vixenmage: Vimes, lighting a cigar with a dragon; from Wikipedia (Vimes)
[personal profile] vixenmage
Spoiler Warning! Last week's Terra Nova, and this one.

So, I've been watching this new show, it's got dinosaurs and Stephen Lang in. The premise is thus: in the year AD 2149, the Earth has become so utterly dystopian and polluted that life is nigh-on unbearable-- one of the characters, describing the world and escape from't, says "Three of my friends killed themselves junior year. You can't even imagine it, there's no hope, there is nothing to believe in." The skies are darkened, the air is unbreathable, it is strongly implied that war and bio-terrorism have wreaked their havoc, and then, as put by another character, in Humanity's Darkest Hour, we found a way. There was a portal through time, to billions of years past, into the Ice Age. The premise, character-driven, is thus-- there is a man, a police officer, with a family, a genius doctor wife, and three kids. That last is important, because it is illegal to have a third kid, and at the start of the series, he has just broken out of prison for that crime, to join his family in pilgrimage through the time-portal (she's a genius doctor, thus very much wanted on that frontier).

See, that first paragraph breaks up the spoiler warning and the actual spoiler text in case, as Neil Gaiman puts it, your eye does that thing where it just sort of wanders downwards. (It also sets premise for those who might be interested, for some ludicrous reason, in reading my meandering thoughts, but don't particularly care to watch Terra Nova.)

Now, here's the thing. I have been, in the past, compared to a certain character, Sam Vimes, the Duke of Ankh or somesuch, and a bunch of other titles, but mostly, he's an officer of The Law. Not of the Patrician, not of the city, not of the king or the palace or any estate, but of The Law. (Much like, it has been pointed out to me, journalists, in the idealistic sense, serve The Truth. Ideally, they do not care a whit for who is in power, who is the authority. They are suspicious of power and authority. They care about The Truth, not who it happens to effect. They also tend to, much like Vimes points out in his own books, hang around down the street from the office after they are retired, drink in the same bars, and never really let go of things. I don't know if this is the truth, but I figure it makes sense. ANYWAY, off the tangent.)

The thing that I have in common with Sam Vimes is that... well, it's a Thing. I don't much care who's got the Big Name, or whose name is on the ownership of the channel, or who the administrator is, or whether a coworker is the manager's favorite, or a fellow manager for that matter, or whatever. There are bloody rules, and they get bloody followed. And nobody, but nobody, gets to lord it over anybody else. Nobody's better than anybody else. (Also, much like Vimes, every time I seem to be getting somewhere, I bloody well open my mouth. Every single item on that list has gotten me in trouble at some point. Because no, I don't care if you are a shift manager and the GM loves you, you don't come back behind the counter and steal food. No, I don't care if you are the channel admin, you don't block people without due process. No, I don't care if they're "blue collar" and "low class" and whatever else, they have the same rights as you, and their soul is exactly as good as yours. Yes, that last makes me see red.) I'm not Sam Vimes. Not at all. I don't ever intend to be a cop, and "It's Me Doing It" is not a reason for some things. But 'twas Sam Vimes and Night Watch that pulled me out of a bleak and dry look on life, a la Reg Shoe.

Anyway. Jim Shannon (the aforementioned cop) is not Sam Vimes, and Col. Nathaniel Taylor (more or less overseer of the colony in the Seriously Distant Past) is not Havelock Vetinari. I could kinda see it, for Shannon, if I squint, on the surface. He's a family man, leapt in front of a knife to save his youngest, and a cop at heart, not interested in doing much else. Buuuut there was very definitely something a bit awry, I thought. It's a different Trope. (Vimes is an entire index to himself, yes.) Taylor skates a bit close to Vetinari-like passion, but he's no Vetinari-- he's an Action Hero with idealistic hopes for humanity, not a... Vetinari.

Then came last week's episode. A murder, for the first time, in Terra Nova. A young soldier was having an affair, and it is suspected that the woman's husband killed him (by dinosaur, a novel murder weapon, it must be admitted). So, when he has confessed (he does this almost immediately, a thing that would have had Vimes raising an eyebrow, I could not help but note), Shannon and Lt. Wash take the confession to Taylor, who realizes that he now has to decide whether or not to enforce the punishment, which is banishment from the colony-- not quite certain death, but pretty damned close. He walks away with a heavy stride, it is quite the burden to put on one man's shoulders.

One man. One man decides the fate of one other man. It's frontier justice, as Shannon's wife, Elizabeth, points out. "You say that like it's a bad thing!" Jim replies. He's serious. The legal system back in 2149 was a nightmare-- anyone could buy their way out of anything. So he sees One Man, One Vote (Vetinari was the Man, so he got the Vote) as... progress. Or something. And the next morning, Taylor, before the entire colony, banishes the man. His wife weeps on the sidelines, and Shannon belatedly realizes that he may have made a rather big mistake. After confronting the man outside colony gates, he realizes that he did make a mistake-- the man confessed to save his wife, who he believed had committed the murder after the soldier broke it off with her. Turns out she broke it off with the soldier, realizing she loved her husband more than a young idiot who just hung out with his friends and gambled. ...Gambled, Jim asks? Yeah, at the bar Boylen runs a gambling rig. It's illegal, but all the soldiers do it anyway.

