This review encompasses both Parts 1 and 2 of the Season 4 finale and subsequently what turns out to be the series finale of "The Division". You have been warned this this will be long!
This is an excellent installment and a wonderful way to end a four year stint at Central Division. Even though the show still had a lot of life in it at the end and it went out before its time, at least there is the knowledge that it went out at the top of its game. The quality didn't suffer. It was the ratings that suffered.
Despite the 10 rating, these episodes aren't perfect--but they sure do come close.
Living in a post Columbine school shooting age, hearing about students taking over schools and killing their own classmates and teachers is not uncommon. "The Division" manages to tackle this issue with class, style and better yet, without the typical cliches.
With so much going on in these two episodes it's hard to go into detail of each and every plot point, but what makes this storyline work is that the writers turn the normal school shooting stories on its ear by not making the school hostage/culprits the usual suspects.
Whie the episodes appear early on to fall into the normal stereotypes of depressed outcast teens looking for destruction and revenge on their far richer and far more popular classmates, that is not where we end up. Instead the episodes confront these stereotypes head on and show everyone that it's only the poor and unpopular who can become unhinged and seek revenge on their fellow man.
The actual hostage situation takes up the majority of the second episode with Magda and Jinny leading the team on the outside. However, the first episode shows us everything leading up to the hostage situation. A drive by shooting of a student, a truck set on fire and a murdered teacher. Not to mention the hazing of Christy Estes, one of the unpopular, that takes place prior to the episodes. The hazing and torture has left her withdrawn and depressed--and along with her brother and friend, at first the prime suspects for the school hostage situation.
The writers did a good job showcasing that a lot of times these situations do escalate from other situations. The hostage situation did not come out of nowhere. It was built up throughout a series of events and was a final culmination of a lot of different things between different school social classes. In fact, early on Magda and Jinny sort of get on the principal for not taking enough action in regards to the happenings at the school.
To be fair, the inspectors do have good reason to suspect the three "outcasts"- Christy, her brother Tim and their friend Ethan- are responsible. There are three people who have taken over the school, one being a girl. Plus Ethan and Tim have created a violent animated cartoon showing a school similar to their own going up in flames. So yes, there is a reason for their behavior to be taken seriously.
But it is the popular kids with a young man named Wes at the helm of the operation, who are actually trying to take down the school. His two cohorts think they are just making a statement but Wes has other ideas.
Christy, Ethan, the Principal and Stacey (who was on patrol in the school) are among the hostages.
Since this is "The Division" the situation is diffused rather quickly. Magda and Jinny sneak into the school after getting keys off the maintenance guy, the same way Wes and the gang got their key. One has to wonder that if the kids could get a key so easily, what made them think the police wouldn't be able to get one. Not to mention it's never really explained just how exactly Magda and Jinny were able to sneak in unnoticed. But plot holes aside, Magda and Jinny save the day with Wes being the only fatality--as it was only to keep him from detonating the bombs.
The casting also works well. The teens looked and acted like teens you would see at your average high school and the acting was solid. Kudos have to go to Jason Dohring as Wes, the main psycho villian intent on blowing up the school. Fellow "Veronica Mars" fans will get a kick out of seeing their Logan Echolls in an earlier role. The same attributes that serve Jason well on "Veronica" serve him well here.
The most recognizable casting here has to be Kim Fields as Principal Ogden. As anyone who owned a television set in the 1980's knows, "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have..." a mini "Facts of Life" reunion. One half the Eastland gang are together again as Kim Fields and series regular Nancy McKeon are reunited onscreen. It is a kick to see them together again as adults after having watched them grow up together on television.
So for the case aspect of these episodes, a stellar job all around.
It's the personal storylines that had some problems and came off overall as bit rushed and thrown together. With the hostage situation taking up so much time, I wasn't expecting the Jinny/Hank wedding to receive more time than it did. In fact that wasn't the problem at all. That we have been building towards all season.
It was the neat throwaway tie ups of some of the other characters storylines in the second half that came across as slapdash. It seemed that the writers just simply ran out of time so instead had the characters coming to these random revelations about their own love lives during the middle of the wedding ceremony.
But before geting to that, the first part of the finale gives us two seperate situations. Raina is dealing with her relationship with Johnny and doesn't honestly seem all that into him.
The rest is wedding preperations. Jinny doesn't seem to care much about the wedding as long as it takes place, but her dad is going all out with wedding planners and fancy caterers and the like. These aren't things Jinny wants, but they are things her father wants to give her. Everytime she starts to object, he looks like he's about to cry. She relents and preperations continue, but to analyze it seems her father is trying to make up for things that he wasn't able to give Jinny in the past. This means the world to him.
So in regards to Jinny/Hank, the last ten minutes or so devoted to their wedding is pretty decent. We see them walk down the aisle with baby, recite poems to each other at the altar and dance at the reception. This makes sense as it gives us a logical conclusion to their season long storyline.
However, during the wedding Louis suddenly decides that he was wrong to ask Kate to choose between him and the job(a storyline that hasn't been touched since the previous season), Magda and Gabe decide to renew their vows and Raina comes in late after breaking it off with Johnny. It's not that these are bad things, but it all comes out of nowhere in that there are no scenes leading up to these revelations--and they are touched on so briefly in a few throwaway lines that it seems, in a word, forced.
Usually the human interaction on this show, especially in the personal realm, seems so natural. Personal storylines flow evenly over the course of a season so it's a bit jarring to see them all resolved so quickly with little background. It almost feels as if we were robbed as we don't get to see Raina confront Johnny nor Louis gradually realize that he still wants to be with Kate despite the job. Then there is poor Nate who gets robbed of a conclusion to his storyline altogether.
The reasoning for these quick resolutions probably has more to do with the fact that the writers were trying to tie up loose ends because either they knew this was the end or they weren't sure if they were going to be picked up for another season.
The last simple toast from Jinny "to the future" as she stands before her family and co-workers seems to work as a season ending, but it also works a series ending.
But despite the complaints, it is a nice way to go out. Rarely do we ever get to see the entire gang (Kate, Magda, Jinny, Nate, Raina and Stacey) together away from the police station, having fun and just being genuinely happy. How often are all these people happy at once, and here they are postively glowing.
So as Jinny says, "To the future".