Friday, April 11, 2014

tomorrow you will have forgotten all about this

Episode 5 of Day Break: "What if they're stuck?"

Today I will be watching several episodes of Day Break, so I will try not to just list details about the plot with a comment on the time loop stuff here and there. Instead, I hope to comment on the larger use of the time loop and the show's themes.

For example, Hopper's got a To Do list this morning, and he tells Rita that for the first time in a while "I see some daylight." The metaphor is simple; the time loop is Hopper (or Phil) in the dark, with all its complications, but there's light at the end of the tunnel (to mix metaphors).

Speaking of which, I haven't commented on the title of the show itself: Day Break. On the one hand, the time loop seems to begin and end around daybreak (one word). When Hopper headed out of town a couple episodes ago, as the sun rose over the horizon--

Ehrmentraut (at the rock quarry, where this time they have Hopper and Rita): "Do you believe in deja vu? I'm reminded of a... other time, another place. And a different Detective Hopper." The implication is that he remembers another night in this quarry with Hopper, but since they keep dropping hints about Hopper's father... this seems more literal."

--anyway, as the sun rose over the horizon, the flashes started and the loop reset. But, the name of the show isn't just one word, it's two: Day Break. Hopper's day is broken, figuratively because of all that is going on, the frame-up, his sister's problems with her abusive husband, his partner's problems with IA and with her own husband/boyfriend, the gang lord that wants him dead, Ehrmentraut (who it still isn't clear which plotpoint he's connected to)... It is also broken in a more literal fashion; that is certainly a reasonable way to describe a time loop, a break in the linear passage of time.

It's not a complicated thing, the title, but it is still worth commenting on. Consider the following--because, you know, titles matter: What would your impression of the story of Moby Dick be if the title were instead Ahab? Or, what if The Old Man and the Sea were simply The Marlin? What if Groundhog Day were still called Time Machine? To be fair, the Phil Connors story was never actually called that, but Rubin's original concept of the repeating day story was called that.

Time Machine. A guy is stuck in a time warp that commits him to living the same day over and over and over again. But each day he can behave differently and the world and people will be different accordingly. (How do you enjoy yourself? How do you get laid? What are the different ways you can spend the same day? Will he become wiser? Sadder? Cynical? Adventurous?) (Rubin, 2012, p. 8)

Interesting exchange between Hopper (who just described the time loop) and Chad (who he's got hostage at the police station):

Chad: Well, if there's some cosmic reset button, why waste time with civilian [sic]? Why not just march in here, machine guns blazing, perforate us all, take what you want?

Hopper: Gee, I don't know. Maybe because it's wrong.

Phil Connors, no matter how bad a guy he was, never turned to murder either. Hopper explains the problem pretty well: "I don't know when tomorrows gonna come. What if this day stops repeating? I get caught and she dies and then tomorrow comes? Then she's gone, forever. Would you take that chance?"

Back to titles, though, take the Italian remake of Groundhog Day for example. It's actual title is È già ieri which translates as It's Already Yesterday. That's clever, maybe a bit too cute. But, the movie is also known simply as Stork Day even though Stork Day is not a thing, not a holiday, but simply because that title plays like Groundhog Day, it draws the comparison and the connection.

Meanwhile, Chad just said he read in a book about how "time has a texture, sometimes it's smooth, sometimes it's soft, but other times it can be sticky." Chad references Quantum Physics, a book or paper called "Möbius Transformations in the Doppler Shift" (which doesn't seem to actually exist, though Möbius Transformations are a (rather complicated) thing) and "Space Time Mediations of Quantum Interactions" (which apparently is a chapter in a thing). Chad questions, though, not the "physical how" of Hopper's time loop but the "metaphysical why." Hopper says he feels like he's being punished. The show hasn't given us a reason Hopper would be punished. It makes sense to us when Phil Connors is taught a lesson about his life through the time loop, but Hopper? His loop seems less personal at this point and more just arbitrary happenstance.

Chad tells Hopper he owes him $171.53, because in the two years they were partners he bough coffee twice as often as Hopper did. Hopper responds, "You kept a tab?" "I'm thorough. It's what makes me good at what I do." Nice character bit for Chad, also explains why Chad appreciates the detail of Hopper's recounting of his day.

It occurs to me now that this is a pretty good bottle episode, which TV Tropes defines as

designed to take up as little money as possible. The easiest way to go about this is to use only the regular cast (or even just part of the regular cast) and set it in a single location, especially if you have a main standing set. This keeps production costs down, because no one needs to scout locations, build new sets, or create fancy CGI graphics of the outside of the spaceship.

Chad tells the story about the stray dog Rita tried to save out on the 15 years ago (a story she's already told Hopper); that's when Chad knew he loved Rita and it's also why, he says, Rita moved on to Hopper--she's a rescuer, she took pity on him.

TV Tropes continues:

Bottle episodes are known as a challenge and/or a chore, depending on the writer. Since most/all of the episode is set in a single location (sometimes even entirely in one room) with a smaller than usual cast, the dialogue (regarded as one of the harder things to write) needs to be better and tighter than in other episodes since the writer can't really do anything else with the cast. Depending on the writer and how well the premise works out, bottle episodes can range from terrible, to some of the best episodes of their shows and even their franchises.

