The Execution Of Catherine Willows

Episode Report Card
Sobell: A | 2 USERS: A+
The Executioner's Stall

The episode begins by forsaking the glitz of Las Vegas for the searchlight of a penitentiary. We then go inside, where we see blue-suited law enforcement officials strapping down someone in a prison-orange jumpsuit. The camera switches to the clock on the wall, and we see that it's two minutes until midnight. The strapping process continues; we're about to witness an execution by lethal injection. The only sounds accompanying the scenes are a slow, industrial murmur meant to mimic either a pulse or the slow thrum of machinery, the Velcro (TM) cuffs being fastened, the scissors sliding through fabric as they cut away the jumpsuit, a tiny wet noise as a needle is inserted and taped to the convict's skin. It's a marvelous way to point out how surreal the act of being put to death must seem for the person experiencing it. The two EMTs finish by attaching the pulse monitor, then walk away, leaving the convict laid out in front of a phalanx of law-enforcement personnel. A pulse monitor beeps steadily.

The camera then pulls back to an area behind a window, where a series of huge, numbered syringes are lying on a counter. The low mechanical thrum and the pulse meter are still the dominant sounds until we hear the convicted man sucking in his breath. We see him spread out as if on a crucifix (semiotics students, on your marks...), the clock ticks one minute closer to midnight, and then we're watching the bare chest of the convict rapidly rise and fall as he breathes heavily. We get the convict's-eye view of the ventilation grate, then another shot of him breathing (semiotics students, get set...) as he looks over at a curtained window. The curtains pull back abruptly, and we see a pair of fifty- or sixty-something people start as they see him. The convict looks over at the people, then looks away; inside the viewing area, the woman takes her husband's hand, and we see that they're holding a picture of a very attractive young woman wearing very dated clothing. In the second row, an African-American woman grimly looks at the faces around her. The clock clicks to midnight, and the scene turns into a vein. No, really -- we're seeing a TMICam shot in which actual red blood cells are rushing by in syncopation to the body's pulse. We then pull back to see a heart beating moistly, and then we switch even further back until we're with one of the men in the booth. He's the doctor, and he's picking up syringe #1 and feeding it into a tube. We follow the solution down through the tube, through the needle, and into the veins, where it meets up with the RBCs. The convict's eyes widen, he breathes in, and then the camera switches to the heart again, which slows with every beat. The man breathes out, and everyone watches in silence.

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