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Dig - Pilot - Review



Note: If you haven't watched it yet, there are major spoilers from the pilot episode in this review.

In case you missed it, USA Network premiered its pilot of a 10-part mini-series on Thursday night. Set in Jerusalem, the show follows an FBI agent, Peter Connelly, who had requested to work overseas to get away from home, following the death of his daughter. In his assignment in Israel, Connelly is quickly pulled into a mystery with ancient, religious overtones involving a case he's working – the arrest of a Palestinian-American who had murdered an antiques dealer in Chicago – as well as the murder of a young American archaeologist he had met the night of her murder. This archaeologist suspiciously shares a resemblance and mannerisms with his dead daughter. Connelly is played by Jason Isaacs, who starred in short-lived series “Awake” and was Lucius Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” movies.

While the show gets off to a slowish start as it sets up the plot, which includes a somewhat implausible meeting between Connelly and the archaeologist, Emma Wilson (played by Alison Sudol), the plot twists intensify as the premiere continues, to end in what is an intriguing place for the first episode: a religious conspiracy, mysterious ceremonies in the tunnels below Jerusalem leading to murder, stolen artifacts that are used to to talk to God, and the possible cloning of a young boy raised for a singular purpose in the religious prophecy.

The show is a product of Tim Kring (Heroes and Touch) and Gideon Raff (Homeland) – a billing that has set it up for high expectations. Before it even launched the show was in the news as filming was moved mid-production from Isreal to other locations due to violence in the area. The series also stars Anne Heche, who plays Connelly's friend, casual lover, and FBI supervisor.

Aside from the mystery behind the central plot, the show's strengths include the locale, acting quality, and chemistry among the cast. Jerusalem serves as an ideal backdrop, as the action weaves its way through the ancient city's narrow cobblestone alleyways and structures. In the pilot, we follow Connelly through those alleyways to a candelit outdoor ceremony, which he wandered into while chasing after Wilson. He had spotted Wilson on the street and she had reminded him of his daughter. In what is a beautifully filmed scene, Connelly appears disoriented among a sea of lights, until he makes his way to a less crowded spot in the outskirts.

Also among the show's strengths are the acting and chemistry of the cast. Playing against Isaacs is Heche as Lynn Monahan, a character who is sympathetic to Connelly, and considers him a friend, but at the same time is his supervisor and responsible for his actions. The two have a comfortable, understated relationship, and the show wins points for getting the sex out of the way right off the bat in the least romantic sex scene ever filmed. This is far preferable to me than trying to force a romantic tension between them on a show where the prophecy storyline is rich enough.

Connelly is also paired in a competitive, antagonistic relationship with a local police officer, Ori Pfeffer, as the two volley for the arrest of their fugitive in an effort to win a round in their battle over jurisdiction. While the two characters seem sure to develop a deeper friendship before the season is over, at the moment their upfront mutual animosity, conflicted by common interest, sets up an entertaining dynamic.

While I'm intrigued by the plot (although not spelled out yet, the prophecy apparently points to the second coming of Christ), there were weaker moments. The initial meeting between Connelly and Wilson seemed clich├ęd. A hauntingly familiar figure appears and then disappears in a crowd. After she walks by later in the evening, he follows, trailing her for many blocks before losing her, only for her to come up and talk to him, invite him to walk with her, and later invite him to skinny dip with her in a remote area of the dig she's working on. And while this was all eye-rolling enough, we later find out that the person this woman he's skinny dipping with reminds him of is his daughter. Hmmm.

Another implausible moment came later in the episode, as Connelly follows his escaped prisoner into an apartment and turns his back on an open door to a room that he hasn't cleared yet. This of course sets him up to be captured so that this prisoner can steal the important stone that Wilson had slipped into his pocket. To be fair, it's still a little too early to tell if this is being played an elaborate set up (for example, Wilson was purposely trying to remind him of his daughter because she was in on the conspiracy – and possibly still alive), or whether this is the start of a series of unlikely coincidences that can be chalked up to cliched writing.

One of the more impactful and chilling moments for me came near the end, as a boy, Josh, who we learn was being raised in near isolation, and was not allowed to meet other children or even have his feet touch the ground, is murdered after he tries to escape. We then discover that there's another Josh being held the in same facility – so similar in appearance that he seems to be a clone. This sets up an interesting question – are religious zealots using modern science to try to force the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy?

So what did you think of the pilot? Will this be a show you continue to watch?

About the Author - Chris684
Chris684
Chris is a New Englander with a background in print and digital media, who currently earns a living by making web and technology products easier to use. She has a weakness for TV characters who are 'dark and twisty' (to quote Meredith Grey) and reviews The Walking Dead, Legends, Halt and Catch Fire, and Dig for SpoilerTV.
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