The dialogue and characterization in this episode does seem a little tighter. Chad, still an ass, comes across as a much more rounded character, for example. As the standoff ends, he even tells Hopper "if you're right [about the time loop], the [murder] book [you need--the old case from which the photo sent to his sister comes] is on the front seat of my car."

Cut to a new day, Hopper breaks into Chad's car, takes the book and leaves $171.53. And the episode ends.

Episode 6: "What if they find him?"

Compared the the dialogue in the last episode, Hopper's handwritten notes regarding the murder book at the start of this episode are pretty damn simplistic. The kind of stuff I complained about watching Sinister last year. For example, copying "execution style" onto your pad--not useful since your pad won't survive the day and that's a pretty easy detail to remember. Asking yourself on your pad, "Is Miguel Dominguez the Shooter?" (note: Andrea told him last episode that the hourglass has Dominguez' fingerprint on it, but Dominguez was in prison when that murder happened in 1991. The hourglass is visible in a crime scene photo from the murder book. Watch the show if you're interested.) That's a question Hopper's already got in his head. Putting it on paper serves no purpose. Since this is a cop show, why not add some voiceover? Then these simplistic questions will play a little better.

Similarly, these notes: "How is this connected to Garza?" because, yeah, that wasn't an obvious question the audience should be asking and Hopper has already been asking for several episodes now. Best to write it down now. "Have Andrew pull Dominguez file." Couldn't you just--I don't know--text her right now to ask her rather than make a note for later?

Skinheads just killed the Latin Disciples leader (whose name I can't remember... Damian). So, we just jumped to very late in the day. Someone Chad recognized just shot Chad. And then another day. I don't approve of this, giving the audience more details of the day that Hopper does not have.

New day begins with Hopper and Rita having sex. "It's been a while," Hopper says. Rita: "What was last night?"

Turns out Miguel Dominguez' file is missing most of its contents but what is there includes a couple photos that identify him as a Latin Disciple. Convenient.

Dominguez is a sort of inverse La Llorona, killed his parents instead of his children. Damian knows him as El Lloron, a legend. Takes Hopper to a nun who's got photos of a whole lot of missing children (and adults I guess, since the victim in Hopper's murder book is not a child). It seems a little sexist to me now, La Llorona to El Lloron.

The nun knows Hopper's wanted by the police. Told that he's been framed and this girl he's looking for can lead to the truth, she responds (speaking to Damian, because, Spanish): "It's not her soul he's looking for." It seems a little late, six episodes in, to set up Hopper's metaphysical time loop problem.

Chad is shot again. It's Hopper's sister who shoots him. Other than a notable pause when police talked to her about her father's death in the previous episode, there's no reason to suspect Hopper's sister is up to anything. The revelation is both intriguing and kind of lame.

I'd like a clock on these episodes. After Chad is dead, Hopper has time to be with Damian some more, get a call from Andrea and go to check on Rita... shouldn't she be shot and killed by now? In the original day, she was shot in her car when it was still daytime.

New day, and Hopper just found Ehrmentraut--his names is Detweiler, and the dead girl's mother mentioned he got her daughter her job. And, Detweiler's wife just shot Hopper with a shotgun, I think. That was the implication. She pulled the shotgun, said she'd count to three, then on three we cut to Day 5.

Day 6 (for this episode), Hopper gives everything to Detweiler, the murder book, the hourglass, tells him to "make it stop." But, "it's not that simple."

Regarding my complaint about Hopper's notes earlier, Detweiler gets picked up that night, Hopper eyes the license plate but does he write it down? Nope. Ooh, but he's got a bug in that bag of evidence. He gets to hear them say to kill everyone, Chad, Damian, Hopper, and "the girl." Seems deliberately vague. Hopper thinks the guy meant Rita. I think he's wrong.

Damian kills the skinheads, after Hopper's warning. Andrea finds Chad and he doesn't get shot. Though, Detweiler gets a call--more information Hopper can't have--that they've "got the girl" Rita is home when Hopper gets there. Detweiler gets to the quarry and the two stakeout guys are there. It's Detweiler's turn to get shot, and the audience's turn to get ahead of Hopper. Shadowy guy who picked up Detweiler earlier gives a spiel about the difference between a warning and an example and turns to a surprisingly well-lit Hopper's sister in the backseat. Wait, she's with the bad guys? I totally didn't get that from her shooting Chad earlier.

Episode 7: "What if he's not alone?"

In the intro, Hopper mentions having the license plate of the guy Detweiler works for. I don't know how he could remember it since he didn't write it down. Bullet wound in Hopper's shoulder doesn't need any bandage today, it's healed.

Bartender at the club where Hopper goes to find the bad guy is named Lloyd--like the imaginary bartender at the Overlook. He's black too. The racist in me wants to start calling the bartender in Groundhog Day Lloyd instead of God.

