Now that we’ve firmly established the focus of the series – Martin’s ongoing plight to right the wrongs in the world as guided by Jake – there’s scope to explore some different ways to do this. Whilst the first three episodes very much followed a pattern of Jake running away and Martin chasing after a series of cryptic numbered clues to find him, “Kite Strings” was handled a little differently.
Also, it’s clear now that characters that we might’ve previously written off as plot-devices for the single episode, may just appear further down the track with a more meaningful role in telling Martin and Jake’s story.
Instead of Jake escaping supervision as per usual, Martin took his son out for the day to visit the cemetery. Martin was intrigued to find a young man at his wife’s grave who introduced himself as Bobby, an old friend of Sarah’s. Before we could find out any more about how they knew each other, Jake made a run for it, and interestingly, so did Bobby.
Rather than the wild goose chase that we’ve previously been led on, this time the pair quite simply followed the red kite through a series of clues loosely based on the number 9.5. Some of the numerical links were fairly tenuous in this episode – not that it really matters, it just seemed unrealistic.
The final destination was Bobby’s apartment, where we learnt that Sarah had been tutoring Bobby to gain his GED in order to support his family. Whilst touched by Bobby’s gratitude and admiration for Sarah (he named his daughter after her), Martin didn’t take too kindly to the suggestion that he should have been there for his family before his wife died. The revelation that Sarah hadn’t been wearing her wedding ring weeks before her death also sparked a bit of brouhaha. This was obviously a point of tension, but it seems kind of unnecessary to have Kiefer Sutherland beat someone up every episode just because they’ve said something unsavoury about his family. Of course all was forgiven when Jake (silently) called on Bobby to save him from the top of the tall building he’d climbed to fetch his kite.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, Abdul (remember the young guy desperately seeking an oven for his struggling family in episode two?) and his mates scored an audition to perform at the nearby US Army base, thanks to his friendship with a soldier named Lieutanant Sarah Davis. Two main problems strike this arrangement, the first being that the band needs advice on how to set up their equipment. They solve this by contacting a guy calling himself King Roadie, who just happens to live in the same building as Bobby. Lieutenant Davis’ unit is struck by an IED attack whilst on their way to negotiations with Iraqi nationals, and she’s forced to drag herself and fellow injured soldier away from the base to safety.
The resolution to this whole situation was very clever. Thanks to Jake’s hijinx fiddling on the roof near the satellite, King Roadie’s message that was supposed to read 50v comes across as 950v, causing the band to flood their amp and almost explode the power lines and illuminating the spot where the wounded soldiers are resting.
The writers managed to incorporate a third narrative, of Randall, the ex-firefighter and recent lottery winner we met in the pilot episode, who goes searching for answers at his local church. He instead finds a run down old building and a tired young pastor. It turns out that the pastor is the old friend that first uttered the mantra that got Lt. Davis through the dark night – ‘one step at a time’. Leaving the battered old church in Randall’s cashed up hands, Pastor Dan heads over to be by his friend’s side in hospital.
Sure, it’s a complex and at times long-winded way to tell a story, but if you stick with it, there’s always a rewarding moment in the final resolution of the episode, and a few clues about where the next one might lead.