Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Web Series Review: ‘Touye Pwen’ Episode 9 - “Kill Point”

The “Strap Set” convenes at Rhyis’s (Amin Joseph) home to unwind a bit.  Rhyis is a gracious host, until a lapse in judgment on Khalil’s (Maurice Whitfield) part tests his patience.  After the situation is rectified, Rhyis and Zho (Tracey Dukes) discuss more serious matters.  Later on, Ox (Chyna McCoy) summons Rhyis’s to a rooftop meeting.  Ox gives Rhyis a simple ultimatum that might prove costly for the “Strap Set” if they fail to heed it.

The title for the season finale of Touye Pwen is the literal English translation for that of the show itself: Kill Point.  It brings all the members of the “Strap Set” together, adding a few more layers and quirks to certain key characters.  It also proves to be a rather literal exploration of their weaknesses.  Seemingly infallible characters reveal weaknesses that could prove fatal if exploited by the enemy.    

With each episode, Zho increasingly seems like a pawn on a giant chessboard.  He is manipulated by both players.  Detective Ash treats him like an expendable asset.  Rhyis shows him something that resembles actual love, yet still coldly reminds him of the debt he owes.  Zho is a man who struggles between a rock and a hard place, having no semblance of control over his predicament.  As things stand, I think he’d be better off throwing his cards in with the Strap Set, as detective Ash seems exceedingly unstable.  My gut tells me he’s headed for a fall.

Khalil continues to undergo minor character alterations with every appearance he makes.  In the “The Strap Set,” he was the stoic face of Black Hand style organization.  In “Ties that Bind” he was reduced to tears when in the presence of his biological father.  That was his first sign of weakness.  In “Kill Point” he reveals yet another: Bad judgment in regards to extracurricular activities.  He is subsequently scolded by Rhyis, who immediately puts him in his place.  This is the second time where Khalil’s authoritative presence is diminished by that of another.  

The scene is reminiscent of the one from Goodfellas in which the members of the Vario crew showed up to a Christmas party with extravagant purchases not soon after pulling off the infamous Lufthansa heist.  Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) gave them all strict orders against making any purchases after the heist, and became irate upon seeing their disobedience.  He doesn’t hesitate to embarrass them publicly.  Rhyis doesn’t make as much of scene, allowing Khalil to save face.  He also tempers his angry outburst with a reassurance of brotherly love.  

The scene in Goodfellas alternates between feelings of hilarity and discomfort.  As De Niro’s voice rises, the soundtrack diminishes, showing all eyes and ears in the room to be trained on his public admonishment of an underling.  He does the exact same thing to Carbone in the next moment, only then it’s played for laughs.  In classic Touye Pwen fashion, Rhyis’s admonishment is delivered in a near whisper tone.

In the episodes second half, Ox and Rhyis have a heart to heart talk on a rooftop. Ox demands that Zho be made to answer for his transgressions.  He starts by telling Rhyis a story that reminds me of the one Pheobe Cates tells Zack Galligan in Gremlins.  That may sound like an oddball comparison, until one takes a closer look at each story.  The one in “Kill Point” is meant to be deadly serious and plays as such, remaining in perfect fidelity with the tone of the scene.  The one in Gremlins, adds an even darker shade to an already sadistic kids film.  It inspires uneasy laughter in the viewer because of how grisly and heavy handed it is.

That Ox reveals this story to a rival is, in a sense, a show of weakness on his part.  As he himself says, this bit of business with the Strap Set is personal.  As any number of gangster films have shown, revenge is a dish best served cold.  Even the most heartfelt matters should be handled as business.  Ox seems to be forgetting that old adage.  To punctuate that fact, he lets out a DMX style growl at the end of his rant.  This growl instantly inspired me to laughter upon hearing it.  Never missing a beat, R.L. Scott allows Rhyis to react the exact same way. The timing is perfect.

This first season of Touye Pwen has been both a dissection of the criminal mind and an ongoing study of a group of characters.  Though it has definite similarities to any number of undercover cop dramas, it bears little resemblance to any of them.  R.L. Scott has guided this ship with a steady and sure hand since the first episode.  His actors and actresses have been loyal and valued crew members who’ve helped to make sure that his vision stays on course.  I actually feel slightly annoyed that this season is already over.  It seemed to just be hitting its stride.                          

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