By Shawn McKenzie 08/11/2003
Why, oh why, didn’t I think of this show myself? USA’s “Peacemakers” has such a winning formula that it makes you wonder why the show didn’t materialize a year after CBS’s “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation” came out. While that show is the obvious source of inspiration for this series (USA even proudly touts that fact in their advertisements), I was glad to see they didn’t completely rip off the show.
The show takes place in Silver City, Colorado, in the late 1880’s (though it is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.) It is a rough mining town with its fair share of Western criminals. Federal Marshal Jared Stone (Tom Berenger) is the town’s peacekeeper, and he is a little old-fashioned. With the arrival of former Pinkerton Agent Larimer Finch (Peter O’Meara), he slowly begins to realize that the old ways of solving crimes might not be enough. Finch specializes in “forensic science” techniques that came out of places like London’s Scotland Yard and New York City’s police department. Finch’s arrival delights the local mortician Katie Owen (Amy Carlson), who has left medical school to return home and run her family’s mortuary business. She finally gets to use her medical knowledge for something other than getting bodies ready for burial. While Stone still sees the value of instincts and good ol’ horse sense, he begins to see the value of Finch’s modern ways, especially when they start working for him.
In the first episode, we are introduced to the characters through a major murder case. The founder of the town, Arthur Wannamaker (Andy Maton), has been found murdered. Unfortunately, for local miner Vic Simmons (Anthony Ulc), he was found standing over the body with his gun in his hand. Marshal Stone is forced to arrest him, but he somewhat believes Vic’s claim of innocence, especially when he finds a boot print with a logo on it that doesn’t match Vic’s boots. Since Arthur was killed in a railcar, it is technically a railroad murder, so Pinkerton Agent Finch is called in from Chicago to investigate the case. Not wanting to share the investigation and not too trusting of Finch’s methods, he doesn’t share information with Finch. Stone is later visited by Arthur’s right-hand man, Jake Freeman (Jim Shield), and by his widow, Debra (Fay Masterson.) Jake tells Stone that Vic threatened Arthur just two days earlier. Stone interviews two men scheduled to meet with Arthur that day, town tailor Kuen Fong Ling (Colin Foo) and Silver City Railroad survey director Stewart Harrison (Matthew Bennett.) Arthur had planned to give some land to the miners, and Stewart wanted to remind Arthur that he would be violating a contract with the railroad if he did so. Vic had visited Arthur to make sure he did give the miners the land when he discovered the body. Finch and Katie exhume Arthur’s body and discover that he had been drugged. Both Stone and Finch also find out that he had been having an affair with a woman named Tami Chang (Taayla Markell), using their individual techniques (Finch found a long black hair on the body, Stone used gossip.) After Ling is also found dead, they try to find out the connection between the affair and the land deal. They discover that Arthur and Tami had a child together, and he was the rightful owner of the land. Debra knew of him, and wanted to stop his inheritance. She had submitted a forged land deed to banker Horace Trico (Terrence Kelly) and posted eviction notices on the land. She had Ling killed because he knew of the baby. She herself was having an affair with Stewart, whose boot shared the same print as the one that Stone had found. Stone kills Stewart (who had been trying to kill Tami, since she possessed the real deed) and arrests Debra. With the case finished, Finch is ready to head back to Chicago, but Stone tempts him with a new case, and he decides to stay.
In the second episode, another murderer claims his innocence. Eric Sopher (Riley Smith) is a high-strung kid prone to violence, but he swears he didn’t kill Jacob Childers. All the evidence points towards his guilt, but as Stone is transferring him from Central City to Silver City to be hanged, he notices Eric is nearsighted. He couldn’t have shot Jacob clearly at 20 yards away. Meanwhile, Mayor Malcolm Smith (Bob Gunton) demonstrates for the town the new hydraulic gallows, allowing someone to be hanged without an executioner. When Stone gets into town, he asks Finch to re-examine the case using his modern techniques, but quietly. Many people want to see him swing, including Jacob’s mother, Gretchen (Camille Mitchell), and uncle, Caleb (James MacDonald.) Finch and Amy (Elizabeth Rice), Katie’s sister, both don’t want Eric to hang, so Finch is more than willing. Finch wants to do a ballistics test, so he exhumes Jacob’s body to retrieve the bullet that shot him. An unseen gunmen attempts to shoot Katie, and Finch retrieves that bullet as well (it had grazed Stone, who had followed her out.) The bullet from the gunman matched the one that killed Jacob, and neither of them matched the bullets in Eric’s gun. They now believe Eric is innocent, but they need to find the real killer first in order to free him. Stone visits Eric’s former boss, Lewis Van Sickle (Richard Sali), who remembers seeing Jacob and Caleb arguing shortly before Jacob was killed. Stone finds out that Caleb’s gun matched the killer bullet. They chase after Caleb and catch him. At that time, he admits to killing Jacob because his nephew was going to expose him as a thief (he had stolen some silver from the mines they both worked in.) Stone stops the execution just in time and Eric is set free.
I was glad that this show didn’t resort to a bunch of clichés. Even though they used forensics, they fortunately didn’t do that Three Kings-style zoom thing that they use on “C.S.I.” Even though Finch was British and didn’t dress like a cowboy, as least they didn’t make him a wuss (he’s a decent fighter and gunshot in addition to his scientific skills.) They acknowledge Berenger’s age by having him fitted for glasses instead of pretending as if he was in his ‘20s.
The acting all around is decent as well. I’ve never thought Berenger was the best actor in the world, but this role fits him. The other leads, O’Meara and Carlson, mesh well with him.
The one gripe I do have about the show is that I’m afraid that the plotlines might be a little too similar. Both the first and second episode was about proving the innocence of a murderer using forensic science. Both episodes included exhuming the victims’ bodies from their graves. The preview for the next new episode shows them trying to prove the innocence of a prostitute accused of murder. What about theft? Rape? Assault? Vandalism? I know murder is the main bread and butter of “C.S.I.,” but that show gets to take advantage of the many aspects, areas, and colorful people of Las Vegas. Living in Colorado and having seen many mountain towns myself, there are not a lot of places to go in those towns. Murder is pretty cut-and-dry in the Old West…a gun or a knife.
When you see “Peacemakers” yourself, I think you’ll agree that this was an obvious show to arrive after the success of “C.S.I.” Fortunately, it’s a fun show that will be able to stake its own individuality. You don’t need any forensic science to see that.
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!
Try to catch this show every week...
If a better show is on, tape this one...
If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...
If this show is on, change the channel immediately!