*This post is based on season 1. Spoilers ahead!
Season 2 is shaping up to be just as silly but some of my favourite people are in it. DORIAN (Michael Ealy). O’LAUGHLIN (Eric Winter). PETER MILLS (Charlie Barnett). LEM (Kenny Johnson). Wait. Those are fictional characters. Anyway.
Ben Crawford is a self-employed contractor, married to Christy with whom he has two daughters, Natalie, 16, and Abby, 12. His best friend, Dave, lives in their summer house. They have a neighbor, Jess, who is estranged from her husband Scott, who is in the military. Jess and Scott have a five year old son named Tom.
While out for an early morning run, Ben discovers Tom’s body; he was evidently taken from his bed into the woods and killed by six blows to the head from a flashlight.
Detective Cornell is convinced Ben is the killer, Ben cannot prove his innocence because he suffered a blackout after going out drinking with Dave following a fight with Christy over her suspicion of an affair with Jess.
Here’s how to bore your audience.
1. Lull us into a false sense of Ryan Phillippe being attractive enough to keep us watching
Okay, he is. But still. The premise was interesting but the delivery…I kept waiting for it to get interesting because I love mysteries but it didn’t. Each episode would highlight another suspect before it was explained away somehow by the next episode in the silliest fashion possible. All of the secrets and lies were a bit…meh, really.
2. Depress us into not being able to mock the show
The show does everything in its power to ensure that we see as many flashback of the dead kid as possible. Everyone is miserable. One episode was dedicated to Ben Crawford being tortured (for real) and it was up there with the worst episodes of anything that I’ve ever seen. The music, colour – it was all bland. The acting…was like they were trying to readjust to life after being trapped in a cryogenic chamber. It wasn’t bad per se, but the material was limited. The scripts were average and it just stumbled along slowly.
3. Make the killer obvious
For me it was obvious…because the writers made it obvious. In the very first episode, Abby, Ben’s preteen daughter calmly accepts that Tom is dead. She even assures the father that she knows he didn’t do it. However, she starts sobbing hysterically when she discovers that Tom was her brother. After the first episode I said she better not be the killer and looked it up.
4. Allow Juliette Lewis to do what she was doing for ten episodes
Wooden. Emotionless. It was akin to watching an actual plank of plywood masquerading as a human being. When I eventually write my robot movie, I’m going to cast Juliette Lewis as the lead. I’m confident that she will be the best for the role. It was a very clichéd performance as a tough as nails female cop, although, maybe that’s what the showrunner wanted. It was a bit ridiculous, though.
For what it’s worth, she’s much better during season 2.
5. Make all of the characters terrible
Ben – had an affair; fathered Tom. Never did the math.
In an inspired moment, he tries to buy a gun despite the fact that he’s all over the news as a potential murder suspect.
Ben also hides the murder weapon when it miraculously turns up in truck. He also sleeps with Jess again and tries to convince everyone that the fact that she’s bipolar = crazy and dangerous!
Okay, she did throw a knife at his head and falsely accuse him of rape but still.
Wife – had a secret abortion, has an affair in retaliation to Ben’s affair. Walks around wearing expensive jewelry given to her by another dude. Has way more money than Ben, including a huge trunk of cash that her brother gave her (or something stupid like that).
Live in best friend Dave: He drugged Ben on the night of the murder to make him ‘loosen up’ and doesn’t inform him of this even though Ben is suspected of murder and is struggling to remember his alibi or y’know, what the fuck he did that night. Dave is generally awful. Loud. Drinks and yells a lot. He was clearly meant as comic relief but instead he was just irritating.
Teenage daughter (Natalie): She spent most of the season sulking and slinking off to her room.
Preteen daughter/murderer (Abby):
- Wants her parents to be together forever.
- Knows that Ben slept with Jess (the neighbour).
- Conned Tom into following her into the woods by saying that his Dad would comeback if he ran away from home.
- Deliberately damages her brand new phone because she was angry at her Dad & Jess being together at a fair.
- Oh and she killed a five year old boy!
Jess: Lies about her husband being abusive. Lies about Ben raping her. But she was grieving so, all in all, she wasnt too bad of a character. They also have Ben find an urn in her house and discover that she has another dead child. Twas a bit much on the writers parts.
Neighbours: Sad people with either sad backstories or a tendency to torture people on account of being an ex-CIA agent.
6. Leave the ending open…
…but put up a unofficial ending on the ABC website anyway.
Miraculously, Ben discovers a pair of bloodied sneakers right at the end of the show. He’s just been cleared of the murder but what he doesn’t know is that the next theory is that his daughter killed Tom. When he confronts her, she’s apologetic and claims she was just trying to keep the family together and was trying to get Jess to move away. They all fall for that bullshit because they don’t know that she hit Tom six times over the head with a torch and tried to frame Jess by leaving a bloodstained jacket in her bathtub.
Ben decides to take the fall for her, thus rendering the entire season useless. I mean, blah, blah, blah, fatherly love — she not only killed someone but she successfully evaded capture and managed to cover her tracks? Is there no TV justice in this world?
After his confession, Abby and her mom abscond, but the other daughter refuses to go with them. Smart girl. Especially because in the car Abby goes into evil child mode and reveals that her intention was to drown Tom and that none of this would have happened if they’d made it to the water. Her mom stares on with ‘well, shit’ eyes but it’s too late.
The show more or less ends there.
However, the online companion series had an additional clip where we find out that Ben died in prison and that the detective is still on the case. Why it wasn’t on the show itself is a mystery to me.
It was far more interesting than the show itself which rambled on for so long before ending amidst a sea of silliness.
Verdict: 5/10. It was mildly entertaining and well, they kinda lulled me into a false sense of Ryan Phillippe being attractive enough to keep me watching.