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So Help Me Todd - Pilot - Review

As a huge fan of the Pitch Perfect series, I was immediately interested in checking out Skylar Astin in his first lead role in a prime-time TV series. The show has been marketed as a mystery drama, but I would suggest it is more of a family dramedy. In the premiere, we are introduced to the Wright family who despite appearances, are loaded with issues that we come to learn about in the episode. The episode opens with lead character Todd (Astin), busting a woman at the grocery store for claiming disability, despite being completely healed from her injury. Todd is a Private Investigator who lost his license due to a former mentor who tricked him into getting charged with wiretapping and forgery. He now works for an insurance company, investigating fraudulent claims. It is apparent that Todd is too nice for this gig, for when he sees the women’s children begging their mom for a special kind of cereal, he decides to delete the evidence, instead providing the woman with a warning to go back to work. Apart from losing his job, other aspects of Todd’s life have also fallen apart as we come to learn he is living in his sister’s garage.

Todd’s sister is played by Madeline Wise, who is perhaps best known for her role in ‘Single Drunk Female.’ Unlike Todd, Alison is a successful ER trauma surgeon and their brother, Lawrence, works in politics. Lawrence was oddly absent from this episode with no cast information available to be found for his character. Instead, we are introduced to Lawrence’s partner, Chet, and their young daughter when they attend a family dinner with the Wright’s. Information about Lawrence is provided through the other characters over dinner conversation. 

It is clear from this episode that Todd is the black sheep of the family, which has put him at odds with his mother, Margaret (played by Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden) and we learn that the two have not spoken in two years. While Todd is flexible and willing to take risks even if it means breaking the law, Margaret is the polar opposite. She is rigid, judgmental and a successful attorney. Margaret loves her family and although she means well, it seems all of her children have difficulty managing her black and white personality. There is a lot of backstory unpacked in this pilot episode. Viewers learn that Todd’s father has passed away and he is still dealing with the trauma of that event including feeling abandoned by his mother. Alison is clearly having issues in her marriage but continues to play the successful, doting daughter because as she tells Todd, it is easier to let their mother have her way. 

Aside from the family drama, Margaret and Todd are forced to put their differences aside to solve two mysteries that the writers have done a great job of weaving together. The first mystery is the disappearance of Margaret’s husband, Harry, who goes missing while Margaret is at work, and the second mystery involves Margaret’s work as a defence attorney. Her client is charged with murder, but Margaret knows she is innocent and is working to find the real culprit. Todd’s skills as a Private Investigator are on full display, as he inserts himself into both situations eager to solve them. Viewers learn that Harry has Parkinson’s disease and because his father died by suicide, Margaret fears that he may be headed for the same fate. However, Todd manages to track down Harry on a plane on his way to Iceland and we learn that he was never dying of Parkinson’s disease, he simply could not handle Margaret anymore. While looking into Harry’s disappearance, Todd comes across a surprise witness in Margaret’s murder case who he presumes is the real culprit. With both mysteries being solved by Todd, albeit awkwardly and not always by the book, Margaret realizes that her son is actually good at his job and offers him a position at her firm, taking over for her investigator who has conveniently gone on maternity leave. 

Despite a lot of information being thrown at viewers in the first episode, it is clear that this show has a lot of potential. Not only is the mystery portion intriguing and entertaining, the family drama is plentiful and it will be interesting to see how the characters manage their issues throughout the series as their story arcs are developed. 

A few thoughts that I am left with after the pilot: 
-The introduction of Todd’s brother, despite any casting information available for his character, is odd to say the least. If Lawrence is only going to be referred to but never seen, I have to wonder why the writers included this character in the series? 

-How will Margaret and Todd’s opposing personalities affect their ability to work together?

-Viewers were introduced to the character of Susan, an ex-girlfriend of Todd’s that works at his mothers firm. Although she is engaged, the mere introduction of her character makes it apparent that a potential rekindling lies in the works. 

-The already playful tete-a-tete between the firm’s licenced investigator Lyle and Todd will make for an interesting dynamic as these two officially become investigative partners. 

What did you think of the pilot? Did it live up to your expectations? Will you tune in for episode 2? Let me know your thoughts. Comment below and engage with me on Twitter @miss_c_almeida.


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