The Inside 1×01: New Girl in Town

[Review by Noah Burns]

[Writer: Tim Minear, Howard Gordon | Director: Tim Minear | Aired: 06/08/2005]

[Introduction]

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli

Despite its poor to non-existent reputation among all but a few devoted fans of creator Tim Minear (writer on Angel, co-showrunner of Firefly with Joss Whedon, and executive producer on such diverse series as Wonderfalls and American Horror Story), The Inside was a brilliant, profound, and unique show that ended far too soon. For the retrospective viewer, the sting of the show’s untimely demise is felt immediately in the pilot. The show’s potential is wonderfully illustrated, and I have no compunction stating that I believe that the pilot episode of The Inside, “New Girl in Town”, shows the most potential of any first episode that I’ve ever seen. I hope that at the end of this review, in which I will talk about the themes and character depths that have been almost completely missed by the show’s few reviewers to date, it will be evident, and potently so, how I came to such a conclusion. With that, let’s start digging into the first part of the deep and darker-than-night masterpiece that is The Inside!


[Establishing Shots]

“New Girl in Town” begins with a statement followed by a question. The statement is visual. The establishing shots of Los Angeles trace the city’s main arteries, its highways, and show us the concrete jungle through which they run. It is a world that we are used to seeing on our television screens: the big city in the brightly lit world of day, extroverted and familiar. And then the lights are turned out. Suddenly we see Los Angeles at night, presented to us in a way we perhaps don’t see too often: to quote directly from writer Tim Minear’s script, “Another world. Near post-apocalyptic emptiness.” The daytime sequence tells us our geographical location. When the lights go out, we move to where the show really takes place: the dark. It will come to be called by two more names by the end of the series.

The whole of the first scene builds to deliver the question that we are teased with at the end of it. Up until that point, it is fairly standard crime show stuff, although very well done. From the whole of the city at night, our focus is brought to a single abandoned building where some workers have come to do a minor repair. The camera is unsteady, and we follow the unsuspecting workers down a dingy and dirty hallway. As they come into a room at the end of the hallway, one of the men steps in something – when does that end well on TV? – and their flashlights’ narrow beams illuminate a body uncomfortably close to us. It is a dead woman, and like all dead women in crime shows she seems just a nameless, faceless (literally, though, this time) body to pique our revulsion and interest. Cut to our heroes arriving. The people’s defenders, the F. B. I., are on the case. Isn’t it exciting!? The team assembles outside and walks in together. There’s some smart dialogue. Web: “Is there anybody on the L.A. municipal pay roll who hasn’t touched my crime scene?” Danny: “Hair and fiber’s gonna be a bitch. Place is used by addicts, kids, other vermin.” The only hint we get that something isn’t right is that one member of the team is missing, Alvarez, and that they can’t contact her. When they get to the scene, they find exactly what we found, a random body, nobody I know or care about.

And then we find out that the body isn’t just some body, it’s somebody (wait a minute…). It’s Alvarez. Web knows it first. Out of all of the agents, he is the only one who gets close, the only one who really looks. While you could say that is because it is his role on the team to do so, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t show us something important about his character. He sees more than other people.

What we, the viewers, myself firmly included, saw at first was what we have been conditioned by countless discoveries of dead bodies on television to see; the agents saw what they expected to see. Both of us saw nobody. And here’s the question that our discovery of the body and Web’s discovery of its identity begs: if we all saw her as nobody, does that make her nobody? Or more generally, what is an identity anyway? The characters will be asking themselves this question for the rest of the episode, and they will be answering it both in this episode and for the remainder of the series.

It’s a brilliant concept for the first episode of a television series. Character interactions in series pilots often feel forced to me, sometimes even painful, as the writers attempt to put all their ducks in a row and establish the series’ status-quo before the next episode. So having the first episode be about the main characters confronting these psychological and philosophical problems of identity makes all the meetings and setup seem natural: it’s what the episode is about on a deeper level than just practical necessity.

I also want to mention the opening credits and how perfectly they tie back into the mission statement delivered by the establishing shots at the beginning of this episode. They start with some strange-looking tubes crossing the screen. At first they look like they could be anything, but then we see that they are those highways again, eerie and luminescent. We get the credits, with all of the main cast members shown interspersed with pictures of Los Angeles at night and crime scenes. The image of the finger running down the bloody saw, in particular, gets to me. And we see a city grid start to form, and it grows street by eerily shining street. They look to me almost like neurons on a brain scan. The grid becomes complete following Peter Coyote’s credit, and we see the city plan for a moment before it flips up to reveal the lights and structures of Los Angeles, again at night. The final image is a fabulous juxtaposition of the title of the show, The Inside, with an infinite seeming view of the city. It’s a mini-journey in and of itself, and its taking us to the setting of the show. Though it appears we are looking at the outside of a city, we are really looking at the inside of these people we’ve just seen pictures of (the characters, not the actors!).


