third Peabody award for the series and an Edgar nomination for best teleplay. It would later be featured on a PBS episode of ‘Frontline’. But its force and performance are among the greatest of any episode of television that I’ve ever seen. Never has it been more clear that a murder means that a man is dead. For those reasons I consider ‘The Subway’ one of the best episodes of television--- ever. And even then, it’s only one of five episodes of the series that I consider the highlights of the series. That’s how high the writers and actors of Homicide set the bar.

    My score: 10

    Rank by Fans: 5th

Andre Braugher

Andre Braugher

Det. Frank Pembleton (seasons 1-6, TVM)

Kyle Secor

Kyle Secor

Tim Bayliss

Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer

Det. John Munch

Michelle Forbes

Michelle Forbes

Dr. Julianna Cox, CME (1996-1998)

Reed Diamond

Reed Diamond

Det. Mike Kellerman (seasons 4-6)

Peter Gerety

Peter Gerety

Stu Gharty (Seasons 6-7, recurring previously, TVM)

Vincent D'Onofrio

Vincent D'Onofrio

John Lange

Guest Star

Bruce MacVittie

Bruce MacVittie

Larry Biedron

Guest Star

Wendee Pratt

Wendee Pratt

Joy Tolson

Guest Star

Kristin Rohde

Kristin Rohde

Sally Rogers

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Right before Lewis and Falsone stop the female jogger, John Lange's girlfriend can be seen running by right behind Lewis. The scene is at 36:57 on the DVD. Compare her clothes to the ones in her other scenes, it is definitely Lange's girlfriend.

    • That's not a goof. That just means that Falsone and Lewis weren't paying attention or think it's a wild goose chase.

    • This was not a goof. As I remember, Lewis and Falsone actually stop the jogger and asks if she knows the victim. She says that she doesn't, and then jogs away. Lewis and Falsone don't comment on what has happened and the jogger just doesn't want to be bothered. This was the writer's little touch of irony.

    • The jogger that Lewis and Falsone are supposed to find runs right by them in the park.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Falsone: You know last year my grandmother dies right. I go over to the nursing home to sign the body out to the funeral house. I'm talking to the head nurse alright, her sister is standing next to me. And I'm thinking I can nail this chick. You know my grandmother just dies and my smart monkey instincts are telling me to procreate.
      Lewis: Yeah, it's all part of the grieving process.

    • Lange: God invents pain, man invents booze and right now he can kiss my ass.

    • Lang: Ok, you pull me out, how long before my heart stops?
      Medic: Thirty seconds. A minute.
      Lang: And five minutes to the hospital.
      Medic: Yes.
      Lang: You heard her she said five minutes.
      Pembleton: Right, she did.
      Lang: Any longer than that you take this lame ass, you drag her out to the middle of the street and you shoot her.
      Pembleton: Deal. How many shots?

    • Lang: This is what I get. An ice cube. No food or anything.
      Pembleton: It's the best I can do. The medics said you get everything you need through your IV.
      Lang: Well tell 'em to hook this thing to a damn cheeseburger. A chocolate malt, something. I can't get a last meal? A murderer, a serial killer about to get the plug pulled gets to choose a damn last mean. This is on your head, you miserable bitch.

    • Lewis: That's what I'm saying, it's my eyes man, I gotta get 'em checked. Damn, last year it was something wrong with my teeth this year I don't know something gonna cat up on my stomach. Next thing you know I'm gonna have ball drop, man.
      Falsone: Ball drop?
      Lewis: Testicular droopage. Old age starts to creep up on you man before you know it everything goes south.
      Falsone: Oh, you mean scrotal gravity.
      Lewis: Ah-hah.

    • Lewis: We supposed to track this woman down in like an instance, huh? What am I missing persons? I can't even find my own behind with a map and a three day head start.

    • Bayliss: Ok, tell the Lieutenant we've got enough witnesses here to fill a trekkie convention.

    • Lewis: My two greatest fears.
      Falsone: What, there's a ranking system.
      Lewis: Yeah, the first one is death.

  • NOTES (5)

    • This episode features Vincent D'Onofrio as John Lange, the victim. The next episode, All is Bright, features Kathryn Erbe as Rita Hale, a suspect. Four years after this episode first aired, D'Onofrio and Erbe would go on to star together in Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

    • The above note was confirmed in a PBS documentary that aired on 4 Nov 1998. The documentary called "Anatomy of a Homicide: Life on the Street" covered the production of this episode. All the way from the time when writer James Yoshimura pitched the story and wrote the first draft of the script, to the time when he oversaw the production of it through his other job on the series as Supervising Producer. The documentary also featured a complete, commercial free viewing of the entire episode.

    • One viewer, Paul Schwarz, noted to me that the genesis for this story might have come from something he'd seen on TV, an HBO production called "The Best of Taxicab Confessions". A cop in New York rides in a cab and tells the driver about the "most upsetting thing he ever saw," a man who is hit by a train, a recreated in this episode. Of course, Pembleton did mention something about "being from NY and hearing about this sort of thing." Thanks also to John Walker.

    • Music in this episode: Love Riot "Killing Time" alb: Killing Time.

    • Richard Belzer, Reed Diamond, Michelle Forbes, Peter Gerety, Yaphet Kotto and Callie Thorne do not appear in this episode.


    • Bayliss: We've got more witnesses here than a Trekkie convention.

      There are two types of Star Trek fans: Trekkies and Trekkers. Trekkers consider Trekkies to be frivolous and overly enthusiastic. Trekkies hold that Trekkers take themselves and the show too seriously. Both appear at Star Trek conventions in roughly equal numbers. To non-fans, the two types are indistinguishable.