Written by Frank Pugliese
Directed by Michael Lehmann.
When the powers that be decided to schedule the episodes of Homicide they would often shift episodes ahead of each other in the sequence. This would lead into the problems with continuity but also disrupted the rhythm of how the show should have proceeded. The most obvious problem would arise with the episode: ‘The Night of the Dead Living’ Originally scheduled to be the third episode of the season, it instead became the last. There are two possible reasons for the shift. The first was that they may have thought that the ending of this episode is more upbeat and better fitting of the finale than the depressing last scene of ‘Smoke gets In Your Eyes’. The second and more likely reason is that the
minimalist approach and static atmosphere might have been considered off-putting, especially for a new show struggling for an audience.
Indeed, when I first saw this show (out of sequence) much like ‘Three Men And Adena, I didn’t think a great deal of it. Really, a police drama with no crime or criminal activity? Where the biggest threat is a man dressed as Santa with a water pistol? Where the most deductive energy is exerted in finding out who lights the candle at the start of every shift? This is borderline heresy. But that is the reason Homicide was such a brilliant and daring show.
The episode has the atmosphere of a play. The only scene that takes place outside the squad room is the penultimate scene. And for once, the normal pressure that hangs over the show is turned from full steam to a slow boil. Most of the tension form this episode arises from the scalding heat that fills the entire squad room. (I find it a little hard to believe that it would be so hot in September, but then given the rise of global warming it seems plausible.) Even the Adena Watson case seems to be somewhat less important— to everyone except Bayliss. The young detective has managed to make some strides in getting past his early shock, but things haven’t improved much. His big lead on the library book found at Kirke Avenue leads to a humiliation in front of the squad, and Pembleton, who was cutting behind Bayliss’ back before is now really derivative. He says that Bayliss will never be a good murder police because he doesn’t have a killers mind. More than that, he thinks that Bayliss is wasting his time over the Araber (who has now emerged as the main suspect). He will earn some respect with his new idea about where the body was found, but the problems between Bayliss and Pembleton will not go away.
But aside from this, the other detectives find themselves involved with more trivial things. Munch is upset over his on again, off again relationship with Felicia which has (temporarily as it turns out) been ended and is also irked by Bolander’s insistence that his old partner, Mitch was far superior a detective. (This will turn out to be true, though we will not meet Mitch until the third season). Bolander is still trying to work up the nerve to call Dr. Blythe for a date Howard is upset because her sister has been diagnosed with a lump on her breast. Felton’s marriage seems to be in trouble (though it has not yet spun into disaster) Crosetti is concerned about his daughters intention to sleep with her boyfriend. Lewis and Felton are determined to figure out who is the individual responsible for lighting a candle at the beginning of every shift. And everyone is stunned when a baby in a cage is seemingly abandoned. We are paid a visit by Officer Thormann (pre-shooting) a cleaning lady and a rampaging Santa, but otherwise the basic drama involves the nine principals.
We get a great deal of insight to the characters. Bolander, coming off a divorce after a twenty-three year marriage, is scared at trying to find a love at an age when most men have given up. Crosetti is the dedicated father trying to adjust to the fact that his daughter is no longer the little child he once knew. Howard is, for all her role in a field dominated by men, still cares very deeply about her identity as a woman. Munch, despite his berating women, has a very romantic side that will get him into trouble again and again. (On a side note, how many times has Munch been married? He has mentioned two divorces but later he will claim three wives; in fact he names three women when talking about his marriage) In addition, as it turns out, he has a sentimental side despite his cynicism. We get a vital part of these characters even though at this point we don’t really know them that well yet.
Nothing really happens in ‘The Night Of The Dead Living’ The characters are not yet involved in any of the activities that fill the show. Yet when the episode is over, we have been amused and feel like we have seen a great deal into how the murder people think when they are not investigating murders. Its understandable that it was shown out of sequence (this is very different) but it shows some of the experiments that the creators would be willing to examine.