Backstrom “Rock Bottom” Review (Season 1 Episode 13)

Backstrom Season Finale 2015 4

On the surprisingly affecting season finale of “Backstrom,” things took a turn for the emotional when Backstrom discovered that the lead suspect in a murder was none other than his Sheriff father, Blue (Robert Forster), in the aptly-titled “Rock Bottom.” But would Backstrom have the guts to go after his own father for the crime, or would he let sleeping dogs lie? And if he did, at what cost? If you’re familiar with the show, chances are you know the likely answers.

The story began, fittingly, with Backstrom finally being called out by his doctor, Deb Chaman (Rizwan Manji), for lying about his progress, or lack thereof. Mortified that Backstrom had claimed to have found sobriety- to the extent that he produced a chip to that end, as you’ll recall- only to show traces of both alcohol and tobacco in his system, Chaman informed him that he was revoking his previously cleared physical results and recommending that Backstrom be suspended indefinitely.

Moto arrives just in the nick of time with a case, but Chaman tells him he’d better enjoy it because it’s going to be his last. (Given the show’s lukewarm ratings, he might just be right!) When he arrives to the scene of the crime and it looks as if the potential lead suspect might be Captain Rocha (Adam Beach), aka Amy’s current beau, Backstrom is indeed overjoyed, to the point that he even thanks a higher power, albeit in his own inimitable fashion. This would not be the last time this episode he did such a thing, interestingly enough.

Alas, Backstrom has jumped the gun, as it turns out that the victim was an informant working for Rocha when things went south for him at a meet, likely with a drug supplier. However, Rocha refuses to talk, so Backstrom is indeed able to arrest him for obstruction of justice. Rocha eventually caves and tells them that the informant’s last words were the titular “Rock Bottom.” Recognizing that as a place rather than a state of mind, Backstrom is even more overjoyed to realize that the culprit might just be an even bigger fish and thorn in his side: his own father, Blue.

It seems that the vic was there for a meet with accused drug dealer Edgar Norwest (Gregory Cruz, “Saving Grace”), who he had previously muled drugs for. The meet had been intended to get him in deeper with Norwest, in hopes of Norwest leading him to an even bigger fish. Unfortunately for him, the deal went sideways and his nose was broken, he was kicked and stabbed and left to bleed out at the scene. Rocha rushed there to aid him, but it was too late and all he was able to get on what happened was the “Rock Bottom” clue, which alludes to a place in Wabachoochie County, where Norwest lives.

As the place is within Native American territory, Backstrom and company have no legal right to go there to investigate, but Backstrom opts to ignore this and takes some of his vacation days and heads out there with Valentine and his mother Lou, the latter of which wants Backstrom to go to his own mother’s burial site to make peace with her, in light of the new information he gleaned about the true nature of her death. (You’ll recall that Backstrom thought she died during childbirth, when it was actually later revealed that she killed herself and his father had lied about it.)

Sure enough, he and Valentine scout out the place and catch Norwest in the act of preparing to transport drugs with a group of people. Valentine wants to go in guns blazing, but Backstrom stops him, and everyone leaves, save Norwest himself. Though he recognizes it’s the perfect opportunity to shoot and/or arrest him, Backstrom chokes at first and Valentine grabs the gun himself and confronts Norwest. Backstrom has no choice but to stop Valentine from going- if you’ll pardon the expression- off the reservation, so to speak, and intervenes before he kills Norwest, arresting him instead. Of course, Backstrom isn’t there in an official capacity, so much to their chagrin, Norwest is ordered to be let go by a local judge (Dale Dickey, “My Name is Earl”) after Blue gets wind of it and forces them to turn Norwest over.

To make matters worse, the judge wants to issue a kidnapping charge against Valentine, though Backstrom emerges relatively unscathed. She agrees to drop it, if both he and Backstrom leave town. However, noting that Norwest seemed frightened for his life, claiming that Blue would “send him to the Pearly Gates,” Backstrom opts to hang back, as he’s now more convinced than ever that his father is doing some dirty dealings. He also has in his possession a knife that he’s convinced was used in the stabbing of the informant, which he later turns over to Niedermayer to test.

Rocha is extremely upset by the way Backstrom handled things and the two get into it before the team arrives and pulls him off of Backstrom, who says he needs Rocha to help him solve the case, given the circumstances and his not being able to legally do anything on Native American land. Rocha agrees and he and Moto head out to Cootch County once again. Meanwhile, Almond and Gravely try to track down Norwest. When they arrive, they see his clearly injured lawyer Dale Kritko (Aubrey Deeker, “The Mentalist”), who refuses to talk, followed by Blue himself, who claims that Norwest did it, though the team suspects it was actually Blue.

