A relatively unremarkable episode of Shooter, “Sins of the Father” nonetheless introduces a compelling new villain and deploys an unexpected twist.
This review contains spoilers.
After last week’s truly shocking revelation that the late Earl Swagger was killed by, can you believe it, a sniper of all things, Bob Lee’s investigation continues this week in “Sins of the Father”. As well as Swagger’s unlikely ability to calculate distances, wind speeds and trajectories in his head like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, apparently he can also pore over redacted government documents and make flashbacks happen, which is how the episode opens. It isn’t an unusual trick for Shooter; the second season deployed them all the time, so it’s nice to have swapped the barren deserts of Afghanistan for the lush, blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam.
The flashbacks persist throughout “Sins of the Father” detailing Earl’s recruitment by a clandestine government operation that, by episode’s end, we learn was the precursor to modern-day Atlas. This, as Bob Lee so elegantly puts it, would make Earl one of the group’s “founding fathers”. Trust him to use such distinctly American terminology.
It took a while to get there. “Sins of the Father” was a brisk episode, but not much of real consequence happened in it besides a couple of mandatory shootouts. The episode was divided pretty neatly between Bob Lee and Harris investigating Bama Cattle, made more interesting now that Red Senior (Gerald McRaney) has made an appearance, while Nadine and Isaac formed an uneasy alliance with a former Atlas agent.
Speaking of Red Senior, his introduction was comically on-the-nose, surprising his useless son while he was attempting to shoot clay pigeons and thoroughly emasculating him. You might be surprised to learn that the patriarch wears a cowboy hat. You might also be surprised to learn that he shattered the pigeon in one, effortless shot – no major character in Shooter will survive long unless they’re an expert marksman.
In truth, though, Red Senior’s presence is a good thing so early in the season. The bogeyman thus far has been a faceless corporation and waves of identikit goons; that isn’t good for drama. In “Sins of the Father”, Red actually gets shit done, and immediately comes across as a credible threat, helped immensely by McRaney’s typically solid performance.
His grumbling cowboy shtick is definitely more enjoyable than the back-and-forth patter between Bob Lee and Harris, which took up a good chunk of the episode and got faintly embarrassing, particularly when the conversation turned to guns. “I don’t like guns,” says Harris, “I don’t like holding someone’s life in my hands.” Bob Lee, noticeably distraught by this, says, “You don’t need a gun to hold someone’s life in your hands.” How profound. That’ll teach Harris not to discredit the beauty of a good firearm.
All in all, then, “Sins of the Father” wasn’t much of an episode; certainly not bad by any means, but one of those early-season exercises in investigative legwork before things get properly juicy. I like Red Bama Senior as a villain, and the personal component that Earl Swagger’s history lends the shadowy espionage plot, and the burgeoning beta-male arc of Harris. Hopefully next week we get more of it all.