[The Persona of a Team]

Almost every scene in this episode deals with the question that was posed at the end of the first scene. What would often be a throwaway scene on most shows, right after the first commercial break, is here our introduction to how the main characters will be answering that question.

We can already see the effects of Alvarez’s death on the team. Paul can’t bear to see her stuff simply sitting on the desk, so he begins to pack it away. Mel comes in and asks him, perturbed, what he’s doing. The second he explains, though, she starts to help him. But going through Alvarez’s things raises the question for Mel, which she articulates in her Mel way as, “Did she seem like a cat person to you?” Mel’s frustrated look as she says this never fails to leave me in stitches.

Thirty seconds in, and Mel has already given us her answer to the identity question. She is comparing the image of Alvarez that she saw last night with the one presented to her by Alvarez’s possessions, and they aren’t matching up. Though it may seem shallow, if you want to know about somebody, looking through their stuff actually isn’t a bad place to start. It gives you attributes, likes, dislikes, what’s important to someone, and how they keep those things organized. Throughout the show Mel will use people’s possessions to define them. After Rebecca visits Web’s house in “Declawed” [1×08], the first thing that Mel asks about is what things he had, what his furniture was like, if he had cereal (such a hilarious, interesting, Mel thing to ask about!). And in “Skin and Bone” [1×13], we see just how eager she is to see Rebecca’s stuff, although it never conclusively tells her whether Rebecca is indeed Robot-Girl. So it’s especially upsetting to Mel that Alvarez’s stuff doesn’t say that much about her. In fact, Alvarez’s things probably only made her unknown self seem more obscure, because they were precisely those things that she let other people see.

Danny, though he projects himself as a macho man, is quite sensitive, and Alvarez’s death has caused him to question the team’s identity. Paul will too, after Rebecca’s arrival suggests to him that Web isn’t even fazed by Alvarez’s death, and that she is simply a new part to replace an old one in his machine.

We are now introduced to Rebecca Locke, the show’s main character and one of my personal favorite characters in television. Her emotional, psychological, and spiritual journey will form the main arc of The Inside. Though reviews of Rachel Nichols’ performances as Rebecca were mixed, I feel she did a very good job playing a difficult role. Most of the criticisms centered on how “off” she seemed. After what we learn of Rebecca’s history in “New Girl in Town” and subsequent episodes, it seems clear to me that this “offness” was intentional.

Rebecca’s arrival at the team’s headquarters is a smart little piece of visual storytelling and characterization. When she arrives in the “bullpen”, where the team’s office is, next to Web’s, the other characters simply stare at her, not recognizing her and surprised at her presence. Just as Paul begins to tell her where to find Web, we hear Web say loudly and clearly: “Rebecca Locke.” He’s standing in the doorway of his office, looking at her. In an episode about identity, it’s important that the story begins with Web affirming hers. (Interestingly, this incident mirrors slightly the scene at the end of the episode in which Web kills Simon: Simon has Rebecca, and out of nowhere we hear Web call his name: “Simon Gunther!”)

We also get a great scene with her and Web which I’ll touch on later, and some great character interactions between Paul and Rebecca. I find it interesting that Web has Paul go with Rebecca to see Alvarez’s body. It gives the two of them some time to talk and the scene is a microcosm of their relationship throughout the series. Rebecca pretends to be grateful to Paul for showing her around, though she’d really rather go alone. But she can’t, as Paul points out. She’s new here, and she needs someone to show her around. She does indeed, but it isn’t going to be Paul.


[The Darkness and the Light]

We learn more about what Paul thinks of Web in his expositiony speech to Rebecca about how the team works. He clearly has disdain for Web, and sees him mostly as a manipulator who treats the people around him as means to an end, solving cases. As he says, “Web picks his people for only one reason. They have something he needs.” And he thinks he’s Web’s conscience (which is perhaps the reason he stays). Contrast that statement with Web’s in the scene where Rebecca informs the team that Alvarez’s death was a suicide. When Danny asks if Web knew that she was bipolar, he states: “I know about all your problems. That’s why you’re here.”

That’s very different from how Paul views it, and yet I think the two are compatible; you see, Web needs their problems. This is an important and subtle bit of characterization that will be expanded into an entire episode later (“Declawed” [1×08]). Another fascinating little exchange happens between Web and Danny right before this, when Web defends Alvarez from Danny’s disparaging, “She was a headcase?” Web replies that she was “Living with a treatable illness, like millions of other people” (emphasis mine). This remark suggests something else entirely about Web’s character, something that Paul seems to have no concept of.

