Good For The Soul is the eighth episode of Due South's fourth season.
Storyline: Powerful Chicago mobster Wilson Warfield assaults a young waiter at a restaurant during the Christmas season. Constable Fraser tries to make him apologize and own up to his actions, but soon discovers how important men manage to live above the law.
Original Air Date: December 16, 1998
Written by Peter Mohan
Directed by George Bloomfield
Synopsis EditConstable Benton Fraser and Detective Ray Kowalski are in a shopping mall finding gifts for the precinct's Secret Santa when they witness a customer shouting abuse at a busboy (Marty) and throwing water in his face. Fraser runs to the busboy’s defence, asking the customer to apologize for his behaviour. The customer responds by backhanding the busboy. Fraser performs a citizen’s arrest, unaware that the man (Warfield) is "one of the biggest Mob bosses in Chicago."
In spite of the lack of support from local law enforcement, Fraser continues to demand an apology from Warfield for hitting Marty. Warfield responds to Fraser’s persistent interventions by having him set upon and beaten severely. At this point, Lieutenant Harding Welsh, Kowalski, Huey and Dewey come to Fraser’s defence, raiding his club. Warfield makes an insincere apology to Marty. However, Warfield’s business partners have been spooked by the police interest and cease to deal with him. The episode concludes with Warfield being arrested and the exchange of gifts at the precinct.
This episode is patterned on the Season 1 episode The Deal, in which Detective Ray Vecchio confronts Mob boss Frank Zuko, who has similarly had Fraser beaten for standing up against him. For example, both episodes use music to emphasise the violence of the assault scenes by using strikingly peaceful and religiously themed music to highlight the violence of the scene (perfect examples of the soundtrack dissonance trope). Both episodes include scenes where the Civilian Aid (Elaine Besbriss in The Deal and Francesca Vecchio in Good For the Soul) tend to Fraser’s injuries. These scenes are even shot similarly, with intimate shots of the ‘nurse’s’ and Fraser’s face close together, appearing almost to be poised for a kiss. However, on closer inspection, these apparent similarities only serve to emphasise the difference between the episodes. In The Deal, Fraser is alone and vulnerable to the attack only because Ray Vecchio is distracted by trying to defend their witness. In Good For the Soul, he is alone because the precinct staff and (uncharacteristically) Ray Kowalski have refused to back him up in his attempts to hold Warfield to account. Interestingly, Fraser’s own father seems to agree with his colleagues. Robert Fraser informs his son that "the branch that cannot bend must break," and accuses him of rigidity. Fraser’s actions seem to confirm this; he tells Warfield that he "doesn’t dissuade easily." Kowalski seems to be of Fraser Sr’s opinion. "You’re selfish," he declares in frustration. Kowalski and Fraser Sr. have a point. Yes, Fraser is in this (as in most episodes, apart from the Victoria's Secret arc) the righteous hero archetype. However, his intervention at the mall, when he challenges Warfield for shouting and throwing water on Marty, escalates the violence. Warfield would not have struck Marty if Fraser had not demanded the apology. He would not have had Fraser severely beaten if Fraser did not provoke him by taking a lone stand outside his club night after night, scaring off his "associates." Fraser is, of course, morally correct to demand an apology – and he insists on it as much for Warfield’s sake as for Marty’s; "I think you’ll find that there is a lot of truth in the old aphorism ‘confession is good for the soul.'’’ Looking at it from the other characters’ point of view, however, he could be seen as hopelessly old-fashioned, naïve and somewhat priggish in his morality. From a more cynical city perspective, why not leave well enough alone? The locals know Warfield better than Fraser, and Fraser is putting people at risk (including Marty, the original victim) by insisting they conform to his morality. Looking at it from this perspective, Kowalski is correct to accuse Fraser of selfishness. This is not to suggest that the other characters are cowardly. Kowalski has good reason to avoid confrontation with the Mafia (he is protecting Ray Vecchio, after all, who is known to the local Mafia. If Ray Kowalski’s cover slips then so, potentially, does Vecchio’s, putting him at serious risk of death by the Mafia). Kowalski’s language toward Warfield shows that he is not personally scared of him. (He calls him, to his face "Mr Scumbag," and threatens to kick him in the teeth, tells him that he "could be looking at my fist.") Warfield himself is played with a weighty and brooding physicality, the embodiment of threat. He is a man utterly secure in his own privilege. Marty is not the only person we see him personally assault; he backslaps his lawyer and knows he’ll get away with it. After Fraser is attacked, Warfield marches out of his club and smiles at Fraser before delivering the moral of the story as he sees it – not that confession is good for the soul, but that "There’s only one law that counts, one rule. The hardest guy wins." At this point, it appears that Fraser has been crushed. His response is one word: "Understood." Fraser returns to the precinct where he tells Kowalski "You can’t beat the system," before deciding to walk home. Kowalski stares after him in shock and blurts out in the bullpen "They broke the Mountie!" This is the trigger for Kowalski and his colleagues to finally get their act together and back Fraser up. Rather than being broken there is, in fact, an argument that Fraser anticipated their response, which could explain why Fraser goes to the precinct rather than to the hospital, or even home. He doesn’t lay charges against Warfield, after all. Why expose his failure to his colleagues? Could it be that he was instead trying to guilt trip his colleagues into action? It wouldn’t be the first time that Fraser quietly manipulates people into doing the right thing. Whatever Fraser’s motives, the scene where the precinct staff, including Welsh himself, raid Warfield’s night club is cathartic on many levels. It confirms that Fraser was right, it allows local law enforcement to regain pride in their job and to demonstrate their courage. It also allows Marty to confront Warfield, who gives the most sarcastic and insincere apology imaginable. It is clear that Warfield still sees Fraser as "Nothing [...] a joke, and a loser." And yet, it is Warfield who loses. His business is irreparably ruined by Fraser’s intransigent presence outside his nightclub, and by the precinct staff demonstrating that they are now investigating him. In the end, Warfield is arrested. His arrest is not for slapping the bus boy (at no point does Warfield give him the recognition of using his name), but as a result of "his associates ratting him out." In the end, Warfield was right, if not in the way he thought. "The hardest guy wins." Fraser is also correct. The final scene is not the arrest of Warfield, but Fraser talking about his childhood and the truncated bizarre Christmases his grandparents tried to put together. "I learned to forgive all that." This seems almost a form of public apology for old resentments. As such, rigidity and hardness are not the "only law that matters." Fraser's truth is the final moral of the story. Confession is good for the soul.