E: Now this might be more like it. I enjoyed this mystery much more than I expected – I’m not sure that I can quantify or explain why, even. If nothing else, The Glades is a pretty engaging show, brimming with confidence. Matt Passmore, as detective Jim Longworth, pulls you along with his cheery certainty. Even when he acknowledges he needs help, he’s positive about it. There’s something weirdly endearing about this self-proclaimed homicide expert, and the way he barrels through everyone else’s objections and schemes with a perfect, joyful clarity.
The show sinks right into to its milieu: a pair of teens wake up in their car, only to find a headless corpse in the swamp where they parked. It’s lush and green, and danger lurks under the surface like the famous Florida gators. Longworth’s partner, Mike, pulls both Jim and the medical examiner away from a game of golf. Jim came south to play more golf and he’s pretty grouchy about the intrusion; he cordons off the ball, insisting it’s part of a murder investigation. Throughout the episode we watch the passing of time as the sun sets and rises over the golf ball in it’s police tape corral.
Soon, Jim’s pussyfooting around in the swamp, and gets bitten by a gator for his trouble. The bite (aside from preventing him from getting back to his golf game) brings him in contact with nurse/medical student Callie Cargill (Kiele Sanchez), who charms him immediately with her dry, fiesty wit and indifference. Somehow the fact that she comes with an imprisoned husband and a whip-smart 12 year old son doesn’t chase Jim off, either. He comes back to get a woman’s perspective on aspects of the crime, and taking son Jeff (Uriah Shelton) fishing. Jim and Callie have a nicely charged chemistry and the more they spar verbally, the more bigger his grin gets. He’s all about the challenge.
The case, of course, is challenging as well. Could the woman be local, if no one’s reported her missing? Could she be a tourist? He asks a lot of personal questions, mostly off target – he gets up in the teen couple’s faces about their relationship, and there’s some misdirection about racist tagging. He’s jovially invasive, informing the teenage boy, Justin, that this is what cops do; they ask every question they can think of until they finally ask the one that leads to the revelation. Most of what he asks is surely none of his business and likely to be unrelated to the case. I can see why it pisses people off, but it’s weirdly nice to see a tv cop be thorough; I usually can think of about 30 more questions to ask a witness than the average tv cop does. His questions take him to the herpetology department of (fictional?) Tampa Tech; a young scientist named Daniel Green agrees helps identify the tooth the medical examiner found embedded in the corpse.
Later the herpetologist (Jordan Wall) and Jim go on a hunt for the gator who ate the victim’s head. Jim whips out his gun and shoots the beast so they can take it in to a very reluctant coroner. “That animal’s protected!” squeals Green, aghast . “Well, then how come I had such a clear shot?” Jim asks reasonably.
And that’s Jim Longworth; smooth, reasonable, pleased with himself and convinced of his own rightness. In a world of dour noir detectives, Longworth’s sunny self-confidence charms. Passmore reminds me somehow of Grey’s Anatomy‘s George O’Malley. No, he’s not sweet like George, or bashful, but he looks enough like T.R. Knight to play his brother. Somebody should get on that; I miss seeing T.R.! Either way, that wins points with me. It might even make me think Jim’s nicer than he really is. Or that could be the puppy dog eyes and the disarming smile, I don’t know. Passmore appears to be a Kiwi (New Zealand is now officially part of the recent trend of casting Brits and Aussies to headline American shows), which must be why I’ve never heard of any of the shows on his filmography. His coworkers find him irritating, including the former boss who shot him, his golf buddy the coroner (Carlos Gomez as Carlos Sanchez), and his partner, played John Carroll Lynch, a character actor recognizable from nearly a hundred different roles – but largely memorable to me as Drew Carey’s sitcom brother, Steve Carey. The one who married Mimi, right? Shudder.
There are issues, of course. Why didn’t they drag the swamp? Can you not drag a swamp? All the questions about the teenage kids sex lives get a little invasive and uncomfortable. I’m glad that Jim’s thorough, but did he really think it mattered to the murder whether the girl was a virgin or not? The red herrings here are compelling, and distract maybe too much from the actual plot, which blindsides the audience. Like Veronica Mars, Jim Longworth is smarter than us. Just ask him! He gets into a snit with Ogletree over his unwillingness to wear the uniform (something the show eschews for him because he just looks so much better in a t-shirt and jeans) and his general smart-assery. “Why should I take sh*t from you?” wonders Ogletree, who technically ought to be Longworth’s boss. “Because I’m a better cop than you,” Longworth says with a guileless smile. He’s not going to work any less at his job because it makes the less competence around him feel inadequate.
Still, in the end, the resolution was pretty satisfying. You figure out who the killer is – and the identity of the victim – a split second before the show tells you, and there’s that delicious moment of “of course!” paired with “holy crap, really?” that a good mystery can give you. And then, there’s the fact that the show has a resident herpetologist. Come on, you’ve got to love that. That’s pretty cool. All in all, it’s far from perfect, but the charm and force of personality carries you through. That’s what makes a little show called The Mentalist, after all, and that’s a pretty nice comparison. As long as this show finds its pacing, the audience ought to come. After all, it’s a pretty fun ride. Just ask Jim – he’ll tell you.