Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2014 Pilot Preview: Forever 1.01: “Pilot”

“I’ve lived a full life. Fallen madly in love, had my heart broken. I’ve fought in wars and seen my fair share of death. In my long life I’ve experienced many ends, but only one beginning.”
- Henry Morgan

If the pilots we’ve seen so far during our “Pilot Preview” are any indication, this season has a good start for freshman shows (both drama and comedy). Now I was planning to watch “Forever” during the 2014-2015 season regardless of whether I could get an early glimpse but I’m so glad I got the chance. My original draw to the show was naturally the lead actor casting of Ioan Gruffudd as Dr. Henry Morgan. Some of you may remember him from “Ringer” recaps a few years ago. He’s extremely attractive and has a sexy Welsh accent. Of course, once I saw the trailer, I was intrigued by a man who couldn’t die (what can I say…it’s a thing. Blame Captain Harkness).

The episode begins with Dr. Morgan walking the street of New York City and getting on the subway. Through flashback and voice over narrative we learn that he is over 200 years old he first died on a ship carrying slaves from Africa. He gets shot and dumped overboard for trying to defend a slave when the ship’s captain wanted to shoot him for allegedly having cholera. Since that time, Henry has lived and died a lot. As it turns out, each time he dies he can feel all the pain but it doesn’t stick and he always comes back naked in bodies of water. We see also that Henry has a keen sense of observation and uses it to almost score drinks with a hot Russian cellist on the subway when another train slams into them and everyone in their car dies. Naturally, Henry wakes up in the river and is ultimately rescued from police custody by his good friend Abe, the only living person to know his secret. In this time, Henry is a medical examiner and we (and he) are soon introduced to the case of the week and Detective Jo Martinez.

Things get off to a rocky start between them (she finds footage of him getting on the subway car and accuses him of killing the driver of the other train. But he lets her work out his motive (or lack thereof) and after finding a latent print on the driver, we are led to the real killer. It takes Henry dying twice more before the case is closed. We also learn that Henry keeps meticulous notes of his deaths in a hopes of finding a cure for the curse of his immortality. And all the while, he gets mail and calls from someone who seems to know his secret as well. This person, it seems, is going to be Henry’s nemesis throughout the course of the first season.

Overall I think this pilot was very strong. One thing I’ve noticed in all of the pilots I’ve watched so far is the use of voice over. I think though that for the most part it has worked for each show. I have a feeling after the pilot, Henry’s voice over explanations will be fewer as we have established the necessary premise to go forward with the show. I have a feeling we are going to get some interesting and funny cases of the week as well. I tend to like procedurals that are sort of fantastical too (like Grimm). I found it believable that Henry could convince Jo of the way (and timing) in which he found certain evidence. I enjoyed that we have several mysteries going on; the mystery of Henry’s immortality and now this mystery guy claiming to be just like Henry. We also have to contend with the fact that eventually Jo will find out Henry’s secret, too.

While I don’t foresee the show lasting 10 seasons, I think they could reasonably stretch out the mystery stalker for season 1, perhaps ending with Jo finding out Henry’s secret and then in seasons 2 and 3 we deal with the fall out and ultimately I think it would be fitting for Henry to finally find out how to die and making the decision whether or not to actually go through with it. We don’t need the two leads to get together romantically (as “Sleepy Hollow” showed us.) But I have a feeling that they might send Henry and Jo down this path eventually. Depending on how they do it, I might be okay with it. We saw that Henry is still grieving his wife Abigail (whom he met at the end of World War Two when she delivered baby Abe into his arms). But Jo is still getting over the death of her lawyer husband so maybe they can grieve together.

I found the use of humor in the episode (especially regarding the interactions between Abe and Henry) to be just light enough to break up the seriousness of the case at hand. I don’t know if his morgue assistant will be sticking around past the pilot but I really hope so. For those of you who watch Bones, the actor who plays intern Fisher is now playing Henry’s lackey. I think a lot of the comedy works because the actor is so darkly funny anyway. He has a knack for being morbidly hilarious and I hope they keep him around (besides Bones has enough other interns to rotate through the Jeffersonian anyway).

As I said earlier, I felt this pilot was very strong and I enjoyed it a great deal. I will be looking forward to seeing how it unfolds and I hope it does well enough to get a back 9 order and even a second season. The only concern I have is that it’s going up against Chicago Fire and Person of Interest in the Tuesdays at 10pm slot which is unfortunate because I’m going to have to figure out what to watch as I will be partaking of all three shows. But that’s why they invented the high capacity DVR.

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