The Irrational Review – The Barnum Effect (103)

When the FBI can’t figure out the “why” in an investigation, it seems common practice to loop in Alec for clarity, which honestly, makes you wonder whether the FBI is even capable of doing anything without his help at this point. 

On The Irrational Season 1 Episode 3, Alec and his interns, Phoebe and Rizwan, basically steered the investigation and made a break in the case, which doesn’t actually look good for the agents “officially” tasked with solving it. 

The series makes the FBI look incompetent while trying to loop Alec into these high-level situations and make a case for his expertise to be utilized, and it’s kind of silly. 

Jace’s tactics to get Owen to talk—their one and only suspect—didn’t even yield results. In fact, his harsh approach spooked Owen and made him shut down when Alec simply observed via body language and determined that he definitely had something he wanted to say, he simply didn’t feel comfortable with the intimidation tactics. Instead of getting the subject to talk, Owen forced him into silence. And then all it took was Alec to make himself seem trustworthy for Owen to confess to everything. 

The series would be so much stronger if they didn’t dumb down the FBI to make Alec look like a hero—it’s not necessary as his unique expertise and input come in handy naturally. He should be an asset, lending a hand, assisting, and helping to steer the investigation in the right direction, but instead, he’s doing all the heavy work and the course correcting all while trying to prove himself and his theories. 

Alec’s experiment about hearing what we want to hear, and thus, seeing the reality that we want, was interesting, not to mention the explanation to the viral “dress” meme from years prior—did you see gold or blue?—but it’s a human behavior the FBI should be aware of. And in this day and age, there should be a system through which they can run the black box recording to get a more accurate transcription of what was said. Why are relying on a college class to help solve a huge airline tragedy?

The Irrational is a fun concept, but you really have to suspend your disbelief to buy what they are selling, especially in the third episode. I’m a firm believer that you either hook or sink your show by the fourth episode, but I’ll be quite honest that they aren’t making a case for it right now, and that’s saying a lot as someone who loves a good plane crash storyline. 

Having Marisa as part of the FBI also doesn’t do the storyline any favors. This was the writers’ way of keeping her as a constant in Alec’s life, unfortunately, it’s a formula for disaster as Alec and Marisa haven’t really worked through many of their issues, nor are they on the same page. They’re on friendly terms, sure, but Alec was under the impression that she was interested in getting back together, clearly misreading the signs as she’s already moved on with her co-worker Jace. 

None of that weighed into the investigation, however, which speaks to Alec’s determination to prioritize the case over his own feelings, but it was Marisa’s hot and cold attitude toward him that was offputting. Why loop in your ex-husband and ask him to consult on a case if you’re only going to shut him down at every turn? From the eye-rolling to the sighs to Marisa dismissing his findings, it was as if she didn’t want him involved even after asking for his help in the first place.

With how much work Alec puts into each investigation, it would make more sense for Alec to be an FBI agent rather than a college professor, though the gig is helpful as he can run his little theories and experiments on his students. 

His interns played a crucial role in the storyline as Rizwani witnessed the crash (and then struggled to sit with those feelings, trying to repress them as best he could and pretend that he was okay because he didn’t think they were valid since he wasn’t a victim of the actual crash), all while Phoebe reached out to the late pilot’s brother, Roy, to ask him for help recreating the flight path to figure out what may have gone wrong. Again, with all of the resources at their disposal, why didn’t the FBI think of this first?

At about the same time, Owen confessed to a firmware update that caused another crash while Roy realized why his brother disabled Atmos and opted for a manual override. Turns out, it was an NTSB coverup, and Dale, the NTSB officer who responded to the crash, put the whole scheme in motion. 

This case wasn’t as predictable or straightforward as the others, and it was genuinely interesting to see why the immediate go-to suggestion was pilot suicide—he wasn’t alive to defend himself and it fit their operating theory, allowing them to provide a certain answer during uncertain times. It’s crazy to think that if not for Alec and his interns, the FBI likely would’ve just let the pilot take the fall and closed the case. I’m actually not surprised they haven’t solved the bombing case if this is their best work. 

Little time was spent on the logo that Alec recalled from the night of the bombing, though it’s surely coming down the line as Marisa informed him that the case was officially reopened after he provided them with a sketch of the logo, which they tied to JoJo’s dry cleaners, currently out of business. Marisa promised to contact someone who can put her in touch with the late business owner’s daughter, so hopefully, more time will be spent figuring out the big mystery of Alec’s past while he works the in-the-moment cases.

I want this show to work, I really do. Done right, it has so much potential to be fun and unique, but only three episodes in, it’s already becoming a bit stale by sticking to the expected formula. I’m hoping they can find a way to shake things up before this series meets its doom… though I do feel like time may be running out.

What did you think of the episode? Are you liking the formulaic approach?

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