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"The Equalizer" Beyond Control (1987)

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"It's What I Do for A Living Robert"

9/10
Author: Matt Cummings from United States
19 January 2014

'Beyond Control' is the kind of episode that makes you realize what can happen when all the "pieces" in the visual medium fit. It is the best Equalizer episode ever, the benchmark that sets the bar not only for the series, but for every spy-driven series after.

It is a story driven primarily by strong character interaction (of which the series always excelled), but several aspects and particular scenes separate it from the others.

First, the direction by Alan Metzger is flawless - scenes throughout the episode feature a bevy of smart camera shots, including an incredible close-in sequence in the episode's last scene. That one, in which McCall questions Control's motives, is one of the greatest scenes ever shot for television.

Another reason why 'Beyond Control' exceeds in its efforts is Coleman Luck's penning of the script. Luck weaves an engaging tale of lies and deceit by placing central characters at philosophical odds with each other. This type of drama was a bedrock of the series, but Luck is hitting on all the cylinders here, with McCall and Control set as uneasy partners throughout the episode. The dialogue is crisp, and the story has enough plot twists to keep anyone on their toes. Listen to the final scene of 'Control' and you'll hear a familiar Equalizer theme: those that are in power lie at all costs to protect that power. When McCall confronts his former boss as to why he lied about Exden, Control's response is cool and premeditated: "It's what I do for a living, Robert..."

Perhaps the greatest and most underrated aspect of successful television encompasses my final reason for elevating 'Control' to the Mount Olympus of episodes. Music in television and film add necessary depth to a scene, round out the visual eye candy, and send strong messages to the viewer about the story's intent, all without using a single word of dialogue. Stewart Copeland delivers a brooding and dark ambiance to the series, and 'Beyond Control' benefits greatly from it. His orchestrations paint the auditory equivalent of the deep grays and dark corners which McCall journeyed through as he attempted to right the wrongs of the world. Replace the musical landscape with another (as was attempted in several episodes with Cameron Allan), and the result is pale at best. Again, watch that final scene to see Copeland weave his mastery.

In the end, 'Beyond Control' is a study in great television, when all those potentially problematic pieces come together to form something profound that demands our attention, shapes our understanding, and inspires us to take valuable lessons from its production. Simply put, it is television brilliance.

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