The reveal of this mysterious part of Web is the thematic lead in to the centerpiece of the episode, the first real confrontation between Web and Paul. This confrontation is a delectable piece of writing, acting, and directing. Watch for the half shadows on both Paul and Web’s faces, the intimacy of the framing, and the pointed dialogue. The whole scene feels to me not merely a clash of egos or agendas, but of powerful forces. Jay Harrington (Paul) and especially Peter Coyote (Web) are marvelous, delivering powerful lines with gravitas, and filling the dark atmosphere Minear creates with unbearable tension.

After Rebecca collapses upon finding Donna Burton, the woman who has become the tenth victim of “the unsub” (i.e. the killer, or “unknown subject”), dead, Paul rightly concludes that there is more to her than meets the eye. He decides to go about looking for it by searching through her history. But it isn’t really the events of her past that tell him the most about her.

Late at night, as Web is packing up his things in his office (I wonder what they are…), Paul confronts him with knowledge of Rebecca’s former life, but more importantly her former name. She was once named Becky George and was a famous kidnapping victim who made it home on her own after two years in captivity. But Paul doubts that she still has that strength. “Why did she change her name?” he asks. Here’s Paul’s answer to the identity question: the name. Names have held tremendous power and significance throughout literature, from the Bible to Lohengrin. A name, any name, be it of a thing or a person, recalls to our minds the essence of the thing that the name represents to us. It is a symbol for an identity, and thus a different marker of it than, say, possessions. They might reveal attributes of you, interests, hobbies, etc., but your name is part of your irreducible self, your soul. You respond to it, you give it to others as one of the first and most basic things about who you are. The name gives power over the thing named, hence prohibitions against speaking the name of god in ancient religions.

So for Rebecca to give up her name tells Paul, and us, that she is also giving up her identity (and the power over herself that came with it). That much is clear. But it is with the question of why that things get complicated. Paul, at this point, thinks it is because she is weak, and not without reason. She was traumatized, escaped the trauma, but he thinks she simply can’t handle the memory of it. (We later learn that Rebecca actually can’t remember most of what happened to her.) And she doesn’t want to be known as the kidnapped girl, to be treated differently by everyone she meets, to be pitied constantly. Perhaps she wants to be normal. But as we can clearly see, she doesn’t have any concept of what that is. I think that Web agrees with much of this, and so do I. But here’s the big difference between Web and Paul: Paul wants to protect her from this past, whereas Web wants her to accept it, embrace it even, and use it.

This is the schism between Paul and Web that was hinted at earlier in the episode. Remember when Web said that Alvarez’s condition was part of what made her good at what she did? Paul sees this as using the team members, and Web sees it as helping them. They are all here because they all have, as Web puts it in his great line, gifts, “forged in pain”.

Tim Minear described the series as an existential battle for Rebecca’s soul, waged between Paul and Web (now that I say that, it’s shocking the series didn’t have higher ratings!). So who are the players in this battle, and what are they fighting for? The above confrontation gives us everything we need to figure it out. I’ll start with Paul. As he just told us, names tell us about identities. And Web uses Paul’s name to tell us exactly who Paul is: “Your namesake, the apostle, he took another name after he saw the light.” Paul Ryan is an “echo”, if you will, of Paul the Apostle, the most important theologian in Christianity and one of the most influential persons in western civilization (whether one is Christian or not, one cannot deny that most western literature after the New Testament references or reacts to it in some way). The event that Web references is the famous conversion story, in which the persecutor of Christians, Saul, is blinded by a vision of Christ, and thereafter preached in His name. Paul the Apostle described the experience in his writings as one after which he no longer was Saul, but Christ working within Paul, a slave of Christ. We should all endeavor to be such slaves in his mind. His worldview is one of moral absolutes, of belief, and of the necessity of salvation, and it laid the foundation for all of Christianity to follow.

What this means for us is that Paul will be the representative of this absolutist moral world view. His look at Web at the end of the episode lets us know that, for better or for worse, he will be trying to save Rebecca’s soul from Web and the things she will be exposed to while working under him.

So who is Web, then? The first time I watched the show all the way through, I was intrigued, but ultimately repulsed by Web. I accepted Paul’s narrative that he was indeed using and even abusing Rebecca for his own purposes. To make her go through situations that remind her of her horrific experiences at the hands of a kidnapper to solve a case? That’s cruel. However much one could argue that he accomplished good things by solving the cases and catching the killers, I couldn’t accept this perceived psychological torture of Rebecca. But one day as I was trying to fall asleep, months after having watched the show for the first time, I suddenly got the idea: what if he’s trying to help her? I now believe that he’s trying to help not just her, but the whole team survive their problems.

How do we know who Web is, the traumatizer or the “therapist”? We know in the same way that we know who Paul is: Web’s first name, Virgil.

