The Pretender was a fabulous show. The concept of a Genus Project taking place in a mysterious government contractor's facility worked well for a TV show, particularly with an old test subject as the show's lead. Pepper in his psychologist, first kiss, an oxygen-tank wielding maniac and a stuttering nervous computer technician (not to mention the many other interesting characters) and it wouldn't really matter what happened with the story because the underlying theme was so strong. Jarod needed to right the wrongs done by his own work and find the family he was taken from so long ago.
It survived the many ups and downs of the series in the form of spectacular and questionable episodes as characters came to the forefront, story arcs tied up neatly and further plot threads spiraled out of control (occasionally unraveling completely). Each show featured an entirely different setting and cast of guest stars as Jarod assumed various occupations in the hunt for justice for those people who took advantage of their power. It also meant that sometimes The Pretender fell into a bit of a rut, as while settings were different the structure was often not.
Which brings us to the season finale and (movies notwithstanding) the series' finale. How does it far as a standalone episode? A season finale? Can it possibly wrap up the dozens of questions brought up over the course of four seasons of The Pretender and act as a satisfying denoument to the show?
No. But what could? And keep in mind spoilers follow.
'The Inner Sense' itself refers to an aspect of the mysterious program Mirage that popped up during the season. Edna Reines mentions it. It has something to do with Miss Parker's mother. It has something to do with Mirage. But what is Mirage?
Who is Mirage?
The episode itself is interesting and properly introduces us to Jarod's sister Emily (who briefly appeared once before in the first season finale) as well as reintroduces us to Jarod's father James Bond. Er, Major Charles. We are also gradually introduced to Ethan, who is an utterly bizarre character even in terms of Centre weirdness. Honestly? He just plain doesn't work, particularly upon the discovery of that Inner Sense we talked about. Seriously, this is The Pretender here, a show that while often strange has always remained grounded in reality. Now we're supposed to believe Catherine Parker could hear voices and predict the future? She was impregnated with Jarod's father's seed in order to produce a Pretender/Psychic hybrid? Miss Parker suddenly discovers her own latent ability to hear voices?
Beyond that bit of silliness everything works. It's arguable that it's no worse than some previously questionable Pretender episodes but the way it suddenly pops up in the final episode is jarring. Bringing Zoe back is a nice touch and it's always amusing to see the Major kick some ass. Raines...well, he utters no funky lines here but he plays a very satisfying villian...or is he? No one is what they seem at The Centre, even Sydney. The music in The Inner Sense even seems better than normal, although I'm not certain if it's a different composer or simply more time to work his magic.
The worst part of the episode (barring the voices) is the end. As a season finale it's a derisive bit of laughter, and as THE finale it's no less than a raised middle finger to the audience. Perhaps that's not fair, as no one expected the show to be canceled after the fourth season for a half-cocked football league that would die a miserable yet justified death. Over 80 episodes after Jarod originally escapes, we have him, Ethan, and Miss Parker in a subway train grinding to a halt with a bomb fixed underneath. They hop off, start to run, and everything explodes in a giant fireball.
A few cuts of explosions later, it fades to the credits. Goodbye, Pretender. Too bad you couldn't go out in a more dignified way, as you were great while you lasted.