The series premiere of Pan Am was, in hindsight, all about promise — the promise of high-style romantic adventure for the characters, and the promise of a high-style period romantic drama for the audience. And what better place for the show to start delivering on both points, than
New York City made to look like Paris with a green-screen spit-and-polish Paris, right?
Alas, instead, Pan Am‘s second episode seemed aimed at getting both its characters and audience to start lowering their expectations. The two most compelling storylines left dangling last week — Pan Am stewardess-turned-Cold-War-spy Bridget’s mysterious disappearance; and the frosty relationship between runaway-bride Laura, her liberated sister Kate, and their imperiously patrician mother — were more-or-less resolved by the end of the hour. Christina Ricci still doesn’t have enough to do as the proto-feminist Maggie, doubly disappointing since she’s pretty much the only actor on the show who doesn’t deliver her/his lines in I’m-in-a-period-drama quotation marks. And it’s disconcerting that a series built around the allure of transporting us to a different far-flung location each week cannot convincingly recreate the City of Light, even with CG slight-of-hand. (In other words: Don’t promise us the Champs Élysées and then deliver an anonymous park.)
I’m grumpy, I know. It could be in part because I’m writing this recap while flying myself, across the country, in coach, in a middle seat. (Oh the irony.) And the episode was in its way perfectly pleasant. But while it’s unfair to put Pan Am up against the back-to-back-to-back-to-back Emmy winning Mad Men, I just see Pan Am staring down two roads: Down one sits an agreeably familiar drama gussied up with some fabulous costumes and some classy art direction; and down the other awaits a fizzy, female-centric, can-do counterpoint to the disconsolate male sturm und drang churning over at Sterling Cooper. It’s still too early to call which direction this show will ultimately choose, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for the latter.
Anyhoo, onto the episode at hand.
Maggie and Ted and the a–hole in 3D
Last week, we learned Maggie lives with beatniks and doesn’t like wearing girdles, and this week, Maggie’s one-woman crusade against the patriarchy kicked into high gear. First, she dressed down the airline’s decorum doyenne at the morning weigh-in, demanding she step on the scales too: “I assume that if there’s an ideal weight for serving drinks, then surely there’s an ideal weight for looking down one’s nose.” Ricci’s eyes flared somehow even wider, with a puckish glint that kinda evoked Wednesday Addams for me. But just as things were about to get deliciously catty, in swept Ted, who whisked Maggie and her compatriots away before the switchblades could come out.
NEXT: Maggie skewers a handsy passenger, and Dean and Collette go looking for Bridget