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Debris - Pilot - Review

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From executive producer J.H. Wyman (Fringe, Almost Human) comes a high concept science-fiction mystery drama about two agents chasing after alien space-craft debris and witnessing the effects it has on those whom come into contact with it.

When I read the script back in last February, I knew to some degree I would be getting a show much like Fringe back, filled with supernatural phenomenon, featuring the occasional horror, but not without meaningful metaphysical constructs. It was one of my favorite pilot scripts out of the handful I was willing to read. My only concern was that it was stuffed to the gills and extremely ambitious.

As it turns out the first half of the Pilot is a bit rough and not perfectly coherent. The audience is thrown into a situation starting out in a hotel in New York with two unknown buyers trying to get their hands on a piece of this fallen alien space-craft debris, but their dealings are interrupted, as CIA Agent Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) and M16 Agent Finola Jones (Riann Steele), -and their back-up team arrive on the scene. This leaves one piece of the debris to get left behind, while the two buyers escape and the seller ends up jumping of the roof and landing on a car dead. In the meantime a maid finds the piece of debris, unwraps it, and upon touching it, falls through 40 floors onto a dinning table in the hotel restaurant!!

Finola and Bryan are then on a plane presumably back to Orbital the name of the international task force (at least on the American side), but Finola gets a call from her handler and the two are suddenly tasked to investigate a new case in Kansas.

A lot of the transitions between these early scenes are bit sudden and the audio seemed to fluctuate a bit too. It's really only Riann Steele that delivers a consistent warm performance, with the others' acting seemed forced, until we cross into the second half of the episode.

The case in Kansas turns out to be a pretty eerie case, as Bryan and Finola begin to discover that it is linked to a women who recently lost her son named Keiren in a car crash. There was a major piece of debris in her back yard and she was drawn to it. Eventually she began to see her dead son, but then he would begin to reenact his death over and over, leaving various victims, including his mother, in an odd state of levitating stasis and where they were trying to gather together in some kind of magnetic-field tornado.

A triage site was created on location and the victims were taken there to be studied. They learned rather quickly that were not dead, but for some reason, not communicating...

Finola finally figures out where the boy is most likely taking his victims, as she rushes to save another women, but doing so then made Fiona the victim instead. Bryan then realizes after listening to Finola's openness for much of the episode, that maybe the only way to stop this from happening again is to get the mother to come out away from her grief. 

The viewers learned earlier that the mother also had a daughter, who was going to boarding school near by, because she wasn't getting along with her mother after the death of her brother. At one point Isla tells Bryan that she told her mom that it was her fault her brother was dead, even though she didn't really mean it. Bryan convinces her that she needs to tell her mother how much she needs her and loves her. She does so and her mother and rest of the victims wake up!

Finola too is saved and the boy disappears nowhere to be found.

At first I had some reservations about Jonathan Tucker in this role. He's a great actor, no doubt, but I was used to seeing him in villainous roles and in the first half of the Pilot he seemed so distant and counter to Riann Steele, that I just thought it wasn't going to work.

But as the episode progressed, Bryan came more and more out of his shell and it became much clearer that Bryan's a character sees an endearing quality in Finola that he no longer feels has, and that she tends to bring something benevolent out in him. It was revealed in dialogue that he was previously on tours of duty in Afghanistan, but also that he had lost someone and regretted never telling them how he really felt for them. This makes Bryan a more interesting character to try and figure out.

It was also a bold choice for the Pilot to just jump into a story that basically is already in progress. Finola and Bryan didn't just meet and Bryan has been working with Oribital and following the debris for some time. But Finola's father is also another point of interest. Finola had talked to both to Isla and Bryan about the loss of her parents, including her father, whom was the first astrophysicist that discovered and started examining the debris.  The end of the episode also leaves us with a cliffhanger with the reveal from Bryan's handler CIA agent Craig Maddox, that her father may still be alive and that he must keep this a secret from his M16 counterpart.

Overall I ended up enjoying the Pilot, despite that it may have tried to cram too much into it's first episode resulting in the first half being a bit convoluted. I also can't say that the debris itself or rather the first cases of this story had deep hook the same way Fringe's Pilot had, but it really was the relationship between Bryan and Finola that sold it for me, along with so many Fringe elements and one particular underlying concept of emotional quantum entanglement that I always find a fascinating concept. I can't wait to see how this progresses and what the debris truly means for humanity!

The Fringe Factor

Each week I will attempt to showcase some possible easter eggs and concepts from Fringe that may apply to the episode, just to give it some nostalgia and unique context!

In a very general sense, because the debris causes phenomenon that defies physics and seems to cause some disturbing incidents, it's not unlike "Fringe Events". The difference though is that Fringe starts out with the characters or the audience not knowing anything much at all about what or whom is causing the events and to what end. In Debris' case, it's a bit more like jumping into Fringe's Season three and following the unearthing of the Blue timeline's wave sync device, which might tell us that the debris or the full alien space-craft may be reassembled at some point to do something much bigger. 