Well, shit. Taylor just damn-near executed an innocent man, in front of the entire colony, quite a few of whom were obviously (and in one case, vocally) uncomfortable with that decision. He can't exactly just take it back-- his reputation is at stake, here, and being the leader of a colony with rebels in the walls is Kind Of A Bad Thing. Obviously, the right thing to do is, firstly, to pull the guy back in and rip Jim a new one-- do a full investigation, you idiot, don't just take the first confession as given; also, you need a few more cops under you, and you need to be damn clear that there are laws here. (Seriously. What are the laws? They must've been made clear at some point, but I missed that. Did Taylor put Jim up as a cop without giving him a set of laws to uphold? What is he, just an officer of Order? Bah.) So they set off to investigate the gambling, and after a few feints, Taylor and Shannon set off with one of the young soldiers, a friend of the victim, to chase someone who ran into the jungle.

Somewhere along the way, they stop and get out (I forget why). And then Taylor reveals that the soldier with them owed the victim rather a lot of money. The soldier denies it, taking a few steps back. He owed some money, sure, but he'd never kill his friend... and Taylor says "Yeah? Look into my eyes and tell me you didn't kill him." The kid takes another step back, and pulls the gun-- at Taylor. Who raises an eyebrow, as it clicks uselessly. Aaaand then proceeds to beat the shit out of the kid, who's protesting all the while that he didn't do it. Until Taylor pulls the hard (read: paper, off the electronic system) copy of Boylen's books out of his jacket. They couldn't find it in the investigation, because the kid swiped it right off the bat, knowing it would condemn him. And, with evidence in hand, Taylor leaves the kid there, bruised and with a useless gun, in the jungle. It's more of a chance than his victim got, he tells Shannon, and he won't lose any sleep over it.

Shannon, back home tiptoes into the living room and sits down with his wife and youngest girl, who are watching an egg hatch, enraptured. (After telling his son that he can keep the job at Boylen's place-- but he should've told them. No secrets in this family, he says, after enacting frontier justice without anything even RESEMBLING a trial on a murderer, and never mentioning a word to his wife.)

Jim Shannon, you fucking hypocrite.

If he was guilty (which he was, I think the writers leave us in no doubt), a trial would've proved that. You... you don't get to just *decide*. Not even for ~The Good of the Colony, dude. You don't. It is never, ever okay to just ...prosecute. The answer to a corrupt justice system is not no justice system.

The weird thing is that I hold Shannon more responsible than Taylor. He just stood there, watching, while the commander beat up a suspect (still a suspect, without a trial), then left him in the jungle to die (technically. It is survivable, ish.) and walked. I have been trying to figure out why. They were both wrong, why do I feel that Shannon was more wrong? He didn't throw a punch, just stood there.

For one, I guess, it comes down to that. He just stood there. The only thing worse than someone doing something that wrong and violent is an apathetic bystander. If he believed the dude was guilty, he should've been doing something. If he didn't, he should've stopped Taylor. Just... standing there, that's unacceptable.

And that-- I suppose I looked too hard for a Vimes, but he's supposed to be an officer of the Law. He's supposed to be looking for justice, and no, 'frontier justice' doesn't count. I expect leaders to be broken. I expect them to try for the quickest, cleanest solution to the problem (publicly speaking; Taylor's lucky he's got no press to deal with), and I expect them to think 'justice' is 'he did it, let's do it back to 'im.' But the reason the Law is there is to, at least on some level, level the playing field between those with power and those without. Leaders, yeah, they do questionable shit. The Law, the Vimes, is there to go "Hey, stop that. You are not the law, and you are not above the law."

That's what it comes down to. We're all broken. I expect leaders to be broken in one way, I expect them to be corrupted by power, in a way. I expect the Vimes (it's an archetype, okay?) to step in and stop that from happening. To take what steps are necessary. Jim Shannon, what you are enforcing is not the law. It is Taylor. Repeat after me. Commander Taylor = human = fallible.

And then there's the fact that he didn't even with Taylor about Mira's daughter, either. So he's keeping secrets from Taylor, a la Mira, keeping secrets from his family, a la Taylor. This can only end well.

I should make it clear that it's the characterization here that I'm raising an eyebrow at-- and not in a bad way. It's well done, so far, and I do like the dynamics set up, for the most part, and look forward to further watching the writers and actors do their stuff. But my head is going crazy with the fanfic interpretations-- I'm thinking about an AU Jim Shannon... very, very dark. Perhaps Taylor, too, but as per that last paragraph, perhaps not. Or not as much. We'll see!
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