Virgil is the poet Dante Alighieri’s guide in Dante’s epic poem, Commedia, or as it is usually put into English, The Divine Comedy. The poem is about Dante finding himself lost in the woods, having strayed from the true path, and trying to get out. To those of you who know it, you might be thinking, “Hey, you left some stuff out.” But if you think about it, in terms of plot, that’s all that really happens. The rub lies in the process of getting out of the woods. The woods is, of course, the spiritual desert of the poet Dante. How does one get out of such a place? Virgil, sent to be his guide by Dante’s true love, Beatrice in Heaven, tells Dante that the only way to leave the forest without being torn to pieces by wolves and other beasts is to come with him through the underworld, to witness Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Our Virgil takes Rebecca on a similar path. He takes Rebecca through the hell within her own soul to show her how to heal it.

I also want to dwell for a moment on Web’s comments about pain being a gift, because it makes sense in this context. Typically, we think of pain as a bad thing, and not without good reason. To put in Danny’s words: “I tried giving myself a tattoo in the marines once. It didn’t take. You know why? ‘Cause it hurt!” And we recoil from emotional pain as reflexively as from physical pain. We have a culture hell bent on avoiding anxiety and emotional problems. We give up our freedom to avoid it – sometimes even our soul – as the national security debates have shown. The idea that, as Web will put it down the road, “Pain brings insight”, is actually rather radical. People more frequently define it as punishment than as a gift. But I like to think of it this way: If your heart is never broken open, how will you ever find out what’s on the inside?

If Paul and Web are opposing forces in a battle, it begs the question: who should we root for? Is one side more just than the other? We’ll explore this topic throughout the series in much greater detail, but let’s start with a few points to keep in mind.

Our first inclination might be to think that because Paul is identified with a saint, he is the force of right and good. To challenge and complicate that assumption, however, I’d like to refer you to the opinions of a writer we learn that Virgil Webster reads in “Declawed” [1×08]: Friedrich Nietzsche. In Nietzsche’s view, spelled out in his jeremiad The Antichrist, Paul was the founder of (nearly) everything that is destructive in Christianity: guilt, vengefulness, and the obsession with sin, the afterlife, and salvation. He saw in people like Paul the antithesis of Christ’s teaching. Basically, Paul wanted people to submit to Christ, to be his “slaves” and to be saved by him, but Christ wanted to empower people, for them to save themselves. While this view is probably not widely accepted among theologians (although Nietzsche is, interestingly, widely read by Jesuits) and not necessarily the ‘right’ one, it reflects the tension between Web and Paul quite nicely.

It’s interesting to note about the guide Virgil, then, that he leaves Dante in Purgatory to find his own way thereafter. I think that Web’s actions towards the end of “New Girl in Town” will demonstrate a similar agenda. At some point, Rebecca must learn to live on her own in the world, to save her own soul like she saved her own life at the age of twelve. Just as Paul’s last moment in the episode tells us something about his role in the rest of the series, so does Web’s: We can see from his pride at Rebecca’s resilience in not falling down after Simon is shot that he will try to keep her free from Paul or anyone else who, whatever their motives, might make her weak by “saving” her.

For now I’ll just say that I think both Web and Paul can be good influences on Rebecca, but that Web is the one primarily responsible for helping Rebecca heal. We will take note throughout the series when and why he assigns Rebecca and Paul to work together, when he keeps Paul away from her, and also when he turns his focus from Rebecca’s soul to Paul’s.


[The Power of Empathy]

The scene that follows Web and Paul’s confrontation is haunting and dark, and a testament to Minear’s prodigious abilities as a writer and director. It is filled paradoxically with desolation and a hint of warmth. Peter Coyote’s performance here is phenomenal. He is assiduous, egging Rebecca on, digging into her thought process, and indeed using her pain. But he is also soft, removed, and almost tender, like a caring tutor.

Rebecca walks into the most recent victim’s – Donna Burton’s – house and heads straight for the plant on the floor. She picks it up and puts it on some newspaper, perhaps to take with her? Web surprises her with his presence in the corner of the living room, exactly as Simon Gunther did when he took Donna. In fact, both Web and Rebecca are in exactly the same places as Simon and Donna when Donna was kidnapped. We will see Web and Rebecca enact the killer-victim relationship again, most notably in “Pre-Filer”. The consequences of this little play between them won’t be fully apparent until later.