Speaking of season three, one episode in particular that comes to mind is episode 6B. This an episode about a women living in an apartment complex who recently lost her husband. And after party-goers fall through a balcony, Walter surmises that the building might have a "crack" or a weak spot between the two parallel universes, but as the team comes to meet Mrs. Rozencranzt they realize that the singularity is only getting worse due to this women's grief which has become emotionally quantum entangled with the parallel universes' version of her husband, who as also recently lost his wife. But as Walter tries to explain to the women, this person she is able to see is not her husband. It's not until she realizes that this other man and his version of her did not have any children, that Walter was telling her the truth and she is able to break her connection and stop the singularity!

One of the things that season three of Fringe did best, was give the audience an abundance of stories about loss that reflected back to Walter's own grief and the original cause of the decay of the two inextricably linked universes. From a character standpoint, it's what made Fringe so good and what drove one of it's more exciting story lines with the battle between universes and Walter Bishops.

From this Pilot episode alone, it's pretty easy to see that Debris wants to follow in a similar story about grief, loss, and family.

Another episode that comes to mind is another season three episode, Os.

Os featured a case about an astrophysicist wanting to help his paraplegic son walk again by using reversed effects in the element osmium, but more specifically, lutetium from meteorites that was causing people to float. This is similar to the notion that the victims featured in Debris' Pilot were levitating and that the show is also dealing with material seemingly from outer space that defies physics. 

There are also two episodes from the Season one of Fringe that are similar to this case, that ironically went hand in hand together.

The episode The Equation features a case where a boy who recently survived a car crash but lost his mother, became a musical prodigy obsessed trying to complete this one song stuck in his head. He was abducted by women by using hypnotic red and green flashing lights and she was able to somehow astral project or make the boy believe his mother was alive, pressuring him to finish the composition that was somehow the key to an equation. The women turned out to be apart of a terrorist group that Fringe viewers come to know as ZFT and this equation eventually allowed them to defy physics by walking through walls, later seen in the follow up episode Safe. This all leads to ZFT being able to smuggle their leader David Robert Jones out of a German prison.

It would seem that this episode juxtaposes the same notion, but with the boy dead and the mother alive, and the mother able to see him, or something that wanted to manifest and image of him. In the episode Safe we also see criminals of ZFT able to steal things they need in order to create a teleportation device. In the Pilot episode we see characters that can walk through walls and teleport, but also like with Safe, they can stuck in walls or other materials if they do not calculate right.

So what's in a name?

In the Fringe episode before Safe, titled, In which We Meet Mr. Jones, we are introduced to one of Fringe's bigger villains, David Robert Jones. We learn that he is man behind ZFT in the blue universe, out for revenge after being once fired by the prestigious ingenious William Bell, Walter's former lab partner. ZFT was a manifesto originally derived by Bell, but Jones has corrupted it by defying it's ethical code and this ends up being what the Pattern and most Fringe events are about!

So it's very curious that one of our leading characters is name Finola Jones and that her father, who may in fact be alive after all is also another seemingly important "Mr. Jones".

Finola's first name is curious too. It shares a lot of the same letters as Fringe's Olivia, just swap out the v for and f and minus one i. But in terms of her personality, I have to say that Finola is counter to Olivia. She's more like Astrid Farmsworth and Peter Bishop meshed together. She's more outgoing, but emotionally attentive and nurturing. There is also one scene where we see Finola blow on a dandelion, allowing it's seeds to fly everywhere towards the debris. Fringe originally had some concept art, similar to the glyph art, that depicted dandelions, but that didn't really materialize on the series, except that Etta blows on one during the day of the Observer attack and Walter finds a yellow one in a crack out in the street during the first episodes of season five, which was meant to represent hope! But maybe this concept is going to get used in Debris in a way that is more relevant?!

Bryan Benevolent Beneventi however is more like Olivia, a character that is struggling to get too close to someone and form long term meaningful relationship. In addition the backstory so far does remind me of Peter Bishop's initial backstory introduced in Fringe's pilot, but IMO Fringe changed the tone and some of their original story line ideas, as Peter and Broyles were kind of 'film noir' and the first few episodes seemed to want to tease an evil corporate conspiracy with Massive Dynamic and the FBI (or at least, Broyles) that never fully materialized, as it was undercover NSA agent, agent Scott that appears corrupt, only for that to also be false, and for that story line to completely fall away from the show once the character finally died. Massive Dynamic then served more of a story axle to build and bridge the backstory of Walter, Bell, and Nina Sharp, rather than play Massive Dynamic a straight up villain.

Debris seems to be setting up a bit of a conspiracy too, as the CIA side seems to want to hide things from M16, but it is unclear yet if there is a good reason for Maddox' defense argument or if this will fizzle out and be a ruse.

And lastly, as for other Fringe alumni, Director Brad Anderson directed Debris' Pilot. He was responsible for 11 episodes of Fringe including Os and In which We Meet Mr. Jones! He is also now an executive producer of Debris. 

Actor Micheal Eklund also made a bit of a cameo as the man selling the debri. He appeared as a guest star in the Fringe episode The Plateau. He also guest starred in the Almost Human episode, Beholder

Well that's it for this week. Did you like the Pilot? Have any theories of premonitions about the Debris or Dr. George Jones? Is he really alive or some kind of apparition? Any other easter eggs you would like to add, Fringe or otherwise, -maybe something to do with Stargate? Sound off in the comments below!

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