The only really redeeming value this episode has was the introduction of Macgyver's grandfather, Harry. The plot, villians, and ending in the abandoned town was borderline ridiculous. The first time we meet Harry here he really comes off as a cold and bitter man. Watching Macgyver try to reason with him is actually painful and we even wonder why Macgyver would want to bother with him. Slowly Macgyver gets Harry to warm up a little, and being chased by bounty hunters certainly demands they work together to survive. THeir pursuers are possibly the worse cast villains in the series, especially Ax Minster. They are given no personality, no history, and act pretty stupid for being "professional" asassins. Episodes with Harry get much better after this (thankfully). Starting with the classic Phoneix Under Siege from season two. This one, however, I cannot reacommend to anyone really.
The last new episode to air on Sunday before MacGyver moved to Wednesday in January 1986, "Target MacGyver" holds up well even though it wasn't one of my favorites originally. The weak opening gambit takes a little bit away from the hour, fairly or unfairly, but the main storyline plays out well, despite the narrative inconsistencies that would eventually emerge (does Harry live in the mountains of Colorado which are curiously snow-free in the middle of December? or does he live on a farm in Minnesota?) and the ridiculously awful one-dimensional hitman Axminster. First-rate MacGyver escapes flow at fever pitch throughout the hour and the strained relationship between MacGyver and his grandfather plays out wonderfully with the help of John Anderson's excellent acting skills, which stand out as the best acting in the first season. This wasn't my favorite episode of season one, but it's star has risen significantly since my initial viewing.
After Mac destroys a nuclear plant, he is warned that a hit has been ordered against him, and decides to lay low by visiting his estranged grandfather Harry in the Colorado backwoods. But the pair must team up when the hit men arrive. A classic episode...
I really, REALLY enjoyed "Target MacGyver" (watching it on DVD for the first time this afternoon), so am extremely surprised that some others don't regard it very highly; it doesn't deserve a rating as low as a 1, surely?!
Whatever the case, I certainly enjoyed it immensely more than the rather limp previous effort, "The Prodigal".
I will agree with others that the Opening Gambit, of Mac rescuing a General from kidnappers in a beach house, isn't anywhere near as strong as usual – it feels very half-hearted, almost like a filler scene from the middle of an episode, and not the tightly executed, stunt packed opening we have seen on other episodes. That said, it's not *terrible*, either.
Anyway, onto the main story... I felt things started off a little "bitty", with Mac blowing up the nuclear plant (nearly all pre-existing stock footage), and going back home to get the warning that a hit may be planned on his life. At this stage the story is struggling to get its footing; however, as soon as Mac heads to the backwoods to visit his estranged grandfather Harry, things really start to pick up, and we are soon into a terrific, very enjoyable tale.
John Anderson (a character actor of such roles) puts in a good performance as Mac's estranged, grouchy grandfather Harry, who has taken to living a solitary wife in a hut in the backwoods since his wife died some years before. This episode also marks the first time that we get any real background as to MacGyver's family history.
Naturally, the hired would-be assassins soon arrive on the scene, giving Mac and Harry the chance to bond as they use various tricks and smarts to stop their opponents. It may sound pretty basic on paper, but it plays out really well – and sometimes, the simple plots are the best!
One other thing I must comment on is the in-episode score; I've covered in a few of my previous episode reviews that the score in very episodes sounded very cheap and synthesised. But it has gradually been improving, and by this instalment, things have instead evolved towards a much better sounding orchestral-style score, which suits the proceedings so much better.
The climatic showdown, in the ghost town, is very pleasing, and we start to see that Harry might enjoy the challenge as much as MacGyver himself; and the creativity of using what resources are at hand seems to run in the family. Reading up on the series, I see that Harry returns in several future stories.
As I've said (like a record!) on some of my previous reviews for the series, 'MacGyver' was one of the very few action-adventure US shows in the 1980s that I wasn't there for "first time 'round", only coming to watch it for the first time now on DVD. I wasn't sure about the first couple of episodes, but going by the quality of "Target MacGyver", I'm really glad that I stuck with it!
Obviously I haven't seen beyond this episode at time of writing so haven't yet go full scope of the series, but from what I've seen so far, personally I would rate "Target MacGyver" as a series classic. Others will disagree I know. But personally I enjoyed so much (enough to forgive the shaky first few minutes) to give it a top ranking 10/10.
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