Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Review: My Own Worst Enemy (mild spoilers)

Yes, yes -- this is us, so we only get around to watching the series after it's cancelled. Still, it was worth watching, and therefore worth reviewing. No deep story details below, but I do talk about broadly what's going on. (Most of which is revealed in the first episode or two.)

My Own Worst Enemy was a short-lived (9 episodes) TV series that aired last year, starring Christian Slater and Christian Slater. And a bunch of other people, but mostly Christian Slater. It fits alongside such fine stories of the past as John Doe and Nowhere Man, in the genre of "sci-fi suspense series about people with massively wacked-out identities, that don't make it past one season". (Which, now that I put it that way, bodes ill for Dollhouse.)

Anyway, the high concept requires a bit of WSOD -- an ordinary guy by the name of Henry Spivey wakes up one day to discover that he is *also* a super-spy by the name of Edward Albright. Henry finds out that he is an alternate personality, implanted to give Edward some subconscious normalcy in his life so that he doesn't flip out. Really, the reason for the arrangement is irrelevant and hand-waved: the story is about what happens when things break down. You see, the spy agency implanted a chip in his head, which allows them to control when Henry is active and when Edward is. Now, however, the chip has broken, and he is flipping between personalities seemingly at random.

Henry is a nice, ordinary family guy; Edward is a ruthless killer and a bit of a sociopath; however, part of the joy of the series is the two of them discovering that neither is quite that simplistic. Slater does a brilliant job with the acting (indeed, my respect for him goes way up with this story) -- without ever chewing the scenery, you can always tell which personality is active, just through his body language and intonation. Henry is just plain *normal*, with the tension and irritation of everyday life pervading him; Edward is just a tad sinister, always slightly sneering, never willing to show fear or even uncertainty.

Despite the impossibility of the two of them being in the same place at the same time, the most interesting interactions in the story are between Edward and Henry. Early on, Edward programs his cellphone to be a fingerprint-activated video-messaging device, and the two of them spend much of the series leaving messages -- often very angry ones -- for each other. Edward is generally pissed at Henry for nearly getting them killed on missions; Henry has a lot of trouble with the fact that Edward is occasionally sleeping with his wife. (And teaching her new sexual positions.)

Mind, despite the silly concept and occasional blackly funny situations, this is in no way a comedy -- indeed, it's a bit dark even by spy-series standards. Much of the tension comes from the fact that, should The Powers That Be find out that Edward is "broken", he will be deemed a liability (indeed, a threat to national security) and ... removed. So only his closest associates know his situation, and they are collectively working very hard to keep their boss from finding out. The result is that Henry is frequently challenged to not only succeed in Edward's shoes, but do so without letting on how out of his depth he is.

Rounding out the story is a substantial supporting cast. Of these, the most delicious is Raymond / Tom -- Edward's partner and Henry's best friend, who is entirely unaware of his dual-identity status. Raymond is every bit the one-dimensional psychopath that Edward gradually proves not to be, but makes a good foil for Henry, and Tom's own situation gradually gets more complicated over the course of the series. (Which mostly drives home how inane the premise is, but it makes for good stories.)

Overall, a good solid piece of slightly genre fiction -- yet another entry in the long list of series that I wish had survived, because I was curious where they were going with it. But while it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, the nine episodes that did air stand reasonably well on their own: you can think of it as book one of a good trilogy that never got finished. Christian Slater manages to make the ride worthwhile, so it's mildly recommended, provided you are willing to look past the sheer silliness of the idea...
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