BLOOD AND OIL REVIEW: “DEPARTURES”

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Blood-and-Oil
Airtime: Sunday at 9 PM ET on ABC.

Tweetable Takeaway: “Blood & Oil” delivers an overloaded episode to wrap up their run.


It’s here; the “Season” finale of BLOOD & OIL.  I put season in quotation marks because for all intents and purposes this was the series finale, and the minds behind the show treated it as such.  Blood & Oil has in part been defined by two dramatically different speeds and “Departures” was an excellent representation of why that simply did not work.

For the first half of the show we were treated to a narrative that can only be described as sluggish.  It felt like it took them forty-five minutes to get through a piece of story another show would have gotten through in ten.  Intriguing plots were conceived but always shunted into the corner in favor of painfully drawn melodrama.  The show wasn’t going anywhere, and audiences responded.  Blood & Oil’s episode count was cut from thirteen to ten due to lackluster ratings despite a prime Sunday night time slot.

After the episode count was cut the writers and producers threw it into another gear.  We started to see plot taking precedence over character and, because of the show’s soapy roots, this was a positive.  Even if Blood & Oil didn’t offer the artistic quality of Jessica Jones or Fargo, it at least became more entertaining too watch.  However, Blood got into a jam near the end of their run as the speedy pacing caught up to the glut of character and story introduced in the languorous first half.

The finale, “Departures,” is the perfect example of the trouble the show ran into.  They felt like they had to wrap up every storyline and crammed each one into the show’s final forty-five.  The result was a quickly paced installment, but one without any depth as there was simply no time to focus on any of the more emotionally loaded storylines.

Let’s break this down one by one:

Cody and Billy

When we last left them Cody had stormed out of the Tack Room after witnessing Billy and Emma locked in a tongue tied embrace.  She confronts Billy about his adulterous kiss and he actually uses the “she kissed me” line.  Cody offers Billy an ultimatum: me or the oil business.  She gives him until that night, which happens to be Christmas Eve, to decide whether to give up the oil business and go back to Florida, or give up her and stay in Rock Springs.  Billy’s been a pretty bad oilman and Cody has been quite forgiving of his faults so the choice is obvious, except to Billy.  And it doesn’t help that the biggest deal of his short is in the pipeline.

Hap and Wick

The manner in which Blood & Oil wraps up Hap and Wick’s relationship is possibly one of the weirdest things I have ever seen on television.  Lacey shows Hap her evidence confirming that Wick committed the rig robbery.  Hap corners Wick at the family Christmas gathering and apologizes for his faults as a father before, PULLING A GUN ON WICK!  Wow, that was a tone shift.  Hap forces Wick to confess to the robbery before tossing the gun aside and accepting the responsibility for Wick’s actions due to his terrible parenting.  This blew my mind, and not in a good way.  Why does Hap pull the gun when his feelings after tossing it away are the same as before he drew the pistol?  The act of using the gun to threaten Wick means nothing to how Hap feels and instead causes a massive tone shift that completely alienates the viewer.

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Oil Deal

The land deal for the oil underneath the Native American reservation is the most important plot of the night and they fold it into the character drama fairly well.  At first, Whitecloud informs Hap and Annie that she is rejecting their separate bids so her community can test the market.  My favorite part of the episode is when Alex uses the promise of the land deal to manipulate Billy after learning of Cody’s plans to run away.  They finally found some real use for Alex and it adds a great wrinkle to Billy and Cody’s relationship.  Unfortunately, it is somewhat spoiled by Billy’s lack of intelligence.  He knows that Alex wants Cody.  Wouldn’t it make sense that he would be a bit wary of a “too good to be true” proposal from a guy that wants to break up his marriage?  The deal moves forward but at the last second Annie decides to bring on Hap and his contingent.  It is never revealed why she makes this decision.  The most logical reason is that the producers needed a way to get them in the same room at the end of the episode.

Jules

Carla pays a Private Investigator for Jules’ medical records and discovers that she is pregnant.  Carla thinks the child is Hap’s and confronts Jules and offers her a hefty amount of money to take the child and leave Rock Springs.  Jules has the paternity results, but we don’t initially know whose child it is and Jules doesn’t confirm one way or the other.  Later on Jules takes the deal before meeting with Wick.  She reveals that the child is Wick’s and pleads with him to run away with her and the baby.  Wick agrees and the happy couple depart.  While Wick and Jules might not last too long due to the whole “You had an affair with my father” baggage, at least Jules got the last laugh in her war with Carla.

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AJ and his son

I don’t know why this was in here.  We haven’t heard anything about AJ’s son for at least three weeks and now, when much more important things are going on, they decide to pop it back in?  During a phone call with his son, AJ hears yelling followed by a gunshot.  He deduces that his son has been murdered and bursts into Hap’s office.  Hap listens to the recording and picks out a whistle in the background.  He surmises that it sounds just like a shift change whistle and since the Saudis don’t use shift change whistles on their rigs, AJ’s son must be near one of the Briggs rigs.  Tip brings in the entire Rock Springs police department and they find AJ’s son in a house near one of Hap’s rigs.  This storyline wraps up with little explanation and effort, but from what we’ve seen from Blood & Oil it inspires little surprise.

My biggest issue with “Departures” is how easily everything wraps up.  Billy gets everything he wants.  He signs the deal after learning that Whitecloud offered the Annie/Hap contingent with no strings attached and meets Cody just in the nick of time.  Wick makes up with Hap while he and Jules ride off into the sunset.  Also, the whole thing with FBI seems to just melt away.  Everyone gets exactly what they want with no caveats.  It was an immensely boring way to end a dreadfully mismanaged show.

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William O’Sullivan is a writer and movie buff who’s currently searching for a good dive bar with a pool table.

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