There's a great scene in Stephen King's Misery where Annie Wilkes talks about "a cheat" in the old saturday movie serials. You'd watch one week as the car drove over the cliff; the next week, they show the same scene only this time the hero improbably leaps to safety before the car goes over the cliff (but there's no way that could've happened according to last week's episode). It's a cheat. Venom part two involves our hero improbably leaping from the car just before it goes over the cliff. It's a cheat.
The story of Robin Poole - our ridiculously intelligent serial killer - starts off with a bang. Turns out she was the fourth victim - she prepared an anti-venom in her purse, poisoned herself, toyed with the police and FBI then gave herself the injection. She then peers into the security camera and says "You're stupid and you're blind," and escapes from the hospital. We learn her history - a brilliant misunderstood child who's genius wins her a free ride to Harvard; she graduated with a double major in three years.
We get a nice, intimate scene between John Grant and Angel; they're in post-coital pleasure, talking and break up. The ongoing saga of Bailey's daughter stumbles to a melodramatic conclusion - Frances steals Bailey's gun and shoots him then calls John Grant - who rushes over to find Bailey. (The details don't really matter - Bailey was going to send her to a strict boarding school, she'd rather not go, she visit John Grant, they fight, she shoots.)
At which point the episode goes ridiculously, unintentionally hilariously wrong. Jack is jealous of Robin Poole and kidnaps her. Jack then kidnaps Sam, puts eyedrops in her eyes so she can't see. There's some ludicrous taunting and talking, lots of scenes of frantic character racing all over Atlanta looking for her. They figure out where she is and dash in - just in time to rescue Sam. We get a last minute rescue, a tragic misunderstanding, Sam survives and Jack escapes. It's a mess. It's a gorgeous, elegant mess. And frankly it's a cheat. The Robin Poole story was compelling enough it could have and should have gotten the focus of the episode. From the first episode, Profiler has been dragging around Jack of all Trades like Scrooge's ghosts dragging his chains. Having used Jack so well in part one, the writers utterly misused him in part two. Robin Poole is simply to smart to be captured by Jack. But having decided he would kidnap her the writers had to follow through; she ends up shrieking and crazy in the last scene. We end up with Ally Walker at her worst - weepy and hysterical and in Jack's clutches.
In what can only be described as jumping out of the car before it goes over the cliff, Coop rushes in and saves her as Jack vanishes.
And scene. Season One:
Watching the CSI franchise, Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds, Cold Case, the BBC's Wire in the Blood and Waking the Dead, we see the same DNA that created Profiler. Profiler established a style of procedural crime drama that at least part inspired those series - stylish, moody, dark, even disturbing at times. So why, you may ask, didn't Profiler ever achieve the kind of TV greatness to which it seemed destined?
The short answer is look at the season Finale. Having creating the serial killer Jack of All Trades, Profiler found itself with a villain they could not vanquish; there's an almost one to one correlation between screen time for Jack and bad episode. Again and again, Profiler episode never quite realized their potential; the time and creative energy spent on the Jack story arc was a huge part of the problem.
At the time Profiler was on the air, rumors abounded that network execs weren't happy with Ally Walker in the title role. Watching these episodes today, I think the execs were right. Ally Walker is a fine actress; she was miscast as Sam Waters. On a regular basis, she channeled her best "damsel in distress" routine and left this viewer wondering how she earned a reputation as the best profiler around. (Compare for instance Olivia Benson on SVU; Benson is tough and smart and even in an episode where she is nearly raped by a prison guard she comes across as a very tough, self contained character, someone who is able to take care of herself.) Sam is constantly in need of care and the men around her constantly leap to care for her. As a result, she never manages to sell us on her character's identity. The combined problem of Jack and a miscast lead constantly undermine what should have been a landmark TV show. That said, Profiler demonstrated a shrewd command of the medium - it was compellingly visual and successfully established a unique look. Profiler had the usual season one uneven run. Not quite sure of its identity the show made a few very serious missteps and a few bad episodes, but overall it improved as the season went on - with both cast and crew developing a comfort with the show. By Venom part one the show seemed to have found itself as a subtle, intelligent psycho-drama but couldn't sustain that more subtle identity and rounded off the season with a melodramatic cliffhanger event.
Back when the first season of Profiler first aired and I watched the season finale, I swore I was done; I ended up going back. When Profiler was good it was very good; when it missed, it could still be an hour of entertaining and unchallenging TV.