Memphis Beat, "Flesh and Blood"

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DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton
  • DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton
Episode Named After: The phrase "flesh and blood," which refers to animal meat and/or people who are your kin. If this was season one Memphis Beat, when episodes where named after Elvis songs, "Flesh and Blood" would have been called "Teddy Bear," a song that Dwight Hendricks (Jason Lee) sings during the hour.

Rowdy Memphis (Plot Synopsis): Sutton (DJ Qualls) responds to a call of a disturbance at an old folks' home. He finds a dead man in the room, the victim of a gruesome attack. The man is Sam Walters, a defense attorney. The dead man's legal assistant, Deloris (Jillian Armenante), says he'd lost a number of big cases in the last couple years, but that he had a bleeding heart and wouldn't do anything bad to anyone. He was, however, making money on the side by meeting people and helping them off the books. An infant is put in the back of Sutton's car, parked in front of the scene of the crime. It is surmised that Walters was helping someone illegally adopt an unwanted child, and that this is that baby. Sutton is put in charge of the tot. He's nervous about it, but with the help of Dwight's mom (Celia Weston), he becomes a pro. The investigation leads Dwight and Whitehead (Sam Hennings) to a halfway house run by nuns. It appears that the baby's mother is Sister Katherine Thomas (Danielle Panabaker). But Sister Katherine is really covering for her real sister, who's the real mama, and for her father, who was getting a hefty finder's fee to get the illegitimate kid adopted (and to pay off a gambling debt to boot). Dwight and Katherine talk Sam Walters' murderer out of a hostage situation, and social services come get the little baby from Dwight. All is right again in the world.

Respect (Memphis music featured in the episode): There's a little extra New Orleans in the water this week, with Jessie Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo." Better is Rufus and Carla's cover of “Birds & Bees" and Otis Redding's version of “The Glory of Love.” Dwight sings Elvis' "Teddy Bear" to the baby to get it to sleep. Plus, a couple other songs I couldn't make out.

The City (Truthy Memphis): A homeless woman who has set up shop on a sidewalk proves to be a key witness for solving the mystery. She has a hovel constructed out of tarps, and this seems to be her turf, long-term. Unless it was in an alley or something, would a city let a homeless person do that? The homeless lady describes a baby as "Pink as a newborn squirrel." Memphis Beat sure likes making Memphians talk like they just staggered in from the sticks. Sure as a fresh tick on an old swamp cat! (I just made that up.)

Sutton names the baby something like "Paneria Nula." About the name he says, "It's exotic, I concur." It's the name of his great aunt who taught him to salsa dance when he was eight. The "B" roll of real footage this week has expanded to include things other than tourist destinations — such as shots of rough-looking neighborhoods. I presume they were shot in Memphis though can't say for certain. That they're edited into the montage of Main Street and Beale Street, etc., I think, is a healthy thing.

Union Street (Unreal estate): The body is found at the Van Mosley Active Seniors Complex. The victim lives at 4718 Creechley Courts, one of those "fancy gated areas out in Germantown." Dwight follows that info up with, "What's he doing in this less-than-gated senior community?" God's Path is a halfway house for troubled girls, administered by nuns. Sutton refers Greenback (Leonard Earl Howze) and his photocopying needs to a "Kinko's across the street." Fool! Everybody knows Kinko's is now FedEx Office. There's a reference to an Alta Vista Women's Clinic. The perpetrator of the crime is found holed up in a "motel out in Wolfchase." When the motel is shown, it's a dive that appears to be a city center in an old industrial part of town.

Analysis: Another week goes by without the return of Internal Affairs hottie Claire (Beau Garrett). I'm officially starting a campaign: Free Claire!

This episode was written by Joshua Harto and Liz Garcia, Memphis Beat's showrunners (and they're married). I presume that means "Flesh and Blood" is closest to their vision of what the show is, or where it's heading.

This is a good Sutton episode, who has some genuinely tender moments with the baby. Lt. Rice (Alfre Woodard) gets a good scene where she has to sing to keep the baby calm, but also wants to give out orders to her team, so she combines the two acts.

Justifieds Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant
  • Justified's Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant
Generally speaking, I think Memphis Beat could do well by itself to emulate the great, hyperbole-earning FX show Justified a little bit. Justified, set in Eastern Kentucky and based around the U.S. Marshals, started off with early episodes that seem like a smarter Memphis Beat, with stand-alone episodes based around crime-fighting and humor, plenty of local color, and off-the-wall characters rooted in the locale. It's not filmed in Kentucky — California, rather — but the show is ever believable because it doesn't try too hard to be convincingly based there. It puts its efforts into capturing the spirit of the place without resorting to goofy place- and name-dropping by characters ever trying to prove they really live where they say they live. And when Justified does bother to reference real places, the show does a credible job of dotting their i's and crossing their t's. (I used to live in Lexington and am at least passably familiar with that part of the country.)

But where Justified really succeeds — and where Memphis Beat could stand to follow its lead — is in abandoning the stand-alone episodes and building toward plotlines that encompass season- and series-long arcs. In embracing such a method, Justified actually draws into focus much more of a feeling of its place than Memphis Beat does with its occasional flurries of information about its place. Over time, I know a lot more about what it's like to live in Justified's fictional Eastern Kentucky than I do in Memphis Beat's fictional Memphis.

In light of the real-life shocking murder of MPD Officer Timothy Warren, there are a few poignant moments in this episode. One involves an exchange between Dwight and his partner, Whitehead.

Whitehead: "I guess there’s only so many tragedies you can see before you stop believing in miracles."
Dwight: "We sacrifice so that others might believe."

Another ties in with that sentiment, when, at the end, Sister Katherine says to Dwight, "What you guys do every day, I think it’s amazing. And I just wanted to say thank you, for helping me."

Farther Up the Road (Next Week on Memphis Beat): Red West (!) guests as a man connected to the murder years before of Dwight's dad.

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