Monday, January 29, 2024

The Irrational: Scorched Earth

Many hospitals simply are not equipped with full state-of-the art burn units. That is one of the important take-aways from the documentary, To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story, wherein the horror icon frankly discusses his recover from severe burn injuries. Dr. Alec Mercer, the behavioral psychologist, can relate. He has returned to the unit that treated him to counsel a new burn patient. While talking to her, he concludes she was a victim of arson in “Scorched Earth,” the mid-season return of The Irrational, which premieres tonight on NBC.

Unfortunately, Mercer understands fire only too well. Even though the teen blames herself for partying in an abandoned house (with candles—always a bad idea kids), he knows the flame spread is all wrong. Once he prods the out-of-his-depth deputy fire investigator to take another look, arson is confirmed. Obviously, that prompts the question: who is the guilty culprit?

Mercer, his unpaid teaching assistants, and ex-girlfriend FBI Agent Marissa Clark duly work their way through the procedural stuff. By now, investigating with Clark is not so awkward because Mercer has a new love-interest (traveling abroad for this episode). Most viewers will start rolling their eyes when they hear a local church was interested in the torched property, but
The Irrational seems to have a knack for using annoying cliches as red herrings.

In fact, this episode teases a potential plot twist that could be incredibly gutsy—and downright shocking for network television. Most critics will despise, but its inherent logic (in accordance with Mercer’s theories) is what makes it such potentially compelling drama.

Be that as it may, the compassion Mercer exhibits for his fellow burn victim gives this episode a lot of heart. Jesse L. Martin turns these scenes quite nicely. He really is a genuine TV star, in the way his screen charisma wears so well, week after week. Again, he also deserves massive credit for portraying Mercer with visible facial burn scars. In “Scorched Earth,” viewers also see the burn scars on his back. Not a lot of actors could handle appearing like that.

This is nicely written episode that should hook lapsed viewers back into the series. It also teases a potentially dynamite direction for future episodes. Recommended for fans of TV detectives and head-shrinking sleuths, “Scorched Earth” premieres tonight (1/29) on NBC (and streams the next day on Peacock).