Benton: -Could you elucidate, sir?
Welsh: -No, no, not since the late 60s...
Ray K: -That's, that's er, Canadian for "explain"...
The only season of due South I haven't seen in its entirety is Season 2. It's quite possible that once I do, my current thoughts of what constitutes my favourite episodes will change, but at the moment the Season 3 episode "Seeing is Believing" is high on my favourites list. I've mentioned this episode before, as evidence for my "Benton's a sweet manipulator" character study.
As I explained in the previous post, in "Seeing is Believing", Benton hypnotises Lt. Welsh, the head of the Canadian Consulate Thatcher and Ray Kowalski in order to obtain a true account of a crime which has been witnessed by these three people. The crime is that a man has been stabbed, and there are two obvious suspects - a young man and a woman. Each witness has a different idea of what has happened and need to straighten out their stories in order to secure a conviction. Welsh thinks both suspects did it together, Thatcher thinks it was the woman and Kowalski thinks it was the man.
What I didn't mention in the previous post is why I love this episode, and this all comes down to the different perceptions Welsh, Thatcher and Kowalski have and the way they're explored. There's something very post-modern about this episode, it's not quite breaking the fourth wall so much as leaning against it and looking all coy. It deals with the construction of narrative, with signifiers, with point of view.
In order to convey the message that each of the "witnesses" saw a different view, and interpreted it a different way, the audience gets a series of mini-scenes - which are stylistically and textually inventive. There's brilliant framing, the likes you would rarely see in a conventional tv-series (but since when has dS been conventional), use of slow-motion, non-diegetic music. The mini-scenes are like short movies, woven into the otherwise seemingly innocuous episode which uses standard framing, lighting and sound.
These scenes build upon another, as Welsh, Thatcher, Kowalski and later Francesca, (who wasn't there, but joins in anyway), hypothesise on a whole story as to why the man was stabbed. They add even more fiction into their already fictionalised accounts. Welsh says it's mob related (and it turns out to be so, actually), Thatcher thinks it's a love affair gone wrong, Kowalski also thinks it's a love affair gone wrong, but sees it from a completely different angle due to his (what I understand is now notorious) high understanding of body language.
So we get a scene like the one with Thatcher describing not seeing the knife in the woman's hand because she was distracted by Fraser running after a bag-snatcher.
Slow-motion of Benton running gracefully, beautiful operatic notes cresendo.
Thatcher: "Well, no, but I was a little distracted. Constable Fraser was running after the shop-lifter. You know, the uniform. The motion. The legs. Driving like pistons. Pumping like steel. [pregnant pause as we return to the office and all other characters stare at Thatcher] Something red moving fast always draws the eye.
(Interestingly, the man Fraser's running after is not a shop-lifter, he's a bag-snatcher... whether this is Thatcher's mistake or the writer's is a matter of curiosity)
And a personal favourite of mine, we get Francesca's and Thatcher's take on the love affair, as helped along by fictional cheap romance novel Sword of Desire (which returns, amusingly, and seemingly with a slightly different plot in Season 4 episode "A Likely Story").
Thatcher: [describes the action on screen - except we can't see the "looks"] He looked at the young man first. Then he pulled his hand away from the young woman. [Thatcher comes into the scene on screen, or at least, her hips and hands do] No, no, no, no, that's wrong. He yanked it away, harshly, it was like he was blaming "pool boy" for coming between the two of them.
As you can see, all you get in that sequence is hand movement (including Thatcher's) and dialogue. It's genius.
Then later, we get Kowalski's perspective on how the young woman and the young man treat the guy who got stabbed - with him in the role of the stabbed guy.
Ray K: [In the office] No. He was crazy about her. He loves her. She had this sweet breath that would start the windmills turning on one of those old dutch paintings. [Into the scene, with amusing over-acting] This hurts like hell. I gave you everything. This does not happen to me. [Other characters in scene speak] Judy please. Don't listen to him, he's not right for you. [Young man says she doesn't want him anymore] I wanna hear that from her lips. [Young woman affirms this is the case] Is this about kids? Is that what this is about? 'Cause I can wait. And you can get your career set up. And we can have kids later. Lots of 'em.
There's no mention of any such problem between "Judy" and the stabbed guy. As is painfully obvious, this is all coming from Ray K's break-up with Stella.
All in all, this episode also builds on the mentalities and personalities of Welsh, Thatcher and Kowalski. Seeing how they see things brings the audience into their world for a little while, in a program where the usual perspective we see is only that of objectivity through Benton. We also get more character development from Benton, and Francesca, all cleverly scaffolded within an episode employing multiple narratives and misinformation.
Oh, and finally, the episode scores major points for the following sequence;
Ray K: -I love you, Fraser.
Benton: -And I you, Ray.
Ray K: -No, not literally, I mean, symbolically, or something.
Benton: -No I know. Thank you.
All of this in one episode. This is why I love this show. It plays with clichés and stereotypes (purposely reinforcing some and debunking others), it plays with realism, narrative structure and perception. And it's not afraid to step out of the conventional.
This is research. Honest. I'm going to begin on writing down my character outlays for my own fiction soon.