They end the first season of Human Target on a cliffhanger, which is officially dirty pool if it doesn't get picked up for next year. Apparently, the Fox executives are high on the show because it embraces stand-alone episodes rather than complicated plot arcs. That makes it easier to pull the plug on it without alienating the fans… which is exactly what will happen if this is, in fact, the last episode. In a single stroke, they've invalidated the very features they found so attractive and landed themselves in the same pickle they might have avoided with a proper sense of closure.
Beyond that caveat, however, "Christopher Chance" wraps the season up with aplomb, tossing in a few high-profile guest stars, but otherwise sticking resolutely to the formula which has served Human Target so well thus far. Bad guys invade the team's turf, taking Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) hostage in an effort to leverage the location of a grand macguffin out of Chance (Mark Valley). Their questions trigger an extended flashback to the events which set Chance on his current path, which heavily involve the girl he couldn't save.
Back then, he acted as a killer for hire, working for anyone who would pay him at the behest of his sinister boss (Armand Assante). They hand him Katherine (Amy Acker), a well-meaning good Samaritan who overhears the wrong piece of information when coming to the aid of a gunshot victim. The bad guys consider her a loose end and send Chance in to tidy it up, but he can't bring himself to kill her. Instead, he endeavors to keep her safe… a doomed task which nonetheless pulls him onto the side of the angels for good.
The scenario's foregone conclusion robs it of a certain excitement, since we know that none of Chance's clever tricks are going to work. Neither does Acker generate the chemistry with Valley that previous guest stars do (though she does have a cute puppy, which grows up to become Chance's beloved Rottweiler). Winston and Guerrero get involved of course--the former a San Francisco cop frustrated at his department's inability to keep Katherine safe, the latter a fellow employee of the same organization that Chance works for--but the episode struggles to catalyze their growing connection. Their reasons for joining forces feel nebulous and ill-defined, particularly with Guerrero, whose unwavering loyalty to Chance remains as mysterious as ever.
Director Steve Boyum responds to the difficulties by making maximum use of his guest stars, which include not only Assante but Lee Freaking Majors as Chance's oh-too-brief mentor. Both establish a marvelous rapport with Chance, either as antagonists or allies, and Boyum shifts their position on that front multiple times during the episode to keep us on our toes. Assante has become all but incomprehensible in recent years, but at least he can still mumble with the appropriate amount of menace, while Majors digs into his hood-ornament cameo like a man who never forgot the good old days. Lennie James makes a welcome return as Chance's old rival Baptiste, and while the action remains fork-and-spoon, it still holds the twinkle in its eye that we've come to expect.
The general lack of big explosions infers a slam-bang finale to the ciffhanger, presumably to kick off a second season. But with the show's future still up in the air, that feels very hubristic. As it stands, "Christopher Chance" make for a solid set-up, but too quiet and reflective for a series finale. We'll just need to hope that Our Heroes can escape the trap of cancellation the way they've escaped some many others. It'd be a shame for our last sight of them to come in such a decent-yet-unexceptional fashion.