The club by the way is the Santayana Club. Presumably named for George Santayana (really, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás), philosopher, famous for saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Here in context from Chapter 12 of his The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress (online here):

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in whom instinct has learned nothing from experience. In a second stage men are docile to events, plastic to new habits and suggestions, yet able to graft them on original instincts, which they thus bring to fuller satisfaction. This is the plane of manhood and true progress. Last comes a stage when retentiveness is exhausted and all that happens is at once forgotten; a vain, because unpractical, repetition of the past takes the place of plasticity and fertile readaptation. In a moving world readaptation is the price of longevity. The hard shell, far from protecting the vital principle, condemns it to die down slowly and be gradually chilled; immortality in such a case must have been secured earlier, by giving birth to a generation plastic to the contemporary world and able to retain its lessons. Thus old age is as forgetful as youth, and more incorrigible; it displays the same inattentiveness to conditions; its memory becomes self-repeating and degenerates into an instinctive reaction, like a bird's chirp.

Brett Hopper, Phil Connors, Myron Castleman, even the homeless-looking guy in Day Break (who it seems is also repeating the day)--they're stuck somewhere in those first two stages, really the second stage.

(By the way, Hopper just estimated that he's been in the loop for three weeks. Homeless-looking guy (Jared) doesn't know how long he's been in, but he didn't have his beard when it started.)

We're all in that second stage.

Lloyd, God, whatever his name, he just gave Hopper information and helped him escape the club for the second time.

The hourglass is a Santayana Club thing--every member has one.

Lloyd and some other "Friends" of Hopper's father tell him his father was "on the right track with the girl." Vague.

New day, Day 3 for this episode, and I thought it worth mentioning they don't bother with what I call Time Loop Markers anymore. No alarm clock, no pigeon on the window, no garbage truck. But, Hopper is noting his facial hair in the mirror lately.

Jared's got temporal lobe epilepsy... even suffers from bouts of "hyperactive deja vu." So, Jared might not be repeating the day as literally as Hopper is. He's almost Hopper's Old Man, but the coincidences with them both looking for members of the Santayana club are a little too... well, coincidental. And, I spoke too soon. As Jared goes with his doctor, he apologizes for biting Hopper, something I didn't mention from the previous episode and several resumptions ago.

Episode 8: "What if she's lying?"

Opening voiceover, Hopper says he's got to find what his sister is hiding. But, Hopper has no reason to think his sister is hiding anything. He didn't see that scene with her and Detweiler's boss.

Hopper goes to a doctor to make sure he doesn't have the same condition as Jared. Doesn't make it to his sister's until nighttime. She suggests that if he wants some of their father's old files, he talk to their mother. I think she suggested that several episodes ago. And, we get a brief Hopper-less scene with his sister and her husband. "Do you think he knows about the briefcase?"

Hopper ends up going to see his "Uncle" Nick, his father's old partners, because his father's old files weren't in storage. Someone told them to make the case go away. Introducing Hopper's mother for two scenes and Uncle Nick for one scene just to get that? Either sloppy storytelling or they will both be more directly involved later.

Hopper-less scene alert: Chad knows the stakeout guys. He had the murder book for them... is it not right there in his car? Hopper didn't need to steal it again.

And, more Hopper-less scenes: Sister (apparently her name is Jen, not sure why I kept missing it) finds outs someone has Randall tied up. And, Chad comes to Andrea.

Finally, we get back to Hopper. He's still on his Uncle Nick's boat. And, now, Hopper has a reason to think his sister's hiding something. She had a key to the storage locker. But, she's not home. She's got another Hopper-less scene going on with previously in shadows guy and the stakeout guy who just had a fight with Chad.

Hopper catches up to his sister. Her bruises aren't from Randall, rather the bad guys, apparently. If she doesn't trust her brother and doesn't see him very often, why did she think lying about Randall hurting her was a good idea? I mean, his initial response so many episode ago was to go confront Randall at the school where he works and beat him up right in front of a student. Did she not know her brother had a temper?

Jen's been spending her father's "dirty" money (in a briefcase in a safety deposit box) since he died, nearly $100,000. The money is what the bad guys still want. Hopper makes a good point, though: "Why would these people shake down a school teacher for $100,000?" On the one hand, that is a lot of money. On the other hand, obviously, there is still something bigger going on here.

One of the guys holding Randall is the guy who shot Rita way back in episode 1. And, I suppose they just let Randall go because they forgot to check in the briefcase for the money? Or there's something else in that briefcase. Hopper should be suspicious.

New day starts with Jen and Randall. She feels "different" now. She's changed this resumption. She wants to call Hopper and tell him about the money. It took both Hopper and Jen until this morning to figure out these men weren't after the money. In the briefcase, the missing autopsy report from the old case--she was pregnant. And, there are three names in their father's handwriting: Alberto Garza, Conrad Detweiler, and Tobias Booth--who turns out to be running for congress (and he's the shadowy guy from earlier... and really, we could have seen him in the previous episode and it wouldn't have mattered, since we didn't know him yet. Hopper recognizes the guy's voice.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to binge a whole lot of TV shows, different shows on different days, or maybe 24 different shows, one episode a day. Screw things like going outdoors.

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