4th Season (1989 essay)
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4th Season is a 1989 Starsky & Hutch essay by [Leslie G.].
It was printed in Tell Me Something I Don't Know! #13.
The essay discusses the show, the changes in the characters' relationships, and some possible reasons why.
One of my favorite thing's to pondering regarding Starsky and Hutch happens to be the 4th Season. I've always been fascinated by the 4th Season episodes of S&H. In the 1st Season we were intrigued with their youthful zeal, exuberance and dedication to the cause of police work. The 2nd Season we saw hurt/comfort brought to its zenith. Coffin-Gillian-Bloodbath being prime examples. By 3rd Season there was the us-against-them. I know, Me and Thee was always the premise of the whole show — but in the 3rd Season it seemed to me to be particularly evident. Class in Crime-Murder Ward-Satan's Witches being good examples. The 4th Season was different. A different world--or even Universe for S&H. Different from the 1st Youthful Zeal, from 2nd's hurt/comfort (hard to comfort somebody who's never there—) and different from 3rd's us-against-them. I'd like to get into this even more --
It has always been incredible to me that 1st Season Hutch and 4th are one and the same person. There was such a tremendously drastic change that it almost seemed that they only were the same person by apperances alone! His transformation seems complete after arriving at the episode 'Targets—'.Indeed, he was going to quit the Force at one point without even informing his partner! Starsky only found out after having changed his mind about going to the movies!! The disintegration of the Partnership seemed imminent.
I'd go so far as to say the disintegration of a marriage. It was closer to the truth about S&H to me. . .But what was the cause? Was it lack of communication? Think of the comparison between 1st Season and then the 4th was the unraveling of their trust in each other the cause? What was the cause? Was it Starsky? Being such a part of Hutch, Starsky would have to be a big part of the reason for Hutch's metamorphosis.
The fascinating part about 4th Season is the part that Starsky DIDN'T play in Hutch's life. There is a mysteriousness about it all that has always baffled me. The quality of each others' part in the relationship eroded at one point that a girl like Kira (not their type!) could come between them. What is at the core of all of this contention? This wedge driven between them? It wasn't Kira. She was just a symptom. It might have been the gradual cynicism that is so natural in the kind of work that they do and it just catches up — values, traits surfacing, desires of family, home, solidity—all may have had a hand in the dark recesses of the 4th Season. There is nothing so complicated as human relationships and the implications are there that had the Powers that Be allowed a 5th season to exist, such revelies would be academic at best. The resolutions would have won out—wouldn't they?
In Ballad for a Blue Lady, the episode so indicative of the 4th Season as a whole, Hutch is so far from the case and police work and Life that he has to wander into the precinct on the off chance that he can get a handle on the whole thing—but he didn't. All he got was a Myou're-a-cop" speech from his partner. This kind of "com fort" was very common in 4th Season. The episode Blindfold is even more typical of the Darkness in the 4th. .Starsky, having shot an innocent bystander withdraws into himself without a thought of any thing or anyone else. All the episodes, without hardly an exception, show them working out their problems by themselves. If there are pro blems (never mind them being part of the case!) they solve it by their own resources. If something is bothering them, there isn't a thought of sharing it—of relying on the other. It's individual. The conversations are to shut-out, not to enlighten. The relationship seems to have been one-sided, or what was left of it. Then—the piece-de-resistence—Sweet Revenge.This to me is the pivotal episode of the entire series. Almost losing his partner brought back to Hutch everything that he thought he had lost. The Youthful zest, exuberance, trust—and the Love. When he gained back his partner's life, he gained his own as well, lighting for the cause again—whether it be for a case or not—sent home to Hutch the Reason for it all. All the pain, heartache, pushing-the-odds, last chance, last effort--all for his partner. All for Starsky. I guess we don't need the 5th season after all. The ribbons are all tied up in Sweet Revenge —and in Starksy and Hutch themselves.
Your summation of the infamous 4-th season hit the target, and I especially enjoyed your description of "Sweet Revenge" as having "...tied up all the ribbons..." Perfect! 
I enjoy all the on-going discussion of Fourth Season, aa in Leslie's interesting letter. (Incidentally, 'Coffin* comes in First Season, not Seconifl.) Those changes - developments - in character give endless scope for it. The 'youthful zeal' of First Season finds new directions and challenges, but I'm not sure that it disappears. In Fourth Season, they're still young? Comparatively? Chasing bad guys, they don't seem to be dragging. Physical stamina okay? The Department wouldn't turn them loose on the street otherwise? And zeal doesn't go exclusively with youth; we needn't assume an obligation to bracket those two words together. More years may indeed bring a new dimension of informed and experienced strength. True, one marked quality of First Season is a lovely exuberance which is surely less in evidence by the end of the series though one might call it dormant and waiting to re-surface, rather than defunct. Don't we all love watching KH's exuberance when that nightmare lifts in 'Sweet Revenge'?
