Backstrom Season 1 Episode 1 Review: “Dragon Slayer”

Backstrom Season 1 Episode 1 Review: “Dragon Slayer”


Backstrom is the latest in a long line of horrible House/Law & Order/Breaking Bad mash-ups, where the offensive, un-redemptive behavior of the white protagonist is justified by the group of groveling idiots around him, bowing to his superior intelligence in spite of his rampant personal issues. Unfunny and unpleasant in its best moments, and horribly offensive and grating at its worst, Backstrom is a cheap attempt at cashing in on an established formula, a lazy drama that begs the question why anyone thought this was a good idea to air at all.

The biggest problem is Backstrom himself: Rainn Wilson brings the worst of Dwight with him to this tepid FOX drama: a drunk, belligerent, arrogant, racist, misogynistic, self-centered waste of a human being, whose doctor has so little hope for his long-term health, his prescription is for him to get a friend. We spend most of the hour meeting these “friends”: a gay son he constantly reminds is the product of a drunken night with a hooker; a woman who Backtrom consistently insults as a woman who understands books, but not reality; a black superior officer who literally tells another (white) character it’s “okay to have black balls”; and this laughable caricature of a Buddhist, who thinks Backstrom operates on a some higher plane of existence.

It’s hardly the most interesting set of ancillary characters, and “Dragon Slayer” gives them absolutely no life, a series of pretty people spewing the same babbling exposition about minority hookers trying to rip off privileged white boys, a case so hard to crack, Backstrom has to take all of six seconds at the crime scene before he’s identified the killer, a trait the pilot attributes to absolutely nothing. No assumption of higher intelligence, no catchy, whimsical personal story that makes him an insufferable hero: no, Backstrom is just a jerk who knows everything, which allows him to justify his behavior, something he doesn’t even need to do, because so many people are willing to do that for him, even though he insults and berates them at every angle.

He even fails to be an interesting take on the drunk cop cliche; he’s Jimmy McNulty without the work ethic (he considers drinking for 12 hours instead of calling in an important piece of information “work ethic” – and no, I’m not kidding about that), House without the tiny shred of empathy, Tony Soprano without the sinking feeling that everything is going to come crashing around him. There isn’t a single moment in “Dragon Slayer” where Backstrom even considers being a better human being; that alone makes this show pointless to watch, an exercise in overcompensating masculinity, excused by the unsupported fact that he’s some kind of seer, or intelligent to the point he can’t empathize with normal human behavior (“I like catching murderers,” he says at one point, even though he complains every single second he’s actually working).

Backstrom is a lifeless carbon copy of a dozen other shows, wrapped in a layer of thick misogyny and overt racism (at one point, Backstrom turns down sleeping with a French woman who is attracted to him for reasons that are never defined; who could be attracted to such an unhealthy, horribly self-centered, drunk human being?), all underlined by the horribly one-note performance of its lead and secondary characters – though in the defense of the latter, there’s nothing in the script that allows any of them to exist as a three-dimensional human being, rather than a make-up covered information dump. Even the promise of Sarah Chalke as a recurring character couldn’t make me sit through another hour of this awful, noisy, formulaic and soulless hour of “drama.”

[Photo via FOX]

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