Web knows why Rebecca is here: to look for what she missed about the killer and the victims, but he doesn’t want to just give her the answer to these questions – he wants her to figure out it for herself. It’s in this process that Web gives Rebecca (and us) his answer to the question of identity raised in the first scene. He says, “We know who this man is. We don’t have a name, but we know who he is by what he does.” Whereas Paul deals in ideals, values, and names, Web deals in actions and choices. He’s telling her that it doesn’t really matter what you’re called, or what you have, it’s what you do that defines who you are. It is not merely the action that you commit that tells us about who you are, however, but the meaning of the action. He tells her what to look at, but the work is all done by Rebecca. She profiles the killer by identifying with what he does to the victims: removes fingerprints and faces. Why? What significance and what associations does that action have in the mind? It makes the women into nobody.

What a moment! This process is also revealing about Rebecca, for everything she says about Donna holds true for her as well. She looks in the mirror, but unlike last time she doesn’t see herself menaced by the Pony Man (what her childhood abductor is called in the script), but rather Donna Burton, alone. Rebecca, as Donna, tells us how she is lost, lost in a big city looking for work, looking for a place to live, looking for herself, but she can’t find her. Web, still in the corner, with Simon’s face overlaying his, tells her that she is nobody, that he could tell the second he saw her. But she contradicts him: no, she is somebody. Rebecca confronts the demon that is Simon Gunther before she ever meets him through her empathy for Donna Burton. Through Web’s “use” of her to solve the case, he has also caused her to affirm her own identity and self-worth, and thus given her the strength that she needs to survive her coming confrontation with the killer.


[Making It in the Spiritual Desert]

So who is Simon Gunther? I’ve already referred to him as a demon. He serves here, and all of the serial offenders on this show serve, the same purpose that a demon does on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or in the ancient stories of the saints. The key to understanding either one of these stories is to read them in reverse, as it were. If a story of a saint has him surrounded in the desert by demons, reverse inside and outside and you will understand. The desert is a spiritual one that the saint is in, and the demons are not coming at him from the outside, but rather coming from him, from the inside. They are his fears, his destructive desires and insecurities, his doubts of his faith. The concrete desert shrouded in darkness that we see at the beginning of the episode is where Rebecca is inside, and the killers who come after her are really coming from her. Simon Gunther is the first demon she faces, and his actions show what will happen to Rebecca’s psyche if she isn’t strong enough to survive him.

Simon is a man who internalizes others’ perceptions of himself to the point where they define his identity. He’s wearing his name on his transit worker’s uniform, his most basic information and claim to identity, but people still see him as nobody. And so he’s become nobody. He is menacing Rebecca because she is the new girl in town, a stranger in a strange land where nobody knows who she is, nobody looks at her and affirms her sense of self with a knowing look, and where she doesn’t even have memories of places and past events to cling to. People on the street in an unknown city see what we did when we first saw Margaret Alvarez: ‘nobody I know or care about’.

Simon is the danger that Rebecca faces in this environment, of internalizing those perceptions until she becomes nobody. And don’t we all do that when we are alone and moving to a new place? We pretend to be something we’re not, manipulating others’ perceptions of ourselves because we are insecure in our identities in a new and unfamiliar world. We dress like we think people want us to, lie about our interests and habits, pretend to not be bothered by things that upset us, and compromise our moral beliefs and principles to fit in. In short, we change our behavior to placate and manipulate people we don’t even know, who don’t even see us as anybody. And if we do it too much, we give up ourselves. We know who we are by what we do. If we keep doing what we think others would like us to do, we disappear and cease to be agents: we become objects.

It is truly pivotal, then, when Rebecca contradicts Simon’s narrative about the women he has taken. His word is not final to her. It is how these women see themselves that is important. Her comment that in moving to a place like L. A. we are trying to be something we are is very true. Though it is a difficult and frightening place sometimes, a new city also means opportunity to really be yourself, to be the very things that the associations with people and places in your old city precluded you from being. That is what Rebecca is trying to do in L. A. – she just needs to figure out who she is. Remember the scene where Web and Rebecca first talk? Rebecca says that her instructors told her that she would be better suited to statistical analysis. We get the sense that she is at least pretending to have accepted their view of her. Even if she actually has, there is still some part of her that knows that she is really a profiler. Web gets her to demonstrate this by delivering him a theory. This is a wonderful, subtle moment, in which Minear sets up the later scene in Donna’s house perfectly.

In light of this, Rebecca’s later comment to Simon Gunther – that she was made into nobody a long time ago – begs an interesting question: If Rebecca sees herself as somebody, as she told Web earlier, why does she tell Simon the opposite? Is it to spoil herself for him, so that he might let her go? I don’t think so. Throughout the rest of the series, in order to answer this question, we will have to use all of the methods that Tim Minear gives us here to look at who somebody is: possessions, names, perceptions of self (both those of others and of one’s own), and actions.

