Tuesday, October 2, 2012

666 Park Avenue, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

 The pilot begins both darkly and dramatically – a concert violinist is playing in an orchestra when his fingers start bleeding. He grits his teeth and keeps playing as the cuts spread to all his fingers, continuing to play until the very end. When the performance has finished he hurries home and packs hurriedly, gathering his things and his passport into a suitcase – and smashing his violin under foot. He hurries down stairs with his bad to leave, but all the doors and the lift close, apparently on their own. And, in the silence, a phone rings. He answers the phone and there’s a man on the other end who tells him it’s time to pay his debts. He talks about a violinist with no talent who gave up everything to be the best – not anything, everything. He’s had 10 years and now his debt is due. He manages to ram down the doors and escape the building – but a single panel on the wood panelled door opens and sucks him back in. The camera pans to the house number – 999 Park Avenue, but as the light moves, the shadows spell out 666 Park Avenue

Ok, nice Faustian bargain set up. I’m impressed at how much it rammed into just that opening sequence.

Move to the day and Jane Van Veen and Henry Martin arriving to see Mr. Doran. They’re being interviewed for the role of Resident Manager of the apartment building. He’s not particularly impressed with their lack of experience and thanks them for their time, as they leave, Jane pulls out her architectural and historic preservation degrees and pulls a wow that makes Mr. Doran reconsider.

They’re given a tour of the building – 12 floors with the Dorans on the 13th, 203 apartments, 388 residents and a brief meeting some people around – Brian a writer (who lives with his wife, Louise, a photographer, who doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for his writing as a job) and Tony one of the apartment workers. And they see their apartment – which is huge and stunning. The previous manager left to “go somewhere warmer” (Arizona, honest).

Everything is their dream except Jane does see a resident, John Barlow, with a blood stained hand that bothers her. He claims he cut it, but when we see him in his room, scrubbing the hand clean, his hand is unblemished. He goes to dry his clean hand – and it’s covered in blood again, he begs someone unknown for forgiveness.

The Dorans – Gavin and Olivia Doran are ominously plotting about the new residents – about using her to get to him. The next day Jane starts her job as building manager, getting maintenance reports, talking to Gavin Doran about the state of the building – and being invited to a cocktail party and symphony by Olivia Doran (though she and Henry have some brief consternation about how they’re going to pay for a dress – they’re apparently very short on money). During her tour of the building Jane meets Nona, another resident who warns her there’s a thief in the building.

In the laundry in the basement there are several posters listing stolen items – charm bracelets, wallets etc. While there, when she’s all alone, the lights start flickering ominously. She grabs a dusty ladder to try and fix one and during the intermittent darkness a woman, a ghostly woman in white flickers towards her, closer every time the light comes on without moving in between – and disappears when the Jane fixes the light. But from the ladder she does see the dragon mosaic on the floor which impresses her. She tells Henry about it along with her plans to do some research to show her worth to Gavin Doran, since he’s not involving her in the major renovation she fears he may not have confidence in her so is determined to prove herself.

Back to John Barlow with the Lady MacBeth hands, he is reading a paper about a murdered judge. His phone rings and he tells the man on the other end – who sounds like Gavin Doran – about the murder being in all the papers and that they made a deal – John keeps his end and he gets his wife back. He’s told to check the bedroom and there she is, Mary Barlow, apparently alive and well.

Moving back to Ben and Louise and sex that doesn’t quite hit the spot for her since she’s very distracted (they could try wearing less clothes). Her assistant has just quit on her just before a major photo-shoot for Vogue. She rushes around in a panic while Ben follows her being reassuring and promising to help however he can. They have a sweet moment where she admits she knows she’s a little difficult at times and they’re all fluffy. Ben goes back to his computer to write – so far he’s managed a title and “act one” and look over his computer to play peeping Tom looking at the woman opposite. Louise does find an assistant – Alexis, the woman Brian has been peeping at.

Gavin Doran ingratiates himself with Henry during golf swing practice (and almost gets him in  a difficult conflict of interest with who he meets who is connected to a legal battle he is fighting as an employee of the mayor’s office) and Olivia drops in on Jane to take her dress shopping and refers to her dead daughter during conversation during trying on dresses and she’s horrified and almost amused by the $4,000 price tag on the dress – but Olivia tries to buy it for her, but Jane can’t accept and may have offended Olivia. And maybe they're both extremely creeped out by the older couple who wants to give them shiny presents and take them out to parties all the time, y'know because I'd be sorta waiting for them to gently shoe-horn "swingers" into the conversation about now.

