On Dec. 3, the cop show Life aired an episode about Indians called Evil...and His Brother Ziggy.
The premise was simple enough. Authorities find the half-buried body of sheriff's deputy John Hawes on a Southern California Indian reservation. LAPD detectives Crews and Reese drive out to investigate.
The show seems to fall into four parts. Here's an overview:
1) The introduction to the Indian reservation is pretty good. It has a lot of positive points and only a few negative ones.
2) The murder looks as if it involves a romantic triangle between tribal councilman Tomas Shasta, his fiancee Anna Lakelin, and white officer Hawes. But Hawes turns out to be a father figure for Anna.
Problems: Only one of the four Native characters is played by a Native--Zahn McClarnon as Shasta. But there's an excuse for the Lakelin pair--see point 4).
When the detectives' car is stolen, they call a cab. When it arrives, the driver speaks the Native language and the seat-back screen advertises the new casino. The tribe seems to be operating a cab company in the middle of the desert.
3) A voicemail leads Crews and Reese to Eval Vadas (the "Evil" of the title), the investor behind the casino. He's guilty of something, but it turns out to be a bizarre business scheme only indirectly related to gaming.
Incredibly, he plans to reenact "Custard's Last Stand" (as he calls it) in the California desert with working rifles for Asian tourists. To do this, he's illegally imported guns that don't work from South Africa and modified them to work.
Among the obvious questions: How stupid is it to import illegal guns when there are plenty of legal guns in the US? To incur the inevitable injuries and lawsuits by using guns with live ammo? To believe the tourists won't care if the "authentic" battle takes place in a California desert rather than a Montana river basin?
4) With everyone else apparently cleared, the only candidate left is a predictable one: Anna's father Loomis. He killed Hawes because Hawes was about to reveal the truth about the Lakelins' ancestry: According to Anna's birth certificate, they aren't Indians.
Unfortunately, this doesn't make much sense if you think about it. Why did Loomis move to the rez 20 years ago and pretend to be an Indian? There was no significant gaming then, and I doubt he could've gotten government benefits without demonstrating he was a member of the tribe.
Loomis says he didn't reveal the truth because he didn't want Tomas to break his engagement with Anna. Tomas claims Loomis wanted the marriage to proceed because it would make Anna and him tribal members (not true). But neither explanation addresses the fact that the pretense began long ago, when Anna was a little girl.
All in all, Evil...and His Brother Ziggy was a good but not great effort. The first two parts were relatively strong, but the last two parts were weak. It was a typical case of two steps forward (including Indians at all and portraying them accurately) and one step back (mistakes and stereotypes).
For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.
Below: A highlight from the episode.