In this week's episode of Life Crews and Reese are called out to a psychology experiment gone wrong. During a study similar to Zimbaro's social prison experiment one of the guards has been murdered and it's up to our detectives to find out who.
Read about familiar faces, social psychology and an unusual use for a plastic bag beyond the link...
Well before I start I think it's worth mentioning that I've been snooping around the online interest in Life because I've been concerned that the show might end up going under and I don't have access to the actual TV viewing figures. But the show seems to average between five and six thousand seeds/leeches whenever a new episode comes out (of course the actual number is always much higher than that due to drop outs/computers not being on etc etc.) Now in comparison each episode of Heroes reaches around forty to forty five thousand at it's peak. Which is eight times the amount, but that's still not a bad showing for Life. If only NBC could find a way to tap into their Internet supporters they'd find out that Life has legs.
Onto the episode, now before we start talking about the actual action in this episode this is one of those times where I can actually provide a fair wadge of the background before hand. The episode is based on and mirrors Zimbardo's prison experiment that was held in a basement in Stanford, but taken to a higher extreme. During Zimbardo's experiment the subjects were assigned roles as either guards or prisoners in an attempt to see how much the uniform and the stereotypical role affects normal people. The study had to be cut short due to brutality being inflicted on the "prisoners". We're talking some pretty grim stuff happening here, and this was just a simulated prison, the wikipedia article has a nice overview of it if you want to read more (and as far as I can see - without going into major analysis - is correct right now) - but you can also find out about it in most general psychology text books. It's one of those things that's really worth a read as it's a frightening insight into the human condition and the effect institutions have on individual personalities (just like The Wire!)
Now onto the episode itself.
Now this is what I'm talking about when it comes to Life, the previous episode was good but this one is great. The acting load is spread around the entire cast, Donal gets his own storyline to deal with, Ted is called into to help out in the case and even the lovely Robin Weigert returns as Karen Davis.
The main storyline revolves around the aforementioned prison experiment and the episode rapidly establishes only a few of the inmates are of interest to us. While there's about twenty odd suspects because we only get to learn anything about four of them it's clear that it'll be one of those. That's just standard logic when it comes to procedurals, it's not a failing of the episode as such, it's a failing of the genre. Outside of that complaint the episode is very strong, Damian is on fine form as the script is tailored to his strengths and he's also supported by the story and the other characters very well. Also Tidwell's B story went a long way towards making him likable, they just need to drop the leching after Reese now and he'll be a worthy addition to the cast. Hopefully Davis makes more appearances as well, Robin was a lot more comfortable and useful in this episode then she was last season (after it became clear she was not involved in the big conspiracy in any manner she sort of lost direction as a character.)
Not For Nothing was great entertainment, it was a fun story (with a slightly implausible set up that I can ignore) and just felt like the show was finding it's groove back. Of course the worry here is I've only seen four more episodes scheduled and NBC is doing terrible right now - somethings going to get cut in the scramble to improve ratings and I really hope it's not Life, because I like this show.