On to the actual mini-review:
I tried to write a coherent review, but I think I'll have to fall back on my old comments/notes format instead. I don't feel like writing a whole essay on this episode. Maybe after I rewatch my taped episodes, I could do one on the second season. ;-)
My general reaction was good--the case was exciting, with a few red herrings, and the stuff with Charlie and his dreams about his mom were interesting. I admit that something about the dreams grated on me a little--I thought initially it was because the dialogue in them was incredibly on-the-nose (which I hate--show, don't tell, silly writers), but I changed my mind after some thought. More on that in minute.
Things I didn't like (I'll get these out of the way first):
--I wanted to give Colby a slap or a little talking-to. The frat boy in him has never made quite such an obvious appearence before. Although on-edge (or maybe just angry?) Megan slapped him down a little bit for me, at one point.
--Why, oh why, didn't the FBI catch onto the dressed-after-death thing sooner? I'm sorry, but that wasn't too hard to deduce. No matter how good Yates was at this or how much time he took.
--Not enough actual math from Charlie to solve the case...although, given his conversation with Larry about how math isn't helping him figure out his dream, that could be seen as thematically sound. :-)
--There was at least one cut scene, I bet you. Before Don shows up at Lindsay's house alone, telling us how he figured out to go there. I'm betting nothing was cut after that fight, because it's a pretty natural move to the scene with Margaret and Charlie and then to the final scene...but there'd better be some missing-scene fic written, or I may have to do it.
What I liked:
--Pretty much all the stuff with Larry and Charlie, talking about dreams, about emotions and mathematics...even the brief scene with Charlie and Amita, because it was simple and straightforward, and because of how much it clearly means to Charlie that he's finally had a dream about his mother.
--Speaking of which, we now have a rough date for the death of Margaret Eppes: approximately four years prior to this episode.
--I thought JoBeth Williams made a good Margaret Eppes, even if she didn't seem quite the way I had imagined her.
--David Krumholtz, Rob Morrow, and Judd Hirsh all blew my socks off with their performances this time around, especially Krumholtz.
--I was impressed with the level of detail used during at least the early dream-sequences. By which I mean clothing (did y'all see the piano T-shirt Charlie was wearing?), lighting, and the fact that Krumholtz was playing Charlie as much younger, maybe 10 or 11 years old. And both dream-Alan and dream-Margaret were treating him the same way.
--As mistraltoes pointed out, good on the writers for using the "hypocritical Christian killer" stereotype...and having it turn out to be a red herring. :-)
--Don going in alone to stop the assult, going one-on-one in the darkened house with Yates, getting battered and needle-stabbed (eeeep!) and shooting the guy...and then calling himself in as an agent down...might be the most intense sequence in this season.
--And the final scene made me into complete mush. Charlie making sure Don knows that he's got people he can count on, and Charlie and Alan trying to offer (totally unusable) suggestions to Don.... Don is amused, and a little surprised, and very happily lets them "take care" of him in that way. Lovely way to go out for the summer.
And that scene takes me right into some things I want to ponder, or have questions about.
Let's start with the dreams.
I was spoiled for the fact that Charlie would be having dreams, so I almost expected the Alan-shooting to be a nightmare. I think I would have copped to it fairly early, anyways, because Charlie had been playing baseball (which I associate with a younger Don, not with Charlie), and because he was acting like a kid, asking to be left in the car. Also--I'll have to go back and watch this again--they did something to the lighting. Fairly atypical for this series, as is the lighting in the breakfast scene. Not during the other two dreams, though.
I felt a bit odd about the dreams, particularly Alan's and the later one Charlie has, and as I said above, I figured that the plain-spoken dialogue was annoying me. However, what I did love is what Charlie seemed to finally do with his experience of those dreams: he took his own sense of being alone, his worry for his brother, his guilt about having taken his parents away from Don (especially their mother), and he acted. He made sure that Don knows he's valued, loved, and will never have to be without family. I sat watching that last scene near tears, silently being proud of our normally sharply-focused/self-centered Charlie. He's really grown up a lot, emotionally, this season.
I told this to my friend V. when she called like 3 mintues after the episode ended, to chat, as per our usual Friday tea-and-squee. Her response was a slight tangent: "Yeah, but all the dreams were about Don, weren't they? I mean, think about it."
After a bit of pondering I decided she was right. All of the dreams--particularly Charlie's, though it comes up with Alan too--reference Don strongly, both in dialogue and in the symbols that are used.
>Charlie's been playing baseball (Don's sport of choice)
>The nightmare is about Alan, their father, getting shot by a robber. Don deals with shootings and/or finds himself in the line of fire on a regular basis. This is something Don would dream (and probably has).
>Don liked pancakes, which is what Margaret makes for Charlie in the dream.
>In the breakfast sequence, Charlie is wearing a shirt with a piano keyboard on it--Don and Margaret both play, and we saw Don playing in "Running Man"
>Margaret says that she and Don are a lot alike, not sure of their lives' direction.
>The question Charlie asks is not about Margaret, not really; it's not for forgiveness; it's not "why did you die?" It's about Don; it's a question about whether Charlie's existence took his parents away from his big brother.
Every bit of those dreams and how Charlie processes them leads him up to that final scene, to that reassurance he offers to Don. V. wrote to me, "So we've got Charlie playing a sport Don excelled at, Charlie being served Don's favorite breakfast, and Charlie wearing a t-shirt the audience associates with what we've seen Don do. Is Charlie trying to see things from Don's perspective? More than just thinking about Don, is he trying to get inside his brother's head or something? Trying to better understand his brother?" I don't know if it was that conscious for Charlie, if he could explain it that way if you asked him to, but I do think it was something like that. And it doesn't just have to do with this episode--he's been working on this since he started working with Don, and the events of "Guns and Roses," "Rampage," and "Backscatter" only accelerated the process.
Something I noted about Alan's dream of Margaret: unlike Charlie, he doesn't seem all that surprised to see her, and talks with her comfortably, as if she were really there. I'm betting he's dreamed about her a lot...and wondering if he sometimes talks to her (or did at one time) even when he's awake?
On to a few other notes and then I *must* get off the computer.
I've never seen Megan wear black nail polish before. Mood indicator? She certainly seemed to be upset by this case.
Except around Larry. Wonderful, casual moment when Megan comes in to check on the geeks and she and Larry greet each other comfortably. No nervousness here, not anymore. I wonder how many dinners or lunches or sundry that implies? :-) The relationship is progressing. Yay!
I'm going now...more tomorrow if I feel I've missed anything important.
It's gonna be a long summer. And it wasn't even a cliffhanger!