in Television

Character Appreciation: Lieutenant Karl Hagerman from “Bullet In the Face”

Bullet In The Face is the best television miniseries that you’ve probably never heard of. The six-episode series aired last year on IFC, with the basic premise of slightly unhinged police commissioner Eva Braden (Jessica Steen) forcing a completely unhinged criminal by the name of Gunter Vogler (Max Williams) to undergo face transplant surgery and assume the identity of a police officer he murdered, so that she can use his insider knowledge to bring down the head mob leaders in the city. Gunter goes along with the plan just so he can enact his own plans of revenge and destruction – and drags along an unenthusiastic detective named Karl Hagerman (Neil Napier) for the ride.

The show is over-the-top ridiculous, absurdly violent, and filled with “you are totally going to hell if you laugh at this joke” type of humor… so you can see why I love it so much. Though the entire cast of characters is fantastic, Lieutenant Karl Hagerman is particularly appreciable for a great many reasons. Here are some of them:

H is for Hilarious

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“It makes me want to vomit a baked ham.”

I went into this show with minimal knowledge on what I was about to watch, but based on what I knew from the gifsets I’d seen, I figured borderline psychotic Gunter would be my favorite character in terms of humor. Though Gunter is pretty damn hilarious, Hagerman ended up stealing the show for me because he was just so amazing. Half of his dialogue sounds like it comes straight out of a terribly cheesy 80’s detective movie, and the fact that he always sounds so earnest about it makes it even funnier.

A is for Ardent

“As long as you wear my partner’s face, my conscience demands I protect you. The shell you inhabit was not for a crustacean. It belonged to a good and decent man, a man I loved more than a brother. This city could use a good bad man right now.

God grant me serenity.”

This is a guy who is very in touch with his emotions. It’s usually played for laughs in the show, as he has a tendency to burst into tears or make dramatic declarations at the slightest provocation, but even so it’s great to see a character not be afraid to express himself.

G is for Gunter

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“Damn you, Gunter! Guns are not meant to be used during conversation!”

The relationship between Hagerman and Gunter can be described as tumultuous as best. The police detective that Gunter killed had been Hagerman’s old partner, best friend, and lover, so the fact that his loved one’s murderer now wears his loved one’s face is a big point of conflict for Hagerman. Over time, though, the two grow to have a grudging respect for one another, as Hagerman sees Gunter’s talents at being a criminal translate surprisingly well into his unconventional methods of detectiving.

E is for Earnest

“They can all be your enemies, giving you three enemies. Making the question whether the enemy of your enemy is your enemy or friend, followed by whether that enemy is the friend of your enemy or of the second enemy, and whether one or all three are enemies of Gunter, who is the enemy of both your enemies, but perhaps not of your third enemy who could also be your friend.”

A very stoic sort of person, Hagerman approaches everything he does with great seriousness and earnestness – especially with his work as a police detective. Again, this is often played for laughs (see the above quote, where he tries to sum up the intricacies of Bullet In The Face‘s plot line in one really long sentence), but it’s also pretty obvious through his work on the cases that he is excellent at his job, and cares a lot about helping the citizens of his city.

E could also stand for “ears.” Because Hagerman has some pretty big ones attached to his head.

R is for Rambling

“Drop the gun, Fassbinder! Or I will shoot you, and not only will you drop the gun you will drop with it because you will both be dead. I mean, the gun won’t be dead, but you will both drop. I mean-“

Oh, Hagerman. You and your knack for choosing all the wrong words. The poor guy verbally stumbles his way a lot throughout the show. Another personal favorite of mine: “Excuse me. Where is the wash room? Uh, for men. For the men’s room. To wash.”

M is for Moralistic

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“But if you fight evil with evil, evil wins either way.”

Hagerman is definitely the moral center of the show, since the rest of the characters are either criminals or morally grey/corrupted police officers. He’s the voice of reason whenever police commissioner Eva hatches some ridiculous new plot (not that she ever listens to him, of course), he chastises Gunter for making fun of organized religion, minimum wage earners, bereaved mothers, a deaf/mute woman, etc. One of the few cops in the city who isn’t on the payroll of one of the evil masterminds, his sole attempt at going rogue fails miserably when he can’t bring himself to sacrifice his morals even for a humongously large sum of money.

A is for Accomplished

“I macromate. I was taught by my father who was taught by his grandfather before him. Do you have a problem with men who sew, Gunter?”

Hagerman is a man of many talents and interests. He’s good at his job, yes, but he can also sew up sweaters, appreciates fine art like statues of naked men and The Mikado, his musical tastes include Barry Manilow, Celine Dion, and the soundtrack to Xanadu (he finds this music to be very pleasant), and he rides a bicycle with a bell to work and actually wears a helmet with it. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen a person wear a helmet on a bike since I was a kid.

Okay, so the random helmet thing doesn’t really tie into him being accomplished. But the rest sorta does.

N is for New Testament

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“Woe unto the wicked.”

This is like the world’s biggest stretch ever, but you have no idea how difficult it is to find a word for “kinda-sorta-not-really-religious” that starts with the letter N, so bear with me here. In my second favorite episode of the series, “Angel of Death,” Hagerman is aghast at Gunter’s in-church antics (some of which include but are not limited to calling churches the world’s first karaoke bars and scratching his back with a big expensive looking crucifix). I’m not entirely sure if Hagerman is himself a religious person, but he was uncharacteristically vocal about Gunter being evil for not repenting for his sins, so it’s possible.

So that’s that for this edition of Character Appreciation! Tune in next time (I have no idea when that will be) for the next installment! Also watch the hell out of this show because it’s fantastic.