One thing has become clear by the fourth episode of this show, and that would be that this is not really much of a Tarzan series – despite what the title of the show would suggest – for one he is referred to as John Clayton, and not his jungle name of Tarzan, and he doesn’t go on fantastical adventures to lost cities or elephant graveyards, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. A wild man brought to civilization where he must deal with the complications of the modern world is a premise rife with potential, but then this show could have been called Mowgli and dealt with a boy raised by wolves – now dealing with difficulties of adjusting, wait….that show already exists, it was called Lucan, and it ran for one season between 1977-1978. So what makes this show a “Tarzan” show and not just another wild boy in the big city?
One of the key components is of course Jane Porter (Sarah Wayne Callies), the one and true love of Tarzan (Travis Fimmel), but this is a complicated relationship, she’s a New York City detective and he’s an illiterate savage wanted in connection with the murder of her fiancé. That Jane’s douchebag boyfriend’s death was accidental is totally beside the point, as it puts her in the very precarious position of covering up a suspect in a murder investigation, and she is even making her partner Detective Sam Sullivan (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) keep quiet, thus jeopardizing his career as well.
The Jane Porter from the books was from Boston high society, so her falling for a jungle man was certainly nothing she could ever have foreseen, but one look at that forest god flying out of the trees to her rescue from certain death, well that puts her emotions in control, and to hell with what people will say. That is until she has some time away from Tarzan, and is able to think clearly and realize just how nuts the whole thing is, and thus she ends up engaged to Tarzan’s cousin. Now eventually the class barriers did fall, and true love did win out, but that’s the books and the transition here isn’t so clear cut. At the beginning of this episode Jane is driving her sister Nikki (Leighton Meester) crazy – re-arranging her apartment and start making out chore lists – as she is tries to gain some control over the life that Tarzan has seriously shook up.
Jane is a mess here, she admits to her sister that she has feelings for John/Tarzan, but does that make her a bad person, when her fiancé is barely cold in the ground? This episode deals with Jane’s dilemma beautifully; the logical police detective Jane gives Tarzan a set of rules, number one being “no touching” while emotional Jane has…um…well let’s just say her “lady parts” really light up any time she lays eyes on Tarzan.
So most of Jane’s reactions seem physically based, and to be honest what else besides physical attraction do these two have in common? I’m sure the show will try and develop their relationships deeper, but so far we’ve seen Tarzan fall in love with at first site, while Jane’s was more of a full in lust at first site. Though Jane does also have her maternal protective side kicking in for Tarzan, she wants to save him from his evil uncle Richard Greystoke (Mitch Pileggi), and from the big bad cruel world that is New York City, and it’s this desire to keep this innocent jungle man safe that I find rather sweet. I really like how the dynamic between these two is growing, and both actors do great work here, but this isn’t just a romance show it is also a police procedural and this episode has a very good B-Plot.
One night, after evading the loving but confusing questions of his Aunt Kathleen (Lucy Lawless), Tarzan takes to the rooftops, and while there he hears the screams of a woman in distress. He drops down into an alley to give a mugger a sound thrashing, but before he can even lay a hand on the guy a rooftop sniper blows the perp away. Later we learn that this is the second sniper attack, and with some great police work Jane figures out that the most likely suspect is an ex-SWAT sniper (James Carroll), who is now taking out the bad guys who escaped justice on a technicality. When Jane and Sam get to the third target before the sniper does, and foil his attempt, the sniper changes targets and attempts to put a bullet into Jane.
Needless to say Tarzan does not take this well – once he realizes Jane isn’t dead he races off after the sniper – but the villain escapes in a car despite Tarzan’s mad parkour skills. Surprising everybody is the fact that, almost immediately after apparently trying to kill a cop, the ex-SWAT guy he gives himself up. Things get even more interesting when Tarzan shows up at the scene of the arrest – we can assume to beat the living crap out of the guy – but upon seeing the suspect Tarzan informs Jane that this is not the shooter, that the person who shot Jane was much younger. Turns out the SWAT guy’s son (John White) failed out of the Police Academy, and he’s a tad unbalanced, and is now “finishing the work” his father started. Now that Jane is getting too close he plans to finisher her off as well.
While Jane is pinned down by this crazed kid’s sniper fire Tarzan shows up, and just about tosses the guy off the roof. This is the law of the jungle. These are the rules Tarzan has lived by for most of his life. Jane is able to talk Tarzan out of turning this kid into street pizza, but when he leaves to avoid police entanglements Jane realizes her life is full of lies – to others and herself – and that Tarzan has never lied to her. This epiphany looks to shake up Jane’s life even more than it already is, and I’m certainly curious to see how far it can go in just the few handfuls of episodes left.
Aside from the cool sniper storyline, and Jane and Tarzan’s messy love life, we get a bit of Richard Clayton’s nefarious action as he tracks down Donald Ingram (Tim Guinee), a witness to the rooftop fight that ended the life of Jane’s fiancé. With confirmation that his nephew is still alive will he bring all the forces of Greystoke Industries to bear against Jane and Tarzan? Can Aunt Katherine stand up against her older brother? Will the police eventually start a manhunt for Tarzan? All these and more will most likely not be answered before this show is abruptly cancelled.
You can read all my reviews for this show here: Tarzan: The Complete Series.
Tarzan: Rules of Engagement
Episode Rank - 7.5/10
After a couple of dodgy episodes this one really knocked it back on track, the acting and writing both spot on and if it had maintained this level it could have easily turned into a long lasting series.