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Chance - Season 1 - Advance Preview: "The Power of Coincidence"



Late in the second episode of Chance, Dr. Eldon Chance (Hugh Laurie) has a conversation with the abusive husband (played by Paul Adelstein) of one of his patients. The pair discuss coincidence, the way that certain events can set into motion other events that can irreparably change a person’s life. It’s a tense scene, running nearly ten minutes, one where it’s impossible to not be completely on edge, terrified of what might happen even though my critical brain suggests nothing will, that it’s a simple scare tactic. Two men talking about the way that their lives have coincided, and how they may coincide again, hinting at how past and future encounters might affect their lives.

The influence of chance.

Essentially, it’s what the show is about. The title’s double meaning isn’t necessarily apparent at first glance; upon reflection, it’s clear how that theme, that idea, flows throughout Eldon’s (*) journey.

(*) The odd character calls him Eldon, though most call him Dr. Chance. For the purposes of simplicity, I’ll refer to him by his first name.

Premiering on Wednesday 19th October on Hulu (the opening two hours are released Wednesday with weekly releases after that), Chance follows Eldon, a forensic neuropsychiatrist, as he attempts to deal with the patients that come through his office each day. “I spend my days in the company of those mutilated by life,” he says. (The premiere has several voiceovers of Eldon reading aloud patients’ case files, many of whom are just that - mutilated.) One of these patients is Jaclyn Blackstone (Gretchen Mol), a woman who - after being hit in the face by her husband, Raymond (Adelstein) - reports having developed a second personality: Jackie Black. Jackie still engages in sexual relations with Raymond, despite his continued abuse, with Jaclyn completely opposed to her behaviour and often having no recollection of it.

It’s a difficult case; Raymond just so happens to be a cop, and a dirty one at that, making him a time bomb. But it also means that while Eldon’s quest to try and help Jaclyn is borne out of morals, Raymond’s ability to stop him isn’t restricted by the law, and to combat that, he enlists D (Ethan Suplee), a powerfully built military vet who spends his days doing antiques restoration. Together, they work to try and find a way to bring down Blackstone.

There’s an air of suspense about pretty much every scene, most of it stemming from that second episode conversation. But even before that, it’s tough not to feel uneasy watching as things build. Even before really meeting Raymond, what Chance reveals about him as an individual, his actions, the things he does to Jaclyn - all of it paints the picture of a man who is ruthless, a man in complete control of his world and those in it. A man who should absolutely be feared and should, under no circumstances, be underestimated.

But the unease doesn’t just come from Raymond; throughout the five episodes provided to critics, there are several instances of utterly brutal and graphic violence. The series’ opening shot is hauntingly grotesque, a memorably grim shot setting the tone for what is to come: This thing is dark. Though daytime scenes are frequently used, Chance gets into the dirt and can turn its visuals to reflect its tenebrous nature. Making good use of alleyways and occasional interaction with the homeless community, the show creates palpable tension.

And yet, for all that the show at times makes for difficult viewing, I found it almost impossible to take my eyes from the screen. Laurie is captivating at every turn. Within the show, there’s an element of his profession, there’s an element of vigilantism, and there’s a family element. Throughout, Laurie is able to transition between each side of the character, but there’s an unending misery to his demeanour. Eldon is going through a divorce with a 15-year-old daughter - Nicole - caught in the middle, he lives in an apartment mostly by himself (his inability to purchase a futon means that Nicole doesn’t stay as much as he’d like), and his professional career is no longer at its peak. And yet there are moments where Laurie temporarily shifts into a slightly frantic state, stunned and bemused by happenings, where a subtle layer of black comedy seeps into the show.

It reminds me a little of Fargo in its balance of drama and humour, though to a far lesser extent. The humour is infrequent, peppered in at appropriate times to relieve some of the tension. But in D, Chance has a character akin to that of Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo; a serious character who is capable of being utterly terrifying, and yet never not entertaining, the odd one-liner and amusingly told riddle making him a quickly likeable player.

Indeed, Suplee is excellent and the rapport he shares with Laurie is wonderful, their chemistry and Suplee’s presence a welcome surprise after the opening hour appeared to indicate a very minor role for him. It’s not the buddy-cop relationship you’ll see on a lot of procedurals, rather one between two intelligent men whose perspectives on the way the world works are starkly and dramatically different. And as D’s approach begins to wear off on Eldon as the pressure builds, he questions his own mentality. It’s a fascinating pairing.

Adelstein, meanwhile, is the perfect actor for such a creepy character. He provides an energy that makes Raymond composed and yet visibly unhinged; scenes in public with Jaclyn or other cops have him display a persona that, while presumed benevolent, has an underlying ugly side. And Mol, who is forced to play two different personalities, is terrific. There are times where Eldon can only assume whether he’s speaking with Jackie or Jaclyn, and it’s not always clear to the audience either. She has a desperation about her that makes the portrayal beautifully layered. This is a woman clearly terrified for her life and yet helpless to do anything about it as even her own self is split in what to do.

Perhaps the best stamp of approval I can give is this: By the end of the fifth episode, I was desperate to continue watching, disappointed upon realisation that I had no more to watch. How it translates to weekly viewing, I don’t know, but Chance is the kind of show that leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, the show has already been renewed for a second season of ten episodes (it was picked up initially with a two season order). And while that may mean that, come December, storylines are left unresolved, we can rest easy in the knowledge that creators Ken Nunn and Alexandra Cunningham have time to flesh out their story.

Chance premieres on Hulu on Wednesday, 19th October with the first two episodes, and will be released each Wednesday thereafter.

About the Author - Bradley Adams
18 year old based in England, currently Senior Staff at SpoilerTV. Most of his posts are news/spoiler based, though he is currently the reviewer of Person of Interest, co-host on the SpoilerTV Podcast. Created and is in charge of the yearly Favourite Episode Competition and currently runs the Favourite Series Competition. A big TV fan, his range of shows are almost exclusively dramas, while some of his all-time favourite shows include 24, LOST, Breaking Bad and Friends. Some of his current favourites include Person of Interest, Banshee, Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul and many more. He also runs an Arrow fans site, ArrowFansUK, and aside from TV, is a keen cricketer. Get in touch with him via the links below or via email bradley@spoilertv.com
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