Thursday, May 12, 2011

Damaging A Character

Monday night is date night TV night in the Davies' household.

First Chicago Code (sob!), followed by Hawaii Five-0 (just renew the damn show, CBS, okay?), it's appointment TV night for my husband and me. (I also watch Glee on Tuesdays, but that's not his thing.) We go from gritty to sun-drenched in the space of two hours, and I love both shows.

But I discovered something about myself as a viewer, and the shows I watch, last Monday. Because my two favorite characters on these two shows brought up a specific issue, and my reaction to it was diametrically opposed.


On the Chicago Code, main character Jarek is a cop with an ex-wife he still has feelings for. They have a child together. And all season, the two of them have been sleeping together, regardless of the fact that he has a fiancee he theoretically loves as well.

On Hawaii Five-0, Danny Williams is a cop with an ex-wife he still has feelings for. They have a child together. And in the last five minutes of Monday's episode, we find out that apparently they've been doing the infidelity dance as well.

(The whole WTF exchange: Steve says, so, you and Rachel. How long...? Danny responds, "a little while.")

So why do I accept the infidelity on the part of Jarek, but get infuriated at the thought of Danny doing the same thing?

Well, on Chicago Code, Jarek has been set up character-wise to make this choice believable. He cuts corners. He skirts the edge of legal when it suits his purposes, and rarely has a qualm about it. He is a gray-area character. More importantly, it's been a thing all season long, and one of the defining elements of his character.

On Hawaii Five-0, Danny has been set up all season as the moral compass of the team. He's the one shouting about procedure and suspect's rights and doing the right thing. Does he always manage it? No, but he tries, because it matters to him.

So for him to apparently start sleeping with a married woman - regardless of the fact that she's his ex - struck me as out of character and, more significantly, out of left field.

Yes, the pining (on both Danny's and Rachel's parts) has been signposted throughout the season, and the troubles in Rachel and Stan's marriage have been mentioned before. I actually liked that element, as we watched them grow from battling exes with "Psycho" ringtones and custody battles that required intercession from the governor into two people who were finding a way to be friendly co-parents.

I was even fine with the forehead-kissing and falling asleep on the hospital bed and the pining glances as she drove away. The lost love you always regret is a fantastic trope in a TV show like this, and it really worked for them. But to suddenly (and confusingly) suggest that they're actually sleeping together and have been for a while? It made no sense to me. And I believe it made no sense for the character.

Gracie also factors into this. The child is not stupid. And if her parents, both of whom she loves, are suddenly making googly eyes at each other and hugging and acting all couply, she's going to start hoping they'll get back together. And unfortunately, for these two, love wasn't enough to conquer the issues that tore them apart previously, issues that are even more looming now. Danny's dangerous job? Even more dangerous. Financial issues? Not going away. And on a practical, TV show note, happy couples aren't interesting over the long run. No way are the PTB going to allow Danny to have a happy home life for any length of time. So how much is it going to mess up that little girl to have her hopes for a reunited family dashed AGAIN?

In short, because of the way the character of Danny Williams has been revealed to us over the season, I was disappointed and angered by the turn taken on Monday's episode. And much as I hate to admit it, it makes me look at him in a less positive light now. I hope that changes soon, because I really do love the character and would hate to have that color the way I look at him from now on.

One good thing I'll be taking away from this is the reaffirmation that motivation and character development matter. And you can bet I'll be applying that knowledge to the characters I write as well as the ones I watch on my television screen.


Anonymous said...

We are definitely of one mind when it comes to Danny Williams. Well said. I have been literally mourning the loss of my favorite male tv character this week. Even if they haven't slept together yet, it is hard to see him soften so much that he is willing to run back after she broke his heart so badly.

LankyGuy said...

Well said, I agree. The Danny character has definitely been diminished in my eyes. @Plenkov's 'the heart wants what the heart wants' tweet was utter rubbish. It was an extremely out of character moment. i don't believe they been sleeping together, but they've been doing everything but and it isn't right. Not when Rachel is married to another man.

Laurie Ryan said...

Hmmm. I'll have to catch a re-run of this, because I completely missed the "they've been sleeping together for a while" thing. The impression I got was that Danny and Rachel have been dancing around a renewed attraction, but not that they had given in to it. However, I'm not the most observant person on the planet so I'll take your word for it. I don't watch Chicago Code, but I love that you saw the same basic story line from two totally different perspectives. :)

Kate Davies said...

Laurie, it's a little sketchy whether they've actually slept together, but the conversation between Steve and Danny, coupled with Peter Lenkov's tweets that "Danny didn't break up their marriage, it was already falling apart" and "The heart wants what it wants" make it seem likely. I'd be thrilled to find out next week that they're just heading that direction, not actually there yet.