I think she is hinting at the split identity that goes along with her name change. Rebecca Locke might be somebody, or have the potential to be somebody, but Becky George was made into nobody by the Pony Man, or so Rebecca thinks. She is also protecting Becky George from Simon, just as her new name protects her from the rest of the world. If Becky ceased to exist a long time ago, she can’t be hurt again now. This is a character insight that will be explored throughout the series in an incredibly powerful and beautiful fashion.

Right after Web kills Simon, he’s there to steady Rebecca, but she doesn’t fall down again. “That’s my girl.”


[Conclusion]

“And now I’ve found some solid ground/I thought I’d drowned but now I’m found… /When you dream of themes that drive you to feel insincere/Think again you know that all those feelings are just fear.”

-Bliss, by Syntax; playing while Rebecca is being bait for Simon

“New Girl in Town” takes the concept of a pilot, people meeting/being in a new environment, and uses it to say something true about human beings and the relationship between our selves and our world. It prepares us to view the rest of the series with a kind of inner vision, seeing outer events not just as physical happenings but psychological and spiritual phenomena. And it challenges us to think deeply and philosophically about what can be learned from using this perception to look into the darkest places within ourselves and the pain from which that darkness comes. All this gives the show boundless potential for insight and drama, a claim which I cannot make for any other pilot I know.

With “New Girl in Town”, The Inside arrives with a bang.


[Other Thoughts]

  • Donna Burton to the landlord: “Lurk much?” The first of many Buffy/Angel references strewn throughout the series. It’s fun to try and spot them all.
  • The show isn’t a science show, but unlike most TV they respect the laws of physics! You can’t just get better resolution on a picture or zoom in past something, no matter what technology you have. If it’s not there, it’s not there.
  • Web turns out his light right as he talks about Paul “seeing the light”. That pretty much sums up the relationship between them.
  • Minor Pro: Web telling Rebecca that he knew she would be at Donna Burton’s house because he read her thoughts.
  • Minor Pro: The “Sky-man says” line right on top on Simon pointing to his name.
  • Minor Pro: Katie Finneran’s portrayal of Mel brings some humor an otherwise dark episode (and series).
  • God I hate the line, “I can feel it.”

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16 thoughts on “The Inside 1×01: New Girl in Town”

  1. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on September 30, 2014.]

    Damn. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really want to watch this pilot now. A couple questions:

    1) Does Rebecca’s name have meaning in the same way Virgil’s or Paul’s does? I’d wager yes– the Biblical Rebecca is associated with the veil, and she later takes advantage of her husband’s blindness to deceive him, which would seem to fit with the themes of self-suppression in this episode. “Locke” is likely significant as well.

    (Also, I can’t get over the protagonist named Paul Ryan. They had no way of knowing, of course, but it’s still pretty darn funny.)

    2) Do the other characters have arcs as clearly defined as Rebecca? Reading this review I get the impression this is a character study rather than an ensemble show.

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  2. [Note: Noah posted this comment on September 30, 2014.]

    Thanks, Boscalyn. I can’t think of a response I would’ve wanted to hear more.

    1) I’ve thought about that a good bit bit, especially because of comments and events that occur later in the series, but I haven’t settled on a specific reference yet. I’m blanking on the story of Rebecca in the Bible (there are so many women who trick their husbands in that thing) at the moment, so when I get a chance to review the text at length I’ll tell you what I think. It sounds right, though. She’s veiling herself to hide her identity… I think Becky George is non-referential, though, so that it’s hidden from this world of pain and darkness as the character was. It’s a normal, innocent name.

    I had the same reaction to Paul’s full name as you did. Jay Harrington even looks a tiny bit like him.

    2) It is a character study, among other things, but it focuses on Rebecca with Web and Paul coming in just behind (and looking over either shoulder). There are episodes in which the killer is “Paul’s demon”, and one amazing episode specifically about Web. Danny and Mel are never developed as much, but they still have a few interesting moments.

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  3. [Note: Justin posted this comment on October 1, 2014.]

    What a beautiful review. The way you speak of this show I have never heard said about any crime drama series in my life. You’ve made me want to take a peek at this show.

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  4. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on October 1, 2014.]

    This is a fantastic review. It’s increased my appreciation for the show drastically. I picked up on some of what you were saying with regards to identity, but you drew connections I missed; I also enjoyed your analysis of the visual style of the show, although sadly the 240p videos I’m watching don’t really do much justice to what you describe.

    My one point of contention with the review is the score, which I believe is too generous. There are a few niggling flaws in this pilot and they’re mainly to do with genre, as the show struggles a little to differentiate itself from other ‘supercop’ shows. The worst, for me, is that within a matter of days Rebecca Locke cracks open a case that the team has been trying to deal with for, they say, a year – that makes her out to be more than a little superhuman. It would have been more credible if more time had passed between her introduction and the apprehension/shooting of the killer. There are also a few deductions I found a little implausible, and a few bits of information left out (how Locke discovered that Alvarez was bipolar) that should have been included. All in all, I think these flaws are enough to knock the score down to at least 90, A-.

