It’s the holiday season, and that means going rogue and hacking into Chinese Central Command on this week’s episode of MACGYVER, “Scissors.” This episode took a spin out into unusual territory for the show – the episode starts with Bozer and Riley, not on a mission, but preparing a holiday meal. Viewers might be left a little confused as to whether or not this is a normal episode of MacGyver and not some unexpected Christmas special until the show hits the opening credits. Because up until that point, I was left asking myself, “Where’s the action? What’s the mystery?”
It turns out the action this week is Riley-induced. When she suddenly goes missing and the NSA gets hacked simultaneously, Patricia and the NSA both suspect Riley. It’s up to Mac, Jack, and Bozer to find Riley and figure out what’s going on before the government does. It’s an interesting take, because we aren’t given any warning that she’s going to do this. One minute she’s in the kitchen with Bozer, helping him prepare a holiday meal, and the next second she’s gone. This leaves the audience to wonder alongside Mac whether or not she’s truly guilty of the crime. Is she just another Nikki? Of course, I doubt any viewer would truly bite into the idea that Riley is just Nikki-point-two. First of all, that would be such a boring cop-out to have two hackers-turned-secret-villains in a row, and secondly, Riley is way too cool and justice-oriented to be a true bad guy.
Other on-running flaws of the show that became very apparent in this particular episode include the mysterious gray-area of time that just doesn’t seem to pass in consistent intervals. Riley disappears from Bozer’s house and all of a sudden the NSA is hacked and China might be declaring war on America and Riley – as we soon find out – is in Canada. How does that happen so quickly? Surely time has passed, but we’re given very little acknowledgment that this is the case, and so we’re left in this disorienting haze of fantastical time-travel. The other apparent issue is the fact that somehow, exactly what Mac needs is always within arm’s reach when he needs it. I have this same complaint about Toodles and the Mousekatools that Mickey conveniently always has on hand for every Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode (if you can’t tell, there are little kids in my family). But Mac isn’t Mickey Mouse and his inventions aren’t supposed to be the equivalent of a Mousekatool. The original MacGyver always made it seem as though he was inventing tools and weapons out of the things he had on hand. It never seemed like he just conveniently had what he needed when he needed it. Perhaps this is a flaw that could be remedied by showing us a little more of the connection between Mac searching for ideas on what to do and actually building his invention. If we could see him looking around at what’s available, and then coming up with the invention to solve his problem, it would seem less magical and mystical and more realistic.
But these are inherent flaws in the show that, for the most part, I’m willing to set aside my disbelief for, because the stories have gotten much better over the course of the season, this one not withstanding. It’s a good episode for the most part. The little bit of mystery right there at the beginning is intriguing, if not overwhelmingly unusual and confusing, and the episode shines a huge spotlight on Riley as a character, her backstory, and her relationship with her mother and Jack. I’ve always said this show fails the most when it ignores its characters and their development for more action-packed scenes. And this episode certainly takes its character’s emotional development to heart.
That’s not to say there isn’t any action – this episode has Riley, Mac, and Jack breaking into a Chinese government building, only to discover they’ve walked right into Chinese Central Command. There’s quite a bit of unique inventing and sneaking around to get to the main server room to ‘unhack’ the hacking that Riley was forced to do earlier in the show. All the while, the threat of World War III looms over everyone’s head. Of course it’s off-the-wall fantastical, but it’s fun. And the siren that Mac builds is pretty stinking cool.
So what’s in store for the team come the new year? Will we finally reach that comfortable spot where the show goes, “Okay, this is who I am, very clearly and every time”? I’m not sure, but I’ll be curious to see how each episode keeps evolving the show.
Season 1, Episode 11 (S01E11)
MacGyver airs Fridays at 8PM on CBS
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
Keep up with all of Tasha’s reviews here.
Tasha Cerny | Contributor