Monday, January 9, 2017

Beyond, Season One, Episode One

The premise of Beyond is that a young teenager ends up in a coma and when he awakes after 12 long years, he has mysterious powers.  It's not extremely original and isn't even the only one using a similar concept recently (I'm looking at you OA)  This means that  Beyond is going to really have to something special to hold my attention and thus far, it isn't doing the greatest job.

Young Holden decides to hang out with his friend Kevin.  To ensure that we are reminded that this is happening in small town U.S.A.,  the boys climb up a water tower to talk about their expectations of high school while sharing a pilfered six pack of beer.  This scene is clearly to set the tone for Kevin's innocence in everything which is to come.  The fun doesn't last long because Jeff, who's Kevin's brother shows up and he is a might miffed about the stolen beer. The brothers get into a tussle and after quite a long pause, Holden decides to stick up for his friend by hitting Jeff in the head with his dirt bike helmet.  As you might well imagine, Jeff does not take kindly to being hit, thus forcing Holden, on Kevin's advice, to run for his damn life.

The chase is on. Holden barely manages to stay on the road because he is being hit from behind by the truck which is chasing him.  Having run out of options, Holden rides his dirt bike into the woods to evade his pursuers and promptly smashes into the limb of a tree, before crashing to the ground. When next we see Holden he has clearly grown quite a bit (to pull this off, Burkely Duffield had to go a day or so without shaving.) Okay it's established - it's been some time since we've seen Holden.

Naturally, Holden's mother and father rush to his side to celebrate this miracle. And yes, it's a miracle according to Holden's doctors because not only is Holden awake, he talking, walking, nay running like nothing at all happened to him.  That's enough for Holden's mother to declare that it's time for a jailbreak to bring her sweet baby home.

Once home, Holden is reunited with his younger brother Luke.  Luke is the first one to actively think about how lost Holden must be feeling.  To deal with this, Luke gives Holden an older computer and advises him to check out wikipedia for answers to any questions he might have.  Things we take for granted like the Apple Store are foreign concepts to Holden. For the geeks, this means that Holden's coma had to have started before 2001, because that is when the first Apple Store opened in the U.S. This means that Beyond is happening in 2013.  I wonder if the writers thought about that?

Holden's reunion with his family is awkward yet sweet. We don't spend a great deal of time with it because Holden starts having dreams which appear to be right of Dante's Inferno, featuring a creepy old man.  When Holden awakes from his dream, he finds himself in the same location he crashed his dirt bike all of those years ago and is forced to walk home in naught but his drawers.

At the hospital Holden's doctor arrives at work only to find that someone broke into her office.  We all know what this is about right?

Holden is in need of some new clothes for his now man sized body and so hits the stores with his brother.  This is when Holden sees Willa for the first time.  Willa gets Holden's attention by getting her flirt on and an awkward Holden is given advice on women by his younger brother.  Holden tries to talk pretty but only ends up putting his foot in his mouth.  Willa grabs Holden's hand to seemingly write her number on his arm but instead writes a message warning Holden to trust no one.  The author's worked hard to make this seem ominous but because it was so been there done that, it didn't really make much of an impact.

That night, Holden once again has the creepy dream and awakes in the woods.  When next we see Holden, he is walking into a school office to me his friend Kevin, who is all grown up as well.  Kevin it seems is working on Ph.D, and has been given permission to talk to Holden. Kevin tries to offer himself as someone that Holden can talk to but its clear that there's more than just the twelve years  separating the old friends from the clinical pattern of Kevin's speech. We know that Holden is not handling his return well but he's not at the point of trusting Kevin.

Holden's next stop is at the hospital for an MRI. Things start out normal but then Kevin goes into his dream world which briefly shows up on his brain scan before everything gets shut down and the lights give off a small explosion. When Kevin becomes alert again he is nonplussed, and has no idea what happened while he took his mind trip.

Kevin is at home and he gets a phone call regarding Holden. It seems that Willa's warning to Holden to be careful was on point.  Kevin promises to get whatever information they need.  That night, Kevin who is packing some heat, meets Holden at a bar for a drink.  They make brief small talk before Kevin comes clean and warns Holden that he is in danger.  Holden remembers Willa's warning and runs out of the bar upset to now have confirmation.  Kevin is quick to follow, while trying calm his friend. Kevin and Holden don't make it far because the bad guys show up and they are convinced that Holden is something special.  Holden of course is confused and particularly so when he is forced to his knees and ordered to stop Kevin from being shot in the head. Okay folks it's cue special effects time. Holden slams his fist on the ground causing his captors to be thrown into the air, landing feet away from him.

Luckily for Holden, Willa shows up just when he needs a get away car.  They manage to escape without being followed and Willa heads out of town at a good clip.  Holden begins to be concerned about Kevin but Willa assures him that the bad guys after him, thus making Kevin safe.  Holden then worries about his family and wants to return home but Willa keeps driving, pointing out that home is the first place that the bad guys will look.  Holden however is not going to take no for an answer so it's woo woo time and a little spare change spent on special effect.  The car partially explodes, prompting Willa to hop out and Holden to follow.

Willa decides to be honest with Holden and tell him that he has to learn to control his power because he is capable of so much more than the ways in which it has manifested recently. Holden is not buying it despite being able to stop Kevin from being shot.  Willa tells Holden that while he was in a coma, his mind traveled to a different place and that this is where they met and she watched him grow up.  That's the last straw for Holden, who is quick to declare Willa "crazy" before stomping away into the night.

When next we see Willa, she is visiting an older man who's in a coma, in what appears to by a high tech hospital environment.  Willa relates all of her interactions with Holden to date and her fear that he's not ready.  The man responds by text message of all things saying that Holden has to be and that until such time, Willa is to stay close to him.

A few questions came out of this first episode. Where the hell did Holden go for twelve years? Is he some form of advanced human now?  Why are people after Holden and what will they do if they find him? Finally, what's Willa's role in all of this?  All of this only matters however if the writers can convince the audience to be sold on the characters and I'm not certain I'm quite there after this first episode.

So far, the only character of colours are Kevin, and Doctor Warren. There are no gay characters thus far. I'm really not fond of the hyper able dude coming out of a coma shtick either because it reads as a touch diableist. No one could accuse Beyond of being a guiding light for inclusion but I will say that I've seen worse.  I don't expect Doctor Warren or Kevin to have a large role going forward but we'll see.

The audience for this show is clearly young adult, yet it doesn't have that miserable teenage angst stuff that has been so common in this genre. Yes, teenagers do occasionally do more than angst and slam doors. The acting isn't terrible thus far, even if I am not drawn to a single character yet. At this point, the best way to describe Beyond is to say that there's potential but I am going to reserve judgement for now on a firm opinion.