    Nonetheless, this is a good little show and a spectacular review. Congratulations.

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  5. [Note: Noah posted this comment on October 1, 2014.]

    #3 Justin, Thank you kindly. I really believe this show is different from any other crime series. I hope you like it if you do decide to watch it!

    #4 Freudian, Thank you as well. It’s really a shame that we can’t view the series in better quality. There’s a lot of care put into the visuals throughout – they are painstakingly written into the scripts – and it detracts from the effects when it’s all pixelated and blurry.

    I vacillated quite wildly on the score. My original score was 91. The firs thing that made me change my mind was when I fully understood how brilliantly the episode was constructed, and how well it laid out the essential themes for the rest of the series. Every scene has meaning. Lines of dialog that I thought were merely functional turned out to be pertinent.

    With respect to the supercop qualm, which I understand, and shared at first to a degree throughout the show, I’ve ultimately decided that it misses the point. Why will become much more clear as the show and review progress. For now I will say that it conflates the literal and the symbolic.

    What ultimately makes this a great episode, though, is the power of Simon as a demon for Rebecca. It’s a wonderful metaphor, one I learned a lot from. This goes back somewhat to my comments on “Chosen” w/r to art, but I can say that I actually benefited from living in this episode. I recently moved to a new city to be a student there, and I felt a lot like Rebecca. Studying this episode showed me some things about what happens to me in this situation of being new in town, and how I change myself etc., that really helped me to not fall into the trap of feeling like nobody in my new environment.

    I really hope you enjoy the rest of the show – there are several extremely powerful episodes in the series, and these themes I talk about in the first review are deeply explored. I’ll be very interested to hear your take on the rest. Thanks for your kind words!

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  6. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on October 3, 2014.]

    So, I saw this review was up, and I looked forward to watching the episode so I could see what it was about. On youtube, crappy resolution and all, but okay.

    And then I watched it and five minutes in I realised I had already seen it. And not only had I been completely uninterested in watching the rest of the series, I had completely forgotten I had ever spent an hour watching it. Not a good sign.

    This is a fascinating review to read, most particularly because it describes something I just did not see despite having watched the same programme. I recognise -some- of what you write about, sure. The conflicting philosophies between Paul and Web and how they reflect on Rebecca and all that. The differing perspectives on Web. But I’d missed the most of the identity stuff, and my only thought on the first shots of LA were “Who let Minear at the flashy time-lapse stuff again?” I never spared the serial killer guy a second thought, because he’s a serial killer guy on a cop procedural show who seemed slated to be arrested/dead at the end of the hour and on first sight there seemed to be nothing to distinguish him from the dozens of woman-maiming serial killers that act as the dragons for modern-day fairytale knight cops to fight.

    I didn’t think the episode was bad for what it was, mind. I thought it was a very decent procedural. But since I don’t really care for most procedurals and I didn’t really find it entertaining, and the characters were only mildly interesting at best, I forgot about it very quickly and certainly never bothered watching on.

    So now I’m curious. What were your first impressions of this show, Noah? Before you’d seen the rest of it, before you’d taken the time to analyse the overarching themes? Were you blown away by this episode right from the start, or more intrigued with potential it offered? Did seeing it in better graphical fidelity help? (Because I honestly wasn’t able to tell how good the actors were, since I could hardly make out their faces in all those grainy shadowed shots sometimes.)

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  7. [Note: Noah posted this comment on October 3, 2014.]

    I think that this episode is example number one in the argument for retrospective reviewing. My first reaction to it when I first saw the series two years ago was mixed. I saw hints of some interesting themes, and I could tell that the direction was excellent. If I had written a first reaction review I might have given an 85. It was only recently, upon seeing the series all the way through for a second time, and then really thinking about this episode that I understood it better. The key was realizing that Web is a much more complex person that I had given him credit for. Once I thought of that, and checked it with the evidence, then other things started to fall into place. As I watched this episode a couple times before and during writing I realized just how well put-together it is. Every scene has meaning, every line is in character, and the visuals and symbols are important.

    I actually haven’t seen it except for what’s available on YouTube. I don’t even know how to torrent. I’d love to see it in good quality.

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  8. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on October 3, 2014.]

    The quality of the episodes obtained via torrent is still only sub-DVD quality, but at least the image is cleaner and more consistent.

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  9. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on October 4, 2014.]

    Not to get into a philosophical argument again, because I’m sure none of us wants that, but the primary purpose of a pilot is to engage the viewer and persuade them to watch more, isn’t it? If it failed to grab you the first time, don’t you think that’s kind of a knock against the episode? It might be brilliant in retrospect, but …

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  10. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on October 4, 2014.]