Stephanie said...

I understand your frustration with both characters, but especially with Danny. I pretty much had the same reaction watching last week's episode, and it was definitely moreso because the writers have use both him and Kono as the yin to their partner's yang. I think Kono is as morally centered as Danny is, whereas Steve and Chin tend to be the rebels of Five-0 -- a little more unbalanced and quite willing to skirt the law and work in those shades of grey. But Danny? Not so much. And it seemed perfectly clear to me earlier in the season that Danny and Rachel's relationship had been fractured to a point where even having them be amicable to one another seemed like a giant step. Now this? This reunion seemed like a giant leap off a very steep cliff. It not only paints Danny in an irresponsible, what-the-hell-is-he-thinking(?!) kind of light, but when you put Grace in the middle of it, it makes Danny looks like even more of an idiot because you know it won't work and that's going to hurt his baby girl more than anthing.

There's only a *little* bit of respect from me knowing his objective is to make his family whole again, but angry that he's completely ignoring all the reasons it didn't work the first time around.

Anonymous said...

Don't agree. The scenes have not indicated to me that Danny is sleeping with Rachel.
Definitely intimate, longing looks but she kissed him on the forehead in the hospital, she is shown dressed and sitting on top of the blankets, as if checking up on him after the sarin poisoning (maybe next morning).
The comment 'for a while' may mean they have been talking, not arguing,becoming friends again,does not mean they are sleeping together.
As far as being the moral compass, yes he definitely tries to be by the book until he cares too much.

It could be argued that Steve cares more-each time-about the people in general whom he protects whereas Danny doesn't tie people to the hood of his car or imprint his police id badge in the forehead of suspects unless he is personally involved.

The governor hired Steve and gave him immunity and means because she didn't want a by the book cop. He is not a cop he is the leader of an elite task force-given permission to go to extremes to catch the really dangerous bad guys.

Steve's morals compass leads him to do the right thing, protect the innocent and stray into legally gray areas to do accomplish his mission. He doesn't hang innocent people off of building-it is someone whom has just killed 2 people, or a guy he throws in the shark tank is a gun runner. No, they haven't been convicted in a court of law but that doesn't make them innocent.

Danny may be more 'morally centered' if legality is used as the magnetic north but Steve is every bit as morally centered and he is using his seal background for his stability.
Sorry to ramble but I love the show and hope the writer's don't take our characters in the wrong direction. So far Danny has not been shown in a compromising position with Rachel-I hope it stays that way.

Kate Davies said...

Thanks for the comments! (Can I pout here for a minute about the comments lost when Blogger went kablooey? Some good stuff, gone. Hmph.)

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with characters skirting the gray areas - I love Jarek on Chicago Code, as well as Steve and Chin on Hawaii Five-0. I don't think they're any less "moral" than characters like Danny or Kono, just that Danny and Kono seem to find their morality in following the rules, if that makes sense.

I was going back and forth on whether Danny and Rachel had slept together, or even messed around, and had been leaning toward no, until the dialogue with Steve, and then finding tweets from one of the producers that seemed to lean toward infidelity ("the heart wants what it wants" and "don't hate Danny, he didn't break up their marriage", among others). I'd be happy to be proven wrong, and have this blog post Jossed as of Monday. :)

Anonymous said...

Glad I have found a group of people who see beyond the mushiness of this and remember that Matt had to visit Danny for 6 months straight in a seedy hotel room to get him thru the night. I hate when writers (yes, I said it, sorry) manipulate their audience to feel one way and then expect us to switch on a dime. It makes me lose credibility for the show. I hope they live up to what they said earlier in the season and keep all 4 main characters out of serious relationships. I have enough romantic wishy washiness on my soaps and can enjoy the pining on shows like Bones instead, where the characters have developed a love and admiration for each other thru the years that is endearing and believable. This I think is truly why I was so upset by Danny's actions last week and feel like I have lost my lovable, grumpy cop from NJ. :(

Anonymous said...

A man who previously had a relationship with a woman, who still loves a woman, who has a child with a woman people...The 'other guy' is someone we don't even know anything about anyway except the fact that he is loaded and made bad business decisions, which makes the wife look bad for dropping Danny in the first place. I have no bad feelings for whatever Danny, who is an adult, does in his personal love life. The show is about cops. This was a side story. I'm happy for him. I'm only worried that she'll dump him again. Get off your moral high-horses and grow up.

Anonymous said...

