The human brain is often illogical. However, as The Irrational 1×04 “Zero Sum” explores, there is nothing more illogical than family. This episode was all about family. And maybe – just maybe – a little love in the air.
Behavioral scientist Alec Mercer (Jesse L. Martin) is having a fairly normal day in “Zero Sum,” at least at first. Just trying to do a book signing. Minding his own business. Until a case falls into his lap. It’s a kidnapping (or possibly a “kidnapping”), and so of course he can’t resist. And I can’t blame him, because I wouldn’t be able to, either. Although I’d be much less useful in an actual kidnapping situation than he is.
As he investigates (alongside the F.B.I., naturally), secrets are uncovered. Prior affairs are brought into the light of day. And the question comes up: is this a kidnapping after all? Or was it staged? I was glad the show went there, though I was a little surprised it took so long. My mind went there almost immediately. And, in a show about the irrational and illogical ways in which humans often act, well…staging your own kidnapping would fit the bill pretty perfectly.
But The Illogical is less predicable than that. In the end, it isn’t a staged kidnapping. It’s a very real one, though for equally as irrational reasons: sibling rivalry. Even more irrationally, they aren’t really siblings. But the rivalry is still there, if one-sided, and all comes down to a son wanting a father’s love. That he already had.
But the “Zero Sum” philosophy (phenomenon?) isn’t about reality. It’s about perceptions. We perceive that a parent’s love is finite, and so we find ourselves in competition to get as much of it as we can. As a sibling myself, I get it. As a parent…well, Mercer has the right of it, actually. A parent’s love is infinite.
Physician, Heal Thyself
As interesting as the Case of the Week was, the real meat of the episode to me was the potential for love on the horizon. I’m a shipper at heart, after all.
So far, I’ve been more or less impressed by how The Irrational has handled the relationship between exes Alec and Marisa Clark (Maahra Hill). They may not be together, but the show has avoided the usual trope, making Alec embittered and lovelorn. (Also, good call on Marisa not taking Alec’s last name. Marisa Mercer? I’d have dodged that one, too.) Even last week, when Alec discovered that she’s dating again, the show dodged the opportunity for self-pity. Instead, as he put it, her love life is none of his business.
But that isn’t to say that there isn’t some self-pity there. Maybe Mercer doesn’t give in to bitterness over losing Marisa because, on some level, he saw it as a fait accompli. If there’s one thing that became clear about his character this week, it’s that he doesn’t really think he’ll find love. Or maybe even that he deserves it. Rose Dinshaw (Karen David) practically has to wear a flashing neon sign that says “I’M INTO YOU” for him to maybe, possibly, almost, but not really think she’s not just wanting to use him for his brain.
Honestly, this little chink in his armor is a good thing. Alec Mercer is very good at what he does. And sometimes, it leads him to be maybe a little…laissez faire about other people. The odds are in his favor, so he’ll risk a hostage’s life – and appear almost giddy when his bet pays off. It’s nice to see him give into his brain’s irrationality every once in a while.
She doesn’t just want you for your brain, dude.
And, hey, I’m not hardcore shipping anything yet. So I’m willing to give the Mercer/Dinshaw ship a chance, if the writers want to make a believer out of me.
Watch This Space
But Mercer and Dinshaw isn’t the only potential ship on the horizon. As much as they proclaimed their own form of sibling rivalry this episode, Rizwan (Arash DeMaxi) and Phoebe (Molly Kunz) seemed to have…a little something, under the surface. Or at least the potential for a little something. Whether it will evolve into an actual ship remains to be seen.
Also still in development is the character of Kylie (Travina Springer). So far, we’ve seen her as Alex’s supportive (and occasionally skeptical) sister. A hacker extraordinaire with three different IT jobs, the first few episodes suggested she might just be utilized as a deus ex machina whenever Mercer needed to access information from…unofficial titles.
However, The Irrational 1×04 “Zero Sum” allowed Kylie to step outside of that box, to realize that she needs to find something that makes her truly happy. Which has me hoping the writers see more potential in her character than to be the occasional plot device. And rightly so. Where will Kylie go from here? I can’t wait to find out.