    In general I agree, but considering that CT is specifically about retrospective reviews I’m not sure it applies.

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  11. [Note: Noah posted this comment on October 4, 2014.]

    That’s a good point, Freudian. While I wouldn’t say that the pilot failed to grab me – I was grabbed, just not hooked – it didn’t seem like an A+ on first glance. But for me, the primary purpose of the pilot is not to get people to watch the show but to succeed as a piece of work on its own terms and as part of the whole work of the show. (No argument coming, I promise!) In retrospect, I thought it did that brilliantly, especially in how it set up the rest of the series, and a world in which there are infinite possibilities for psychological exploration.

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  12. [Note: Noah posted this comment on October 8, 2014.]

    I’ve had a chance to refresh my memory on Biblical Rebecca, and the story doesn’t seem to track with The Inside in more than that she is deceitful with respect to her son’s identity. In any case, given some later parts of the show I think that her name has either no associations or some non-Biblical ones.

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  13. [Note: jun posted this comment on October 14, 2014.]

    Oh, I am happy to see this show getting some attention! I watched it when it aired (well, the portion of it that aired) and still wish somehow, someday that it’ll end up on DVD.

    Like

  14. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on February 8, 2016.]

    So I decided to rewatch this episode, since all five of the episodes available on YouTube are reviewed now.

    Some of the metaphor was a bit too on-the-nose for my taste: Web turning out the light immediately after saying “see the light” was pretty painful, and the rather literal baggage Rebecca brings in on her first day on the job is kind of obvious too. I also found Danny incredibly, incredibly annoying, although I’m not sure if it’s because his quips were irritatingly unfunny or because of a general antipathy on my part towards Adam Baldwin.

    Which isn’t to say there aren’t good bits in this episode, mainly in terms of directing. The shot of Rebecca knocked out while the tape plays above her head is gorgeous. I also dig the lighting when Paul confronts Web. It begins with both in perfect half-shadow, but the scene ends with Paul’s face completely lit, and Web spends much of the next scene with his face entirely in shadow. Wonderful noir stuff. And I love love love the flashbacks in that Web/Rebecca scene, where we see her go from detached observer to full-on empath, and the women in the flashbacks speak in time with her dialogue accordingly. Neat stuff.

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  15. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on February 8, 2016.]

    Other notes on etymology:

    > The victims might have relevant names. One of them is named Beatrice, which is so atypical of an 80’s kid that there’s no way she’s not meant to be a matching set with Virgil Webster.
    > Donna Burton’s first name literally just means “woman,” which is sort of fitting for someone reduced just to her sex. Is it a stretch to say that Burton is supposed to be a homonym for “burden?” Probably.
    > Simon is an odd name in the context of this episode. For one, there are two apostles named Simon (one of whom changed his name to Peter– hey, a parallel!), but the Bible also gives us Simon the leper, Simon the charlatan, and Simon the daughter of Mary Magdalene. Which makes it useless as an identifier, and thus perfect for the empty name tag on a nobody’s uniform. It’s also curious in that its literal meaning is “he listens,” given that such emphasis is placed on listening in the first half of the episode.

    Also, I’m interested that the “demon” who turns people into nobody is so strongly associated with CCTV. Since you are a noted Chomsky humper, it’s not a stretch to assume you’re familiar with Foucault’s panopticon? The basic idea of which being that the prospect of constant surveillance acts as a means of individual suppression. Seems relevant in this particular episode.

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  16. [Note: Noah posted this comment on February 9, 2016.]

    Some of the metaphor was a bit too on-the-nose for my taste: Web turning out the light immediately after saying “see the light” was pretty painful, and the rather literal baggage Rebecca brings in on her first day on the job is kind of obvious too. I also found Danny incredibly, incredibly annoying, although I’m not sure if it’s because his quips were irritatingly unfunny or because of a general antipathy on my part towards Adam Baldwin.

    Hm, I didn’t find Web turning out the light painful. I thought it was kind of a joke on his part, posturing.

    Also, I’m interested that the “demon” who turns people into nobody is so strongly associated with CCTV. Since you are a noted Chomsky humper, it’s not a stretch to assume you’re familiar with Foucault’s panopticon? The basic idea of which being that the prospect of constant surveillance acts as a means of individual suppression. Seems relevant in this particular episode.

    I have some familiarity with the topic, though not actually from reading Foucault. I haven’t read any Foucault yet. The premise of the panopticon as I understand it is that you conform to the rules because you know that the guard could be watching you at any time. In that sense, I can see it fitting in with the idea of conforming your identity to what other people see you as because you’re afraid of the punishment of social rejection. But I’m not sure how it would apply to Simon, since the women don’t know he’s watching them.

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