Debris: Pilot

"That's new."

The premise of Debris is simple. Pieces of a wrecked alien ship discovered over three years ago are now falling to Earth. When touched each piece displays unique properties such as the ability to travel through solid objects, and teleportation, among others.

This show is the latest offering by J. H. Wyman, best known for serving as an Executive Producer on Fringe. And like its predecessor, it is long on weirdness and short on hard science. But it’s Debris’ emotional core that will most likely determine its success or failure.

At the start of the episode, we learn pieces of alien technology began falling six months ago, and a joint American-British task force called Orbital was created to recover and investigate the mysterious effects of the debris. The lead investigators, a CIA agent named Bryan Beneventi and an MI6 agent named Finola Jones, are trying to balance the interests of their respective countries while forging a partnership with each other.

Finola is methodical and empathetic. She is the one to file reports, send out bulletins, and deal with grief-stricken family members of victims. Finola is also the daughter of physicist George Jones, one of the first people to become aware of the alien ship and who may or may not be dead. But that is for future episodes. What is important to know is Bryan wonders if Finola’s scientific bent is suited to hunting down debris. Items he considers potential threats to humanity despite calling them nachos every chance he gets.

Bryan was pulled out of an MP prison in Afghanistan to head up this task force. He says this assignment is one of the few ways he can still contribute, which gives off a distinct “desire for redemption” vibe. Regardless, he has unresolved issues regarding someone he lost. And it’s clear he hoped to bury himself in work without needing to be emotionally invested.

A philosophical as well as an emotional divide separates our investigators. As I mentioned above Bryan believes the technical advancements presented by the debris are potential weapons that must be in the hands of “the good guys.” Finola believes there is a reason why the debris is falling to Earth out of all the planets in the universe, and this technology offers a sorely needed benefit for humanity.

The episode makes valid arguments for both sides. A hotel maid becomes a debris victim when a black market deal goes sideways. Yet the mystery at the heart of this episode revolves around the debris’ possible awareness of grief. It’s up to the audience to decide whether the debris is sentient, and if so, whether its intentions are altruistic.

Debris is not a one-trick pony. Besides the mystery of the week, we have a shadowy organization that is using the black market to collect all things alien. Plus, Bryan and Finola are headed for the inevitable conflict of loyalty to country vs to one’s partner. A conflict compounded by the fact the British may have good reason not to trust their American counterparts.

As a massive Fringe fan, it shouldn’t surprise you I enjoyed the episode. It introduced multi-layered characters that are intelligent, conscientious, and most definitely flawed. And it deftly created a near-future world filled with potential pitfalls for Bryan and Finola to encounter. Besides, I’m a sucker for otherworldly mysteries whose resolutions have as much to do with emotional catharsis as they do with science.

If you were a fan of The X-Files or Fringe, you’ll probably enjoy this. It offers three-dimensional characters solving pseudo-scientific mysteries in order to pose universal questions about topics like the desire for connection or technology’s place in society. However, I wouldn’t get too attached. Except for Lost, high concept shows such as this have not fared well on any of the Big Three stations. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

4 out of 5 Nachos

Anything below this line may contain spoilers. Ye have been warned!

Parting Thoughts:

Is it a requirement for these shows to have a creepy child themed episode?

I know this will probably fall on deaf ears, but is it possible for Bryan and Finola to be partners without becoming romantically involved?

Laghari’s or LDUs seems to be the standard measurement for the alien energy being given off. The only real world reference I can find for Laghari is that it’s a Pakistani surname. Maybe the measurement was discovered by a Laghari?

Standard Orbital protocol seems to be to wipe any footage and develop cover stories for the weird occurrences. Why? Does the public not know about the debris?

Quotes:

Bryan: “That’s the job. Impossible.”

Finola: “Connection. It’s all we really have to keep us on the ground here.”

Finola: “You don’t belong here.”
Kieran: “I’m wanted here.”

Bryan: “It’s been a long time since I worked with somebody who’s looked at me like another human being.”

Bryan: “What are you not telling me?”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

13 comments:

Samantha M. Quinn said...

I was curious if we were going to get a review of this, and you hit on almost all my thoughts on the episode. I don't know if this hooked me completely, I didn't warm to the leads that much. But the story and potential for this show is there, and I will continue with it until it loses me... or possibly captures me. As of now, it is almost screaming for more characters. The duo cop thing is so tired, and it is almost always better when there is a good team supporting them.

