Airdate: September 22, 2014
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Showrunner: Matthew Miller
Written by: Matthew Miller
In an interesting move, one which I suspect we’ll see a lot more of in the future, ABC chose to release the pilot episode of Forever more than a month before the show’s network air date. I didn’t watch it at that time, catching it for the first time tonight. Episode two will be airing tomorrow night, meaning that we get to see a fair bit of development right away, and will thus get a sense of where this show might be headed. Click through after the break to get my full take on this new fantasy/drama.
<<Spoiler Alert: This review of Forever Season 1, Episode 1 “Pilot” will contain discussion of major plot events in the episode. Click through if you dare.>>
Forever‘s basic conceit is simple: Henry Morgan [Ioan Gruffudd] is immortal. A doctor by training, he discovered over two hundred years ago that he quite simply cannot die. Every time he does, he returns in a body of water, nude as the day he was born. In his quest to find out why, he’s used his training as a doctor to take on a job as a Medical Examiner in New York City, studying death as he tries to understand himself.
The show begins with Morgan dying in a subway accident, establishing right away the tenor of the following hour. He dies several times, once even at his own instigation, simply to try to understand how the accident happened. In the process of investigating the accident, Morgan discovers that the train driver was poisoned, thus turning it into a homicide investigation. He’s placed in an interesting conundrum when the NYPD officer assigned to the case, Detective Jo Martinez [Alana De La Garza], sees Morgan on a CCTV recording – she knows he was on the train at the time of the accident. They end up working together, putting the pieces together one grudging move at a time.
Gruffudd’s Morgan is something of a misanthrope. His co-worker in the morgue [Joel David Moore as Lucas] comments that, despite working together for three years, he still doesn’t know how Morgan takes his coffee. In fact, his only friend, and the only person who knows his secret, is a kindly store owner named Abe [Judd Hirsch]. That is until he receives a mysterious phone call from someone else who knows his secret – and may share it’s blessing/curse.
Ioan Gruffudd is a pleasure to watch, and his chemistry with Hirsch works well. I’m not yet convinced of his budding relationship with De La Garza’s Martinez, and as that is a key to the series, it’s important that this gets developed further. It reminded me of a weaker version of the relationship between Patrick Jane and Teresa Lisbon [Simon Baker and Robin Tunney] in The Mentalist, and I don’t think this is by accident. Morgan’s powers of discernment, honed over several lifetimes of experience, rival that of Patrick Jane, and the template upon which they are both based: Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, Forever feels like a mash-up of several shows, both current and past. There are echoes not only of The Mentalist, but also of Sherlock, Elementary, and the immortality of Highlander – the last especially important considering the apparent second immortal character who reveals himself to Morgan. And that’s not to mention the obvious connection to Jack Klugman’s Quincy M.E., the best (and only?) investigative coroner in television history.
The show plays both serious and funny at times, with Gruffudd carrying most of the weight in both cases. He’s a very good actor – his resume is long, and he is best known for his work as Horation Hornblower in several productions back in the 1990s – and he can definitely carry this show. His Welsh accent is an asset, as it’s slight and easy to understand for North American ears. The issue may be that, with so many influences, the show might not be able to find it’s own identity. I did enjoy the pilot, and I’m looking forward to the second episode tomorrow. Whether or not it finds its audience will likely depend on whether or not it manages to find itself.
Steve’s Grade: B-
An interesting concept with a strong main actor, Forever will need to work on building up the relationships between characters, while trying to carve out it’s own identity from a crowded field of influences and similar shows. It has potential, but no certainty that it will be realized.