THE FINDER 1.01 ‘An Orphan Walks Into a Bar’

Geoff Stults and Michael Clarke Duncan lead the "Bones" spinoff in circles.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "An Orphan Walks Into a Bar"

Writer: Hart Hanson

Director: Daniel Sackheim

Story:

Meet Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults), the man who can find anything. And in his first case on his very own show, Walter is tasked with locating John Fogerty's guitar. Yes, that John Fogerty. The guitar in question is currently in the hands of a shady looking dude who is creeping out of a building with a gun drawn. Said dude is distracted by Walter's crude robot with sneakers; which allows Walter to grab the guitar and run off. The thief fires his gun wildly at Walter, but he shoots about as accurately as a Cobra soldier in G.I. Joe. Meanwhile, Walter's partner, Leo Knox (Michael Clarke Duncan) brings Deputy U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada (Mercedes Masohn) to a predetermined location so she can arrest the thief while Walter gets away clean.

In return for his favorite guitar, Fogerty plays "Fortunate Son" and goes on his way. That night, a young man named Cooper Allison (Brett Davern) has car trouble on his way to visit Walter's bar. For ten dollars, he bribes a mischievous young girl named Isabel Zambada (Mercedes Masohn) to bring him the rest of the way, where he introduces himself as the son of Lt. Colonel Nick Allison (Roy Werner), a friend of Walter's whom Walter once saved. Walter makes Isabel return Cooper's wallet and he gives the kid a chance to back out before agreeing to take the case.

Upon learning that Nick disappeared after taking off from a local airstrip, Walter and Leo visit the area and after a few moments, Walter tells the dumbfounded man in charge of the airfield that he's already found the plane and anyone who cares can find him at his bar. Walter also revisits Isabel on a stakeout and he flushes out her fugitive from a cock fight while she and Leo talk about Walter's brain damage that makes him so compelled to find things. Soon after, Walter and Leo visit a local army base, where Lt. Sam Royce (Eltony Williams) is stationed.

Royce tells them that he was demoted after warning Nick that the military authority knew about the drugs on his plane, but Walter assumes that his friend was just undercover. Later, Walter and Isabel seem to be on the verge of sexual intimacy while comparing notes about Nick's case and celebrating her latest capture. Outside, Isabel lightly flirts with Cooper as he tries to fix his car and she feeds him a story about her family being murdered when she was young. Two men in jumpsuits suddenly attack them and demand their missing drugs.

Cooper tries to fight back but he is pistol whipped. Moments before one of the thugs prepares to shoot her, Isabel spits in his face. Then Leo, Walter and Isabel arrive to take down the two men. When the cops take the two men away, Isabel is livid that Walter set up the situation by implying that he had the drugs. Cooper also learns that Isabel lied about her background and that she has a large criminal family. In fact, Isabel only works and lives at the bar by court order, and her overbearing parole officer, Ms. Ferrell (Amy Acquino) seems determined to put her back in jail.

After learning the truth about Isabel, Cooper rejects her advances. However, Leo reaches out to her by giving her wind chimes for her trailer. With Isabel's help, Walter and Leo accompany her to see Amadea Dornia (Jaime Murray), the local drug baroness. To their disappointment, they learn that Nick was muling drugs for her. She also has them thrown off of her boat. Disillusioned, Walter tells Cooper that he can't take the case any further. Meanwhile, Isabel secretly meets with her gypsy brother and she plans to flee Walter's employ after robbing him.

That night, Walter has a vivid dream in which he speaks with Nick and he realizes that the man he knew would never abandon his son for ill-gotten drug money. Recommitted to the case, Walter tracks down the Nick's crashed plane and he finds his friend's body. He also finds the drugs and evidence that Nick was taking them to Haiti on a mission of mercy rather than profit. A written message from Nick to his son also gives Cooper some closure. Back at the bar, Isabel starts stealing the money from the register, but she seems to change her mind about running away when she comes across the wind chimes again.

To wrap everything up in a nice bow, Walter and Leo work out that Nick's plane went down because Royce sabotaged it out of fear that Nick would turn him into the military police. After framing Royce with the drugs, he flips on Amadea and her drug empire crumbles when she is arrested. Back at the bar, Leo notes that Isabel has put up her wind chimes and she didn't run away as they expected. But Walter is still openly suspicious of her motives. 

Breakdown:

Before we move on to the meat of "The Finder," I'd like to point out that there are two types of exposition in fiction. Good exposition, where information flows in a natural way from dialog and action; which can happen so smoothly that you're barely aware of it. Bad exposition is when characters spell everything out and tell each other things that they already know. It also seems painfully forced as an information dump stands in for real characterization.

"The Finder" is full of bad exposition. In fact, I'd say that the characters speak in fluent exposition. Because when they're talking, they don't sound like people. They're more like plot elements with voices. And that hinders the audience's ability to embrace these people. Geoff Stults, Michael Clarke Duncan and Mercedes Masohn actually have some resonance with each other and I get the impression that their interactions could be fun. It was just really difficult watching Leo and Isabel stumble through badly written dialog about Walter's condition.

As for Walter himself, Stults tries to portray him as a lovably wacky guy with just a few screws loose. But his performance lacks a sense of genuineness. Walter doesn't feel like a real character yet. When watching him, I never got the sense that Walter was anything more than the mannerisms and vocal tics of Stults. In other words, Walter is all style and no substance.

But the most egregious character on this show is Maddie Hasson's Willa Monday. Physical beauty aside, Willa just doesn't fit into this series. Given her stated background and crimes, Willa's court ordered job to work for Walter makes absolutely no sense and the character herself is not believable. Willa feels so removed from the show's dynamic that her very existence seems to be the result of network notes insisting that "The Finder' have another female lead. If anything, Willa reminds me of Ames from the second season of "Human Target;" another troubled young woman randomly added to the cast.

One of "The Finder's" biggest crimes is that it completely wastes Jaime Murray on a bit part as the drug queen. For someone supposedly formidable, Amadea went down extremely easily. That was true of all of the villains on this show. Strangely, that aspect of the series made "The Finder" seem like a TV series that would be on the air in the '90s and the '80s. It definitely feels like a throwback to old school network television.

And despite all of that, "The Finder' never actually crosses the line into bad television, it's just on the line between average and mediocre. I think that there is potential here; especially if the show can get further into Walter's head and show us how he perceives the world. The dream sequence between Walter and Nick shouldn't have worked as well as it did. But the surreal imagery of the flying microwaves actually helped sell the idea that Nick's screwed up brain was trying to tell him something. It was quirky and weird… which is just what "The Finder" needs to stand out from the rest of the pack.

"The Finder" may eventually discover its own unique identity and go on to become a worthy show. But that's going to be harder than finding a crashed airplane in the jungle and the writers of this show have their work cut out for them.

Crave Online Rating: 6.8 out of 10.