Moto returns to the fold, also having been beaten down and tells them that Rocha has been taken by Norwest’s people. Luckily, Nadia thought to put a tracer on him, so the team is able to track him down. Unfortunately, Rocha is found beaten and stabbed in a similar manner as his informant, and left to bleed out and die in the woods. They take him to a local hospital, where he is eventually expected to be okay.

Blue arrives at the hospital and he and Backstrom get into it, first over Backstrom’s “losing” Amy, then over the fact that Blue lied about the nature of Backstrom’s mother’s death, letting him believe he had killed her in childbirth instead of telling him the truth. Blue admits he did it to protect him, but Backstrom calls him out, noting that he had let him blame himself for his mother’s death all this time. Blue says that it’s because Backstrom is a bad person and always has been- that he believes in nothing, whereas he himself is a good person and a great cop that does what’s right to accomplish his goals, unlike Backstrom.

Valentine overhears this and rushes to Backstrom’s defense, saying he’s twice the cop Blue will ever be. He also informs him that Blue is his father by Lou, which definitely rattles him. Blue storms off in a huff and Backstrom has an epiphany that might well prove that his dad was indeed corrupt. Remembering Norwest’s claim that Blue would send him to the “Pearly Gates” if he went against him, he and the team head out to the local mines, which are also known by that nickname. Sure enough, Norwest’s dead body is there, left to be eaten by scavenger animals after he was shot.

Backstrom knows full well Blue did it, but Almond warns him once he accuses his father of the crime, there’s no going back. (Loved it when Almond turned the tables on Backstrom: “I’m you…just kidding.”) Nonetheless, Backstrom makes the call, and they head back to the scene of the crime, which is by now locked down and being processed. Blue arrives and is promptly suspended and forced to turn over his gun and badge. The officer on the scene tries to get his boots as well, but Blue refuses, saying he’ll need to get a warrant for that and shoots Backstrom an icy look.

Afterwards, Backstrom heads out to the lake his mother’s ashes were scattered at, and Backstrom once again appeals to God (or whoever) and puts the bowl his mother gave him in the water, allowing it to be taken by the current. He asks for a sign- any sign- that he did the right thing from his mother. Nothing happens, but when Backstrom returns, he actually goes to an NA meeting, where he confesses he’s an addict and talks about everything that’s been going on, praising his team and his half-brother for having his back even when he didn’t deserve it, admitting his vices have gotten the best of him. Looking out over the sea of lost faces, he goes into his usual mantra: “I’m you…and you…and you.” We see that Dr. Deb is in attendance, who stands up and applauds, as does everyone else. “Now what?” says Backstrom, and we fade to black.

This was a great episode, with a stunning turn from star Rainn Wilson, who has never been more emotionally vulnerable on screen before. If the show was looking for an “Emmy moment,” then the scene at the end with Backstrom breaking down at the meeting was certainly it. He’s never been better, and that definitely includes his fine work on “The Office.” In fact, this may well turn out to be his best role ever, even if the show doesn’t get renewed. It’s no wonder Wilson himself said he didn’t care whether the show was a hit or not- even he knew it was something special, regardless.

Honestly, if the show didn’t end up getting picked up for another season, I could actually live with that. I mean, aside from knowing Blue’s ultimate fate, we got plenty of closure with the main character and a glimpse into his potentially brighter future. Assuming he manages to keep it together- admittedly not a safe assumption- then the path forward nonetheless looks much more positive than before, which is something I can live with. Lord knows there have been far worse final episodes of a show. At least on this one we got some semblance of closure. I’ll take it.

That said, it would be nice to have the show come back, and I do genuinely think there’s still an interesting show to be made, even if Backstrom stays on the straight and narrow path. After all, the struggle for sobriety is just as interesting as watching someone succumb to decadence, if not more so. Sure, it wouldn’t be the same show, but it’s not as if Backstrom is going to miraculously become a pleasant person to be around overnight. I suspect he’ll be as cantankerous as ever- if not more so, which is a scary thought.

So, the show absolutely could go on, and if it does, I’d be happy to watch and review it again, and I can’t say that about every new show that comes down the pike. Hell, I can’t say that about many of the shows on at the moment, period. There are definitely some long-in-the-tooth shows out there that really need to hang it up sooner than later, to be sure. But “Backstrom” isn’t necessary one of them. I suspect this might be it for the show, and if so, it was certainly a wild, wooly ride. If not, I guess I’ll see you next season!

What did you think of the final episode of “Backstrom”? Were you also taken aback by Rainn Wilson’s stellar work, especially at the end? Would you be down for another season? Do you think that Blue really killed Norwest? Will Backstrom be able to maintain his sobriety in the long run? Will he be as effective in his job sober? Sound off on this and more down below, and I hope you enjoyed the reviews!