Anyone have any conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana? Human Target does, and unlike poor Di, its threatened aristocrat has a hell of an ace up her sleeve. It doesn't mater if your entire Secret Service detail is out to get you; Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) will get you back to Buckingham Palace intact.
For its penultimate episode this season, Human Target posits an alternate version of the British Royal family to scandalize, though Diana remains firmly on its mind throughout. Princess Victoria (Christina Cole) is heir to the throne, but trapped in a loveless arranged marriage and spiritually crushed beneath the machinations of the palace toady, Templeton (Mackenzie Gray). Then she meets a hunky commoner who gives her everything she needs, and all of a sudden there's a scandal brewing. Before it gets out of hand, Templeton intends to have her killed.
Enter Our Hero, who sticks to the Princess like glue while various evil Englishmen do their darndest to knock her off. The path to safety leads through a pub belonging to a former IRA radical (Christopher Heyerdahl), who has the goods on Templeton and his cronies. One problem? He put a bounty on Victoria's head for the first two-thirds of her life and we're not certain he's quite willing to bury that hatchet. Meanwhile, Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) are dispatched to keep an eye on Victoria's beau, whom the conspirators have nasty plans for and whose do-gooder mentality makes him an all-too-easy target.
All of the expected elements hum like a well-oiled machine, and director Paul Edwards throws enough curve balls into the mix to give the episode some distinction. Cole establishes a fine sense of banter with Valley, while her spoken-for status results in more of a buddy-comedy vibe than the romantic tension we usually see. The threatened boyfriend gives Guerrero a rare chance to dive head-first into the action (he doesn't disappoint), and "Victoria" conjures up a truly repellant villain to root against. Templeton looks like a mutant ape who found his way into the queen's good graces, using his newfound powers to bash rivals over the head with a thigh bone. All that and a British accent too? Let the Two Minute Hate begin.
"Victoria" finds another strong contributor with Heyerdahl, who Sanctuary fans know quite well. His ex-terrorist is a little heavy on the brogue, but evinces a combination of quiet mischief and genuine menace which lends the proceedings an extra sense of tension. (He also reminds us never to show up at an Irishman's door with a gun.)
Furthermore, the vagaries of British royalty prove a surprisingly strong fit for Human Target's Bond-style mayhem. It lends the villains solid motivation, since they believe they're doing the right thing by protecting the royal family's good name, while adding a little true love to keep us rooting for the heroes. That makes for a nice shift from the drug dealers, evil corporations and international assassins who usually occupy material of this ilk.
And of course, there's Valley, charming as ever and happy to open a can of Yankee Whoop-Ass on the snaggletoothed Brits threatening his client. "Victoria" provides a little more information on his background, giving him an opportunity to look sad and regretful amid his clever quips, and setting up the season finale next week with a great deal of grace. Human Target's future is currently up in the air, and renewal is far from guaranteed. "Victoria" serves notice that if the show is going down, it's going down guns blazing. One suspects its central character would approve.