Goodbye Susannah

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"[Contains slutty trees and SPOILERS!!!]

After finishing NTSF:SD:SUV::, I was left jonesing for more “short form” crime comedy, and started working my way through its close-cousin Eagleheart (2011 to 2014). At first I was concerned that the two shows might be too similar, since they were both riff on roughly the same genre (i.e., the crime-fighting team procedural), but Eagleheart is a much stranger, darker, and bloodier beast than NTSF ever was, skewing closer to the trippy horror of The Heart, She Holler… especially in its epic third (and final?) season. One of the main strengths/joys of watching this show is the dumbfounding ways in which seemingly routine and familiar case-related plotlines can take weird little detours on their way to the “solve”, or just spiral off into full-tilt insanity.

Beyond the plentiful yuks/yucks, my main point of interest here was the representation of the team’s token female member, “Junior Lady-Marshal” ‘Susie Wagner’, played by Maria Thayer… in-keeping with the “toxic masculinity” and casual sexism of the shows that inspired this parody, she’s depicted as the nagging “work wife” that her male colleagues constantly dismiss and belittle, even (or especially?) when she’s doing all the actual detective work! Although Susie is often side-lined and overlooked in her own workplace, thankfully Thayer is given a number of juicy sub-plots and bizarre character transformations to sink her teeth into, and show her considerable comedy-acting chops… the most memorable/grotesque coming in ep #2.5, when Susie overdoses on testosterone in a desperate bid to fit in with the guys, and devolves (Jekyll-and-Hyde-style) into a feral wolf-boy nicknamed “Little Dude”, who’s celebrated for his hard-drinkin’, sex-talkin’, suspect-cannibalisin’ manliness.

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"Other highlights include ep #1.8, in which Susie unexpectedly falls prey to “regicidophilia” (which is defined as an overwhelming attraction to men who assassinate powerful public figures), and goes on the lamb with a besotted bad-boy who struggles to satisfy her rising blue-bloodthirst… ep #2.6 in which she gets spotted by a drug-store talent-scout, and becomes a celebrated pharmaceutical starlet, before inevitably being superceded and reduced to selling pills from the back of a car in seedy neighbourhoods… ep #2.7, in which her apartment is being used by the Marshals as a “Beat Shack” (illegal interrogation cell), and she inadvertently discovers that a tight-lipped hold-out is a masochist who loves to be smacked around, but considers kindness and compassion to be unbearable torture (they fall in love, and the episode ends with her gleefully beating the guy with a hammer as giddy foreplay!)… ep #2.11, in which she manages to uncover the terrible secret behind a seemingly innocuous (but insanely aggravating) board-game, despite having been locked in a car-trunk and forgotten by her careless colleagues(!)… and, of course, her continuing attempts to sell a crappy/creepy children’s show featuring bickering puppets with rotten apples for heads, which she uses to work through the derision she suffers on a daily basis (eps #3.2-3).

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"Side-bar: I love the fact that she seemed waaay more upset about ‘Chris’ (Chris Elliott) inadvertently sabotaging her opportunity to pitch the “Ap’p’pals” show to a TV station, than she was about him accidentally killing their long-time friend/partner ‘Brett’ (Brett Gelman) in the opening episode of the season… and it was incredibly gratifying to see her finally achieve a little validation in the finale (ep #3.11), using her puppetry/ventriloquism “skills” to magickally save the entire planet from descending into violent anarchy. Hurrah!

Back on-topic, the show’s most pointed comment on sexual discrimination, both on and off the television screen, came in episode #2.8, which took the form of a recruitment video for the U.S. Marshals service, and found Susie cheerfully informing viewers that it’s “a great place for women!”, before hyping a recent increase in the number of words a female marshal is allowed to say per month (up from 200 to 445!). Unfortunately she exhausts this closely monitored quota before finishing her spiel, and is left to stare mutely at a ringing telephone on her desk in forlorn frustration. Bless.

Unlike its loosely-related brethren, Eagleheart wasn’t awash with comedic ringers in cameo roles, though there were a few familiar faces filling out the supporting cast: Kate Luyben as ‘Trish’, the Susie-substitute eye-candy in a fake show-within-a-show (#2.8)… Dana DeLorenzo as a fickle “Arty Woman” who admires and then derides Chris’s blood-splatter “paintings” (#2.9)… Paz de la Huerta as ‘Tess’, Brett’s super-trashy sister who Chris (kinda) gets it on with (eps #3.3-4)… Mary Grill as ‘Trish’, a disinterested prostitute Chris falls in love with while on the run (eps #3.5-7)… and Jill Talley as ‘Doreen’, a crazy lady Chris picks up in the ruins of a town destroyed by overzealous shoeshine boys (eps #3.8-9). M’kay.

Maria Thayer as 'Susie Wagner' in "Eagleheart"Verdict: On reflection, I’d have to say the second season was probably my favourite, although the mind-bending finale of season three has left me itching to re-watch it from the beginning, to better appreciate the serialised story arc and clever callbacks… but even in its first (warm-up?) season, the show was never less than laugh-out-loud funny, and splutter-out-loud absurd, and for that it should be greatly celebrated… preferably with international DVD releases, poseable action figures, trading cards, and branded clothing… though I’d settle for some decent-sized promo pictures, dammit!

P.S. The title of this post is also the title of the show’s occasional closing theme song, as performed by Raun Burnham.

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic-book writer with an interest in philosophy, equality, and diversity. He/him.
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