After an extremely dark fourth season and a moderately dark fifth season, the mood was generally lighter again for season six. A definite exception to this trend was "Lesson in Evil", the haunting second chapter to the Zito saga which managed to improve upon the deliciously dark "Deadly Dreams" from season four. After orchestrating a bloody and improbable escape from the courthouse, the promised "lesson in evil" that Zito slowly unveils on MacGyver was masterfully layered, with one clue leading to the next in a believable, intriguing, and largely unpredictable pattern that takes us back to Zito's old cell and into his the library books he rented. The use of Greek mythology, both literally and figuratively, was first-rate and the proxy debate over the death penalty between Skinner and Murphy added depth to the unfolding events that made the final scene all the more satisfying. As with "Deadly Dreams", the gallows humor never disappointed ("You look cold, Doctor....but don't worry, the water will heat up soon."), particularly in those wildly intense final scenes, which also produced another rare moment where MacGyver loses his cool. It was second only to the final scene in "The Challenge" when Zito provokes MacGyver to reach for the gun in a split second of rage-inspired weakness. Less satisfying was the fact that MacGyver figured out Zito's trap, yet still set it off and fell prey to him. Did MacGyver not realize that the bell which eventually whacked him was part of the Three Fates metaphor? If so, it should have been more clearly articulated. And in the epilogue, it was fun seeing that Zito had the means to escape again, but it would have been preferable if it wasn't the "lock pick underneath the appendicts scar" bit lifted from season one's "The Assassin". Nonetheless, this episode was a thorough roller coaster ride of excitement from beginning to end and featured one of the best scripts the series ever produced.
It is always interesting to see what a show will do with a returning character; I thought they did a fairly nice job with this episode. (Though I did feel that the math problems could have been a little more complex.)
There is something particularly compelling about Richard Dean Anderson when he confronts Zito in the bell tower--I saw him make some nice choices as an actor. I felt he played the scene a little differently than a typical MacGyver scene--it made the scene very interesting, meaningful, and believable.
I was also intrigued by some discoveries I made while watching this episode.
First of all, the staircase in the bell tower looks very similar to the one in the fourth-season episode Blood Brothers. Might it be the same one?
Second, listen closely to the voice of Doctor Skinner (Lynne Moody). It is the same voice they have been using for voice-overs (such as unseen TV announcers and automated alert systems in buildings) on MacGyver since the season two opener The Human Factor. I finally had a face (and actor name) to put with that voice!
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