In which a blind pilot needs to become a hero and we learn sanity is all relative.
The penultimate episode of season one starts with a group of self-proclaimed freedom fighters in various disguises making their way onto an aeroplane. Once onboard, they trap the passengers inside and take over the cockpit and radio their demand to take off – or they’ll start killing hostages.
The airline bigwigs respond by trying to hire the aim team, as the terrorists warned them not to tip off the FBI. As they talk, they’re visited by Hannibal in disguise as a lively sandwich delivery man who accepts the mission.
Over at the VA hospital, Murdock’s busy arguing with a Doctor who’s declared him sane and ready for release. The Captain tries his best to convince the Doctor otherwise, referencing his imaginary dog Billy from West Coast Turnaround but to no avail.
The rest of the team are discussing the mission and Face is annoyed that Hannibal’s agreed to take it on for 1% of the ransom – $50,000 – which barely covers expenses. Apparently, they owe the airline owner a favour and it’s a good time to return it. Hannibal plans to sneak himself and Face on board the plane in disguise as the owner in exchange for the hostage passengers. Little do they know, the hijackers plan to crash the plane into the sea.
With a suit, wig and moustache, Hannibal gets into character and makes the exchange while Murdock and BA climb into the plane from below as it refuels. The plane takes off earlier than planned and BA is trapped inside, becoming catatonic. Inside, Face and Hannibal are soon rumbled and learn the terrorists will be parachuting out and leaving them both to die.
Luckily, Murdock has his wits about him and climbs through the plane to knock out one of the hijackers (inexplicably by hitting him in the stomach) and tying him up below. Before long, he’s back with a second bad guy – this one played by future Barb Wire and The Mentalist star Xander Berkeley – and now has a gun.
BA eventually wakes up, only to freak out that he’s on a plane and argue with Murdock over who needs to think of a plan when Hannibal is captured. Despite almost going catatonic again, BA comes to and orders Murdoch to contact Hannibal with a message by crawling under the seats and tapping it out in Morse Code.
The message sends Face to the bathroom, where he meets Murdock and the two overpower another of the terrorists. With the sides evened out, Face, Murdock and BA attack the remaining hijackers but Murdock is blinded when a gun goes off near his face. BA’s there to help, lovingly promising he’ll get Murdock out.
With just the big bad left, BA accidentally breaks a window with a stray gunshot and the villain is sucked out into the sky (though he does have a parachute on). The team may have completed their mission, but they’re now a mile high with no escape and a blind pilot.
At ground control, Amy overhears a plan to direct the team into the sea as it’s too risky to guide them to land at LA – if they miss they could crash into the city itself. Before they can put their scheme in practice, Amy grabs a gun and forces them to guide the plane in honestly – telling Murdock to double-check everything he’s told.
Aboard the plane, fuel is running low and BA begins to panic until Hannibal orders him to calm down and Face hits him over the head with a tray. The Colonel flies the plane in as Murdock’s eyes, making the runway but smashing through the terminal and almost hitting some passengers that really should have been evacuated given the situation.
Although the mission was a success, Face rues that they made no money and Murdock returns to the hospital to collect his belongings ready to find his own place. On arrival, he learns his Doctor was actually another patient and he’s not been released after all. Freeze frame on the closed door of Murdock’s cell.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes, two this time. First, he delivers sandwiches to the airline chiefs, then later boards the hijacked plane in character as the owner of the airline.
Does BA get on a plane?
Yes. He gets into the plane voluntarily but is then trapped when it takes off earlier than planned. Given that one man is sucked into the sky and a blind pilot has to instruct a landing, it’s another justification for his fear. We also find out what happens if BA ever wakes up in the air – he goes completely catatonic.
Should someone be dead?
Yes. The main bad guy might have died when he got sucked out of the plane but I’ll give him a pass as he had a parachute on at the time. I’m more convinced that some of the passengers in the terminal building that the plane crashes through would have perished.
The Beast from the Belly of a Boeing is a strong if not fully successful episode. It has an excellent concept with the team trapped on a plane, separated and with only Murdock free to help. It’s just a shame there’s not more of Murdock taking down the hijackers one-by-one. There’s a missed opportunity to show off his strengths under pressure with the others relying on him to survive.
This could have been Die Hard on a Plane five years before Die Hard, with a lone hero taking down terrorists and gaining the upper hand. It’s still an enjoyable adventure and the final third where Murdock’s usual skill is taken away from him is a well-played reversal of the norms and gives the team a chance to work together to complete the mission as a unit.
Let me know what you think by joining the conversation on Twitter.