The badge-throwing sequence must have been preceded by a lot of in-depths discussion. (That's a situation which would gain so much from detailed exploration by the author of 'The Thousandth Man'.) And isn't it least pertinent that DMS did know where to find his partner on the beach that day? And that Hutch had apparently been far from precipitate in discarding his badge? Was he waiting for someone? Guessing, guessing...but just possibilities?In 'Ballad', I don't see that Hutch had merely 'wandered into' the station that day. In the course of the job, he'd have to put in an appearance there from time to time, and he's thereto talk to his partner — probably to other colleagues too. DMS seems to be doing no more than underline certain potential dangers. What's a partner for? He's communicating very directly and relevantly. On some levels, anyway. KH had done the same for him when it seemed that his partner wasn't seeing the basics clearly. In 'Blindfold' and in 'Rosie Malone' Some of this, at least, could be construed as realistic caring, a negation of any allegations of indifference. Yes, yes, I agree — you could argue some rather different interpretations. But there are some grounds for alternatives? As I said before, I do enjoy the discussion of all angles and possibilities. 
As always, your observations-are wonderful. You have keen insight of the characters and your comments never fail to be thought provoking. Hutch did change into a man we almost didn't recognize by 4th season, but the alterations in his personality were evident throughout the series' run. Recall the shocked disillusionment and depression he displayed in Snowstorm when first he and Starsk discovered that "brother cops" were dirty and later when he had to shoot one of the crooked officers in self defense. In Monster, he was particularly short-tempered and belligerent toward the slimy suspect. Afterwards in Deckwatch — where I notice the start of "4th season H" — we witness an agitated, impatient cop almost recklessly offering to go undercover. David & Ken hadn't really discussed what procedures they'd follow; it just resulted in H posing as a paramedic — again S's wishes — in an extremely unpredictable, volatile situation. Then of course, nearly all of 4th season gave us 2 estranged, almost completely uncommunicative partners/friends (whose trust in each other may have begun to waver), though they did solve a majority of their cases as a team. As for finding solutions to personal problems without one another, that stems directly from the distance that plagued the men throughout the final season.
To take your alert statement that S was an important factor in H's personality change further, perhaps H realized just how much both men totally depended on each other and was tired/frightened/uncertain of that dependency; maybe he felt restricted by it and wanted to retreat from it to a degree to attempt to understand it better. Perhaps he no longer appreciated having S constantly around (because he felt unworthy/didn't want to be responsible for him/cared too much?) and wanted to free himself from the bond they shared; wanted to stand on his own, so to speak. Not that he didn't still love S, or ceased wanting to be his partner, he just needed space. His perspectives (as you pointed out) had changed and he needed to sort them out alone. Perhaps his irritability, cynicism and general malaise came from his inability to tell S that he needed a less-intense relationship with him for a while and so became unconsciously nasty towards him in an effort to get S to back off from him 'til he was ready once more to participate fully in their friendship.
I also have always regarded Sweet Revenge as the episode that brought both men back to life. S survived the brutal attack and H (now spiritually/mentally/physically revived) was ECSTATIC to have his very best friend back! Life was important again! ALLELUIA!By the way. Coffin is from first season. 
I REALLY ENJOYED YOUR COMMENTS ON THE 1ST SEASON PARTNERSHIP VERSUS THE 4TH SEASON PARTNERSHIP. I THINK MOST FANS VIEW THE 4TH SEASON AS A GROWING-APART TIME FOR STARSKY AND HUTCH, WITH "SWEET REVENGE" AS THE CRISIS/CATALYST FOR MAKING A FEW CHOICES AND DECISIONS FOR THE FUTURE. ONE POINT I'D LIKE TO THROW INTO THE DISCUSSION IS THE "REALITY" OF THAT 4TH SEASON. MOST OF THE EPISODES WERE SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN FOR THE CHARACTERS TO BE APART (I.E. NOT IN THE SAME SCENES) SO THAT DAVID AND PAUL HAD MORE TIME OFF THAT LAST YEAR. WHEN THE WRITERS WERE FACED WITH THAT KIND OF SCRIPT LIMITATION, THEY WERE FORCED TO THINK UP WAYS AND REASONS TO KEEP THE TWO CHARACTERS APART. THEREFORE, WE AS VIEWERS COME UP WITH A LOT OF NON-SEQUITERS AND HARD-TO-UNDERSTAND ACTIONS. I'M STILL A FAN OF THE 4TH SEASON, THOUGH. I PREFER THE MORE ENIGMATIC, HARDER, DARKER CHARACTERS.