Billie Doux said...

Shari, you're on the nose as far as I'm concerned. I think it has potential, but there are so many plot dead end possibilities. Plus I'm not sure I like either of the leads. I'll definitely keep watching for now, though.

milostanfield said...

Another big Fringe fan here. It was Fringe, and Josie Kafka's reviews, that led me to this site. So when I saw J. H. Wyman I was all in, kinda. Like you said, this is a broadcast network show, so don't expect much, right? But then Lost and Fringe were network shows, so maybe magic will happen.

This "Pilot" was pretty much paint by numbers. After an awesome premiere, Fringe stumbled around Season One looking for a tone. But once it found that, wow. Plus Fringe teased the big story for a while, with both the audience and main characters in the dark. With Debris we jump right into the middle of the big mystery with no tease (so far). We know what if not why or who, and the mains know too, so the tone is different.

Fringe had three main characters instead of just two, and the relationship of Olivia, Peter, and Walter was the emotional core that carried that show through the finale. Debris just has the two, and there's not much chemistry so far. Casting a lead with an actor that looks born to play a psycho villain holding hostages in a convenience store standoff is a risk. Those eyes! But to be fair this is just the first one, so patience. Maybe this won't be a show of make fun of with drinking game tropes (Hi Manifest!). So like you, I hope I'm wrong. Thanks for the review!

Shari said...

I agree, Milo. This episode could have been a first season episode of Fringe if you could find a way to add Walter (which would have made it way more entertaining. Which is both a reason for me to watch and a reason to be a tad skeptical. We'll just have to wait and see.

Billie Doux said...

Actually, I kept thinking that what this pilot desperately needed was John Noble.

milostanfield, I'm so glad you found us. I am also a fan of Josie Kafka's Fringe reviews.

Josie Kafka said...

Shari, this is an excellent review!

I'm going to wait on this show to see what the internet tells me over the next few weeks. Even Fringe took a while to finds its footing, and I'm curious to see if this show stands out from all the similar shows (most of which aired about 8-10 years ago) or has the same pitfalls that made them (like Flashforward) less than worthwhile.

Patrick said...

Obviously there will be comparisons to Fringe with this series, and in those comparisons it definitely comes up short. The biggest difference is the lead characters, the leads for Fringe were far more interesting. That being said, the premise of the show intrigues me, so I'll keep watching for now.

Shari said...

It took me a while but I think I understand why everyone is having issues with the leads. They don't want anything other than to solve the case. They have unresolved issues but no desires that can potentially conflict with each other or the job. There is nothing for the audience to relate to. Bryan having to hide the knowledge about Finola's father doesn't count since it happens in the final minutes of the episode.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Tucker was fan-favorite Matthew Brown on Hannibal. A lovable psycho. Still, he makes a an okay leading man. Maybe lose the mustache?
Shallowness aside this was a promising series start.

Patrick said...

Anyone here still watching the show? I'm current with Episode 6, and it still has my interest. The underlying plot is moving pretty slow, but the individual cases are interesting enough to keep me going so far. Not sure how it's doing in the ratings, or if NBC owning its own streaming service makes it easier to keep shows around longer.

Billie Doux said...

Patrick, thanks for your comment -- I was wondering how this show was doing. I did watch the second episode but it felt like a chore so I didn't continue. If it's renewed and people recommend it, I might go back and try again.

Anonymous said...

Still watching. It's still pretty good.

milostanfield said...

Still watching after all these weeks. I like that the stuff just fell out of the sky with no explain(so far), and our species is messing with it like monkeys finding a stash of Uzis. So it goes. No big alien conspiracy. Just us messing with the rings of power. Unless the big cliff hanger is the aliens showing up saying "Excuse me, we'd like our ship back".

I've grown to like Jonathan Tucker but if he breaks the 4th wall I'm ducking under the TV. A recent plot dev between the two leads has made them more interesting. It still feels like the leads are feeling their roles out. That's on the writers (I always blame the writers). And sigh, no Walter.

Another odd thing: no real villains so far, mostly victims, so the plots have been of the how do we get them out of this thing variety. Does this show need a few baddies of the week to root against?