For me, it has nothing to do with morality- it has to do with credibility and feeling manipulated. This is from an article on tomorrow's Hawaii Five-0. "Danno and ex-wife Rachel might reunite and move back to New Jersey." I understand why Danny's anger came from him not wanting to get divorced and being uprooted. I just distrust Rachel and her motives. I don't want him to become weak and run back to her because she gives him an opening. This is why I am upset by this turn of events. I think it was always more than hinted at that Danny is sensitive, and it is clear that he is thrilled to get back with the woman he loves. I just think it goes from being sensitive to being soft for him to jump at the first chance he gets to do so. This is why he has lost some sparkle for me.

Maia Strong said...

(I should know by now to copy any comment before trying to post it. F*ing GoogleBloggerCrap. Let's see if I can recreate my ever-so-insightful (lol) post.)

I, too, was disappointed by that oh-so-brief exchange between Danny and Steve. Based solely on what I have seen of the show (which admittedly isn't the whole season to date), I was fully expecting Danny's response to be something like "Nothing's happened. Not yet." with a hopeful/sweet/vulnerable/whatever look. That would have made sense to me. His reply instead felt like a blindside to me. It also made me wonder if I'd missed some eps in the middle, but I haven't.

I'm all for exciting character revelations and surprising your audience, but when it's such a complete 180 from what's been established, it feels like laziness and/or an attempt at shock-value on the part of the writer(s). I suppose, if their goal was to stir up buzz about the show, they certainly succeeded at that.

The season finale looks exciting, doesn't it? Fingers crossed that I'm home in time to watch it "live" in HD.

Kate Davies said...

Like I said in the original post, it's not the infidelity per se that bothers me - I fully embrace it as part of Jarek's character - but rather the lack of development of that side of the character for it to feel organic or right.

And like it or not, Stan is not the "other man" - he's Rachel's husband, and up until the hospital scene, they were apparently trying to salvage their relationship (off screen, but still). So any choices Rachel and Danny make, whether to act on their feelings or not, impact him as well.

(Honestly, if this had happened after we the audience were made aware that Rachel has filed for divorce? Totally different scenario to me. I still might have worried that Danny would end up with his heart crushed again, but at least I wouldn't be shocked at such out-of-character behavior from my favorite Jersey transplant.)

But again, there are a lot of different opinions on this episode, and I know in some circles I am definitely in the minority! I just thought it was interesting to look at the storyline from a character development standpoint, since that interests me as a writer as well as a viewer.

Jess the Reader said...

Kate, firstly, I've just discovered your blog and I love it! I'm going to make time to go back and read your archives :-)

Okay, I'm in Australia, so I haven't seen this episode yet, but I totally get where you're coming from. Danno is so black and white, and while exceptions are okay, they are few and far between, and usually only allowed for family. For instance, the latest episode shown here has him threatening the Housing Commissioner who arranged for Steve to get carjacked, but whose thugs got Rachel and Grace instead. I completely agree with his actions there!

So I'm a little devastated to find that it appears that he and Rachel are sleeping together. It's so immoral, and so out of character for him! And it shows a simplistic view of the world too - all their old issues are still there.

I have to admit that affairs are absolutely one of those things I can't stand, so I'm kind of biased. But I don't like this as a plot, or as behaviour from this character. If it was Steve, it would have been more believable, like if he'd met an old flame, and it turned out she was unhappily married. But not Danno.

Anonymous said...

Still feeling manipulated and disappointed by writer's direction with this storyline. I had a thought last night that the timing wasn't right and perhaps it really was Stan's baby after all. I can't get over feeling like Rachel is using Danny to escape a bad marriage. But, the fact that he jumped into bed with her and has been for at least a month/month and a 1/2, the fact that he was willing to follow her back to NJ so easily, makes me feel that he is not the character I thought he was either. I don't wish for Danny to get hurt or for Rachel to lose the baby, because that would be awful. But, he clearly can't be my virtual imaginary bf anymore either way. And, as I said last night, you could tell the show was written by men the way they went about it all. So quickly and without any grace/tact. I was very saddened by how they approached it, and it ruined the rest of the ep for me. Of course, we know Danny will stay in HI and work with Chin to clear Steve and Kono, which could be the rift that breaks Rachel and he up again. But, does it really matter either way at this point? His character and integrity are soiled for me now. Only thing that I am still so curious about is why Rachel would just pull poor Grace into this and make the child pick up in the middle of the night (red eye) and leave a life behind she had gotten used to ....who is the bad parent now? All and all, was disheartened by the entire series of events. I know that Peter Lenkov said there was a reason for what he did and to trust Danny will do the right thing, but not sure what the right thing could be now. Either way, will be disappointed with the outcome. Sorry that my favorite new male character had to be ruined like this...time to move on.