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La Brea - Pilot - Review

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NBC's newest show La Brea is not the first of its kind. It takes a lot of its cues from other sci-fi such as Lost, Terra Nova, Land of the Lost and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Maybe there's even a dash of Primeval in there. The idea of a world within our own populated with primeval creatures is a wel-loved concept and there's just enough allure in the idea of time-travelling adventures that there are probably going to be many shows after La Brea that try to make the concept their own. 

One episode is certainly not enough to judge the show's fate, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the premiere, I could certainly see where it fell short. It feels like a show that would have been better off on a streaming service with a higher budget while also managing to give me the impression that if it had aired even a few years ago, it would have held more impact as a new show. Broadcast these days - if you're not on the CW - is very much geared away from fantasy and science fiction, genres that have found better homes for themselves on cable and streaming. 

That is not to say that La Brea won't succeed, just that it has a bit of an uphill battle to prove itself on its home network. Right now, I would say it's trying too hard to emulate its inspirations - particularly Lost, with the large group of survivors having to find a way to survive in a strange new environment while dealing with their own mysteries and backstories. But outside of Gavin's visions and the mention of a similar sinkhole in the Mojave, there is no tantalising depth to the lore just yet. 

I have great hopes for the show though and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that when the season is done, the mystery will have proven itself. I want the show to succeed and I want to feel invested in the main family. I just don't feel that connection with the characters yet, aside from my bias towards Jon Seda - but that's just because he played my favourite character in Chicago PD so I'm naturally predisposed to like his character here. 

I am afraid the cast is too ambitious though, with a lot of characters thrown at us in forty minutes and the plot, for all the depths of the sinkhole, does feel slightly shallow in comparison, bogged down a little by the writing. It doesn't help that the show has given itself too much to do in terms of balancing the storylines in the sinkhole and the city. You can almost feel the show worrying about making sure both arcs get what they rightly deserve, though right now, the less densely populated city arc means the characters feel richer. After all, the sinkhole survivors weren't given much to do in the episode other than wonder what happened. It wasn't as noticeable on my first watch of the episode because there are so many of them down there but a tighter focus on the mother and son would have been better than simply throwing all of the characters at us at once.

Gavin and Izzy's dynamic is probably my favourite so far with just the right amount of tension between their father-daughter love, the grief over losing Eve and Josh and the conflict concerning his visions. I'm looking forward to where their relationship goes now that his visions have proven to be true. I have to say the reveal of the survivors turning out to have traveled through time was surprising to me, though I think it should have been glaringly obvious. The idea has a lot of potential if it is done right, especially with the stranger watching them from the trees. He's clearly been there a while judging by the beard. Was he a part of the Mojave sinkhole? Or was there yet another sinkhole before that one?

And what is the meaning of the handprint? Its prominent positioning in Gavin's visions makes me think that it has a deeper meaning than just the rock Eve lost her ring at. Was it left by an earlier survivor of the sinkhole? Is it possible that someone gets stranded even further back in time and leaves the handprint behind as a sign? Am I reading too much into it because I'm hoping the lore becomes more complex as more about Gavin's connection to the sinkhole is revealed?

I didn't mean for this review to turn out so critical because I really did enjoy the pilot. It's great popcorn fun though that has the added effect of it coming across as the show not wanting you to think too deeply, seeming content to ultimately hand us all the answers on a silver platter. And there I go being critical again. It does have a lot of my favourite adventure tropes. Family dynamics, strange new worlds, learning to survive with limited resources. I am very likely to enjoy every episode, especially if it keeps including good character moments like Josh falling into the sinkhole because he stopped to save a little girl. It's the little things like that which are going to give the show its heart much more than the big action spectacles.

What did you think of the pilot? Are you going to continue watching the series? What are your hopes for where the mystery leads? Sound off in the comments below!

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