TV

Day Break

You might say this day is refigured in Brett's own body, frequently bloodied -- cut, beaten, shot -- and something of an objective corollary for his psychic state.

Day Break

Airtime: Wednesdays, 9pm ET
Cast: Taye Diggs, Moon Bloodgood, Adam Baldwin, Victoria Pratt, Meta Golding, Ramon Rodriguez, Jonathan Banks
Network: ABC
US release date: 2006-11-15
Website
Trailer
Amazon
Collective guilt is borne by what is conventionally called the scapegoat. Now the scapegoat for white society -- which is based on myths of progress, civilization, liberalism, education, enlightenment, refinement -- will be precisely the force that opposes the expansion and the triumph of these myths. This brutal opposing force is supplied by the Negro.

--Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

You really need to get over this tough guy persona. It's not going to help you here.

--Shadow Man (Jonathan Banks), "Pilot"

"Somebody's tense," observed Rita (Moon Bloodgood), waking with her man, L.A. Detective Brett Hopper (Taye Diggs). During the first few moments of ABC's smart, time-scrambling series, Day Break, she thought she was only observing typical stress. She's a nurse and he's a cop: they live with it. "You've been working too hard," she soothed, admiring his hard body in the shower. She had no idea of just how tense he would get.

Brett was about to run head-on into his condition, namely, he's waking up on the same day, again and again. He doesn’t know how or why, and the show hasn't explained its seeming science-fictiony twist. It might be in his mind, it might be some nefarious plot by the "Shadow Man" (Jonathan Banks), it might be that time is out of joint. In his head and not, the day looks awfully conspiratorial (executive producers Jeffrey Bell and Rob Bowman are X-Files alumni), especially as his efforts to understand and redress are thwarted anew. The Shadow Man is as good a metaphor as any: he tends to appear at the end of Brett's day, a dark figure in a rock quarry, standing over the detective's bruised, shot, bloody, broken, kicked, and/or smacked down body, schooling him in what may or may not be the series' principal tenet: "For every decision, there is a consequence: decision, consequence, decision, consequence."

The trouble is that the relationship between these two terms is not fixed. Over three episodes so far, Brett has awakened on his day repeatedly, knowing what happened on previous versions and determined to correct what went wrong. As he struggles to correct seeming errors, however, he makes other sorts of decisions. His memory rendered in skritchily frantic bits of flashbacks, Brett recalls a note he wrote himself, an encounter he had, an act of violence he might avoid or confront. The basic problem repeats: he's accused of murdering Assistant District Attorney Garza (who thus far has appeared as a headline/plot point only), and he's pursued by two sets of authorities, head of Internal Affairs Chad Shelton (Adam Baldwin), who also happens to be Rita's ex-husband and Brett's ex-partner; and Detectives Spivak (Mitch Pileggi) and Choi (Ian Anthony Dale), whose favorite mode is to press in on suspects inside a wide-angled interrogation room.

Brett's options are limited from multiple angles. The Shadow Man shows him a video recording of Rita's murder; he might not be able to trust his partner of two years, Andrea Battle (Victoria Pratt), who is herself under investigation by IA; and he's not yet solved a case involving the Latin Disciples, a gang apparently headed by Damien Ortiz (Ramon Rodriguez). Each time the day starts, Brett tries again to reshuffle the many pieces: will he save Margo (Bahar Soomekh), a woman hit by a bus outside a coffee shop? Will he take a precious minute to set straight his sister Jen's (Meta Golding) abusive husband Randall (Don Franklin)? Will he break the palm-tree-painted plate, a memento Rita keeps in her bathroom? Will he watch smarmy Baxter (Michael B. Silver) be shot dead?

Whether any of these events happens or not -- and it may be that Brett needs to find the perfect Rubik's cube arrangement of this day in order to move on to the next -- he confronts each time his limited capacity to control or change even his own behavior. "I'm a cop with a clean record and an alibi," he insisted from the start of the series, but this means next to nothing in his system of time, place, and power. The series doesn't need to underscore the fact of his blackness: it informs every frame and incident, every decision and consequence.

On one level, he's a classic hero, determined to protect a series of women -- Rita, Jen, Andrea, Margo -- each injured or killed in one or more versions of his day. On another, Brett himself is the primary victim, resembling an updated Sweetback, wrongly charged, insidiously set up, relentlessly pursued. But because he is so utterly alone, so without community, Brett is not encouraged in his resistance to the day's machinations. As he's reliving his day, he comes to realize it is indeed his day, at least thus far. He can't engage anyone else in the process, because everyone else wakes up like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, not knowing the day has happened already for him. When, in the second episode, Brett half-convinced Rita of his reality, her comprehension was necessarily limited. "This is gonna sound like it's impossible," he began, "These past three days I've woken up, and it's the same day. It's the same time, it's the same place, it's the same damn traffic report. I am living today over and over again."

As Brett tried to explain what he didn't understand but felt acutely, the scene cut repeatedly -- creating a series of harrowing fragments -- from his speaking to his groaning. This as Rita was cutting into his shoulder to remove a bullet. (They'd been shot at by a couple of thugs apparently employed by the Shadow Man.) Psychic pain intertwined with physical pain, Brett sought to make order out of illogic and frustration. His day does break, again and again.

You might say this day is refigured in his own body, frequently bloodied -- cut, beaten, shot -- and something of an objective corollary for his psychic state, which is to say, his political and cultural states as well. Much like Doug, the Denzel Washington character in Déjà Vu (also a Disney product and not coincidentally released the same week that Day Break premiered), Brett's decisions are calculated and intelligent, and informed by his blackness. While his status as a "decorated 12-year veteran" surely served him well before this day began, he's now spinning inside a cycle where he's judged by his appearance. "I'm just trying to get control of this day," he told Andrea, who looked back wearily: "This day's over. You've gotta worry about tomorrow."

For Brett, for now, time is only present. That's not to say he isn't acutely aware of his accumulating pasts, even as these are inexorably twisted back into his present. "Yesterday was today," he told Rita. "Yesterday is today." When she suggested maybe he'd been drugged or hit his head, he pondered for an instant. "Maybe," he offered, "I've stepped in a damn time machine, I don't know." Or maybe time is a machine. As it produces seeming "second chances," memories or historical lessons, even opportunities to do a right thing, it is also premised on repetition and recollection, fearfulness and familiarity. He's the opposing force.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image