Airdate: September 30, 2014
Directed by: David Warren
Showrunner: Matthew Miller
Written by: Janet Lin
Tonight’s third episode of Forever focuses on the theme of immortality. This is not surprising, given the premise of the show; but in this case, it’s the efforts of our ever-increasing aged population to find the secret to their own “fountain of youth.” But what happens when people taking a youth enhancing formula start to die? Click through after the break to read my full review.
<<Spoiler Alert: This review of Forever Season 1, Episode 3 “Fountain of Youth” will contain discussion of plot events in the episode. Click through if you dare.>>
The episode begins with a man in late middle-age, having his briefcase stolen by a much younger man. He gives chase, overcomes the mugger, and proceeds to pummel him senseless, to the point where the criminal is begging passersby for help. Suddenly, the man stiffens, blood coming out of his nose. He collapses to the sidewalk, dead.
During the autopsy, Henry discovers a few anomalies. First, the man is in extraordinarily good shape. He’s ripped, with well formed chest and abdominal muscles. Henry’s assistant Lucas comments that the dead man is so fit, he looks like him – Henry gives him a skeptical look. Second, his stomach has nothing in it, except for a white substance mixed with bile – all fluid, no food. Third, while he has “the body of a man in his thirties,” his brain is covered in lesions. Henry tells Detective Martinez that it looks as though he were suffering from “Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s all at the same time.”
Things get further complicated when Martinez and Henry are given permission to go through the dead man’s briefcase, only to find $7000 and a business card with an ouroboros on it, and a pithy slogan: Youth, Vitality, Vigor.
Going over the scene of the mugging, Morgan and Martinez are able to trace the fight and chase back to its point of origin, and checking a nearby alley, they find a door with a similar ouroboros stenciled on the door. So what lies on the other side?
The primary conceit of tonight’s episode is the price people are willing to pay to maintain, or recapture, their youth. The flashback pieces tonight place Henry as a doctor in New York City in 1906, where we see him with a doctor friend of his. They mock a snake oil salesman, and talk about the wonders of science. Henry is angry at the shyster, but his friend is a bit more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – he points out that several “modern” advances would not have been believed in earlier times, and they have no idea where medicine will be in the future.
As we head back and forth from the future to the past, we see Henry’s friends trying one of the shyster’s remedies – electro-therapy – and the reason he’s trying it: he has tuberculosis. This disease, and what it does to the lungs, gives Henry the clue he needs to be able make the breakthrough in the modern era, and the brain plaques he is otherwise unable to understand in his apparently healthy corpse.
There is a poignant scene between Abe and Henry, when they talk about the inevitable passing of Abe, all the while avoiding talking about death itself. Henry’s work on trying to find a way to die, to grow old naturally and then finally go into that long night, bothers Abe no end. Henry tries to tell Abe that he’d see things differently if he were immortal, and Abe tells him that he would – he would do everything, live his life fully. This is a lesson Henry seems to take to heart, basically echoing his son/mentor when he later speaks with Martinez about her own inability to move past her husband’s death, telling her that “there is someone out there for all those breakfasts and dinners.” “I already found him,” she says – she’s not ready to give up her mourning just yet.
There are some nice pieces of foreshadowing early in the episode, the first when we hear Lucas saying, “Thanks for the doughnut” as an EMT wheels a body out of the morgue, and the second when Abe looks longingly at the athletic abilities of a young skateboarder. The writing tonight felt tighter than in the first two episodes, with recurring symbolism (youth, the ouroboros, snake oil) and themes (are we our brother’s – or “father’s” – keeper? What would we do, given immortality? And what would we be willing to give up to get it?)
Gruffudd appears to relish his role, and his curmudgeonly attitude will likely save us from the triteness of an unnecessary romance between he and Detective Martinez. This is good news, as he and the detective appear to be forming an at times adversarial role, which is what has kept programs such as The Mentalist successful over several seasons. Judd Hirsch is, frankly, a joy to watch – I’m glad to see him in a show that doesn’t put all the pressure on his shoulders to carry it, so that he can act as the foil to Henry’s lead.
Henry ends the episode with this little gem of wisdom: “When you are immortal, you have to be reminded about beauty. Days stretch into years stretch into centuries. Time can lose its meaning.” A bit pithy, perhaps, but a little bit of poetry is never entirely remiss.
Henry’s Deaths Tonight:
Surprisingly, none. He does, however, get some info down in his little black death book about prion based brain diseases.
Steve’s Grade: B
A satisfying episode that fits comfortably into the formula it appears showrunner Matthew Miller is going to rely on (natural appearing death with unnatural cause, Henry and Martinez working against adversity to prove it). The snake oil salesman flashbacks serve to show that gullibility isn’t a new human trait.