Jane goes to do the Drake research she planned on, find a picture of the original mosaic but also reference to both a fire – and the suicide of Mary Barlow. Moving to the Barlows, John is happy with his wife, reminiscing – but she suddenly feels cold and starts to bleed. He contacts Gavin Doran and learns there’s only one way to cheat death – and killing one person isn’t enough. And Mr. Doran has details of another target – or else.

Cocktail party vast approaching, Henry can’t find his cuff links (I suspect this may be linked to the building’s thief) and Jane is still stuck in her research, seeing that the building used to be owned by an order called the Brotherhood of the Dragon – and finding out there used to be a door in the basement in the room with the mosaic that has since been cemented over. She realises she has only 30 minutes to get ready, rushes to do so while worrying about how cheap her dress is until she finds a package – a gift from Olivia, the $4,000 red dress. Which, of course, she wears to the party and both Olivia and Gavin seem impressed by how it looks on her.

That night many things happen, many many things to many many people I'm not entirely sure I care about yet.

Alexis strips off in front of her windows, watching Brian watch her. He and Louise go to their dinner appointment, but the lift goes all demonis and tries to kill Louise, repeatedly closing on her and lifting her up and down. Nasty - that's probably not in the property guide.

John Barlow hunts down his target – draws the knife but can’t bring himself to kill him. He returns home to his dying wife, apologising because he can’t bring himself to kill.

Nona examines her collection of stolen items – including Jane’s locket. She does not hiss "my preciousssss" but I'm imagining it anyway

Jane and Henry sit through the concert, during which Gavin Doran, sat behind them, stares at her for the whole performance in patented creeper style. When she gets home she tells Henry about it and how it disturbed her but he puts it down to the stress of the move.

John Barlow wakes to find Gavin Doran at the base of his bed – Mary is missing. Doran tells him he hasn’t paid the price for her life, he’s disappointed – and the wall above the bed suddenly pushes outwards with arms pushing against it, trying to push through. John is dragged up onto the wall – and pulled into it. I don't think cannibal walls were in the property guide either, I think you might want to call a surveyor about that. Or a priest.

During the night Jane decides to go wandering – walking into the stairwell, the door closes behind her and won’t open when she tries to go back. She sees someone below her in the stairwell and follows them down until she ends up in a room with a complete dragon mosaic on the floor. She goes through another door and finds herself on the roof - she sees Mary Barlow, walking to the edge of the building. She says “you shouldn’t have come here, they’re never going to let you go” before jumping. And Jane wakes up, of course, from the dream.

Except this is a dream that leaves the soles of her bare feet filthy. Henry tells her the news about Louise and the elevator and they both go to Gavin Doran to sign the lease. Gavin hears that she has been doing a lot of research into the history of the building and, since he doesn’t like the refurbishment plans he’s been given – he wants her input on what she would do. The validation sets back some of her misgivings and she signs the lease and employment contract gladly. Without reading it. Yes, Henry the lawyer signs something without reading it. Uh-huh, my prof at law school would hunt down and brutally axe murder any of his former students who did that - and he'd be right t do so.

Nona, examining the stolen jewellery, handles Jane’s locket and sees a shattered image of Jane, in the red dress, running from something, and someone swinging a metal pipe.

First impressions? I’m intrigued – but I was intrigued with the violinist at the very beginning. I don’t think it particularly added or detracted from itself since then which I’m a little unsure of – the whole programme and the first 5 minutes seemed to do all the work. I think part of that is that we had a lot of characters, so this is very much the introduction episode where we learn who everyone is, what they do etc as well as get an idea of the Dorans and their faustian bargains. As an introduction it worked well, there were a lot of characters but I feel like I know and recognise them all now, even with it chopping back and forth between them all. I think the cast has been set so now the story can be told – with enough of a hook to keep me interested, if not necessarily excited.

On racial inclusion we have Nona and her psychic visions (would it be too much of a leap to imagine she may be the divine intervention to try and stop the Doran’s schemes?) and Olivia Doran as well so there's some racial inclusion but, as seems to be a major habit on TV, they are both quite light skinned. There are also a considerable number of women with different roles. For other inclusion and how those roles all work out I’m going to keep watching before deciding.

I would say it’s a good pilot rather than an excellent pilot simply because, in the character introduction phase, none of the characters really grabbed me. I don’t object to any of them, but I’m  not enthralled either