Feed The Beast premiere recap: Pilot Light
Have you been missing a mixture of fine dining, sad, middle-aged white dudes, and former Mad Men actors as mob bosses in your life? Well, AMC’s got you covered this summer with Feed The Beast, a strange little show (which our TV critic Jeff Jensen gave a C review) that blends high and low art, like having a filet mignon with a side of Doritos. Let’s get to it!
The series premiere of Feed The Beast immediately familiarizes us with the two main characters, the two down-and-out friends who we’ll be following for 10 episodes. First there’s Dion (Jim Sturgess), who’s locked up in prison but having a pretty good time considering he’s the head chef and all the guards seem to like him. Then there’s Tommy, who seems to be struggling to hold his life together. His kid, TJ, needs to wake him up just to get to school on time.
It isn’t long before Dion isn’t in the prison kitchen anymore. Instead, he’s being let out on parole, and after he enjoys a hit of coke and a quick sexual rendezvous with his lawyer in a private interrogation room, he finds his way back into the world, the sunlight beating down on him.
Things aren’t sunny for long though. As soon as he steps out of prison, he sees a black van parked across the street. It starts coming for him before a garbage truck allows Dion to sneak into the sewer and evade his potential captors. Just another part of Dion’s story that’s revealed, but who are these people exactly? Whoever they are, they don’t seem friendly, and they don’t seem to like Dion.
Meanwhile, there’s so much blues slide guitar in the score of this show that it continually overpowers the more emotional moments. For instance, we learn that Tommy had a wife once, but that she died sometime in the past. He stands by her grave, replacing her flowers with a fresh batch. It’s a solid character moment that sets up a lot of what comes later, but that damn slide guitar keeps wailing away. It’s so out of place.
Anyway, Dion makes his way to a man named Uncle Stavros, who’s secured a getaway package for him; a passport, a plane ticket to Paris, and a little spending money. And why does he need this? Well, that man in the truck at the beginning of the episode is some sort of mob boss named Mr. Woichik (played by Mad Men alum Michael Gladis), but he’s better know as, and I’m not kidding here, the Tooth Fairy, and he’s coming for Dion. The Tooth Fairy shows up at Uncle Stavros’ place, but Dion gets away just in time.
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With that bit of backstory filled in, Feed The Beast shifts back to Tommy. It turns out that he’s a sommelier, but right now he’s repping wines to a number of restaurants. Oh, and he’s an alcoholic. Oh, and his wife Rie was killed in a car accident and his son TJ watched her die and hasn’t spoken a word since. That’s contributing to TJ being bullied at school and his grades plummeting. Safe to say things aren’t going so well for Tommy Moran and his offspring.
NEXT: I’m always getting into trouble
Obviously, everything will work out just fine once Tommy and Dion are brought together. Sure enough, Dion shows up on Tommy’s doorstep and the two old pals check in with one another. Dion says he’s just staying the night before leaving for Paris in the morning, and Tommy says it’ll be sad to see him go for good.
It isn’t long though before things get a little more unfriendly. For instance, when Dion brings up the shoddy state of the loft Tommy’s staying in, Tommy fires back with how Dion got all coked up and burnt down the restaurant they were supposed to be running with Rie. Yeah, everything’s fine here.
Eventually, Dion cooks them all a meal — “perfectly mediocre” chides Tommy — and then suggests to Tommy that the three of them pack up together and start over in Paris. They can finally open Thirio, the restaurant they’ve always wanted, and TJ can get a fresh start in a new country. Tommy’s resistant to the idea, and there’s a reason: he says he won’t do it without Rie, that the whole point of Thirio was to have the three of them running the show.
It’s not long though before Dion’s forced to change plans. As he leaves Tommy’s place the next day he runs straight into the Tooth Fairy. Apparently when Dion got caught burning the old restaurant to the ground, that cost the Tooth Fairy $600,000 in insurance money, and now he’s come to collect his debt.
Dion does a quick bit of lying though, showing the Tooth Fairy around Tommy’s place and telling him that they’re in the business of reopening the restaurant right in the heart of the Bronx. He sells him on profits exceeding his debt, and for now the Tooth Fairy agrees to the arrangement. And if something goes wrong? He’ll kill Tommy, TJ, and everyone else Dion loves.
Of course, this whole plan means getting Tommy on board. After Tommy comes back from a group grief therapy session, where he meets Feed The Beast‘s potential love interest Pilar, Dion puts on a show of making Thirio’s “signature dish,” hoping to convince Tommy that they can open a restaurant here and make it succeed.
The two fight loudly about whether or not to give Thirio a shot, which causes TJ to call his dead mother’s phone, which Tommy still keeps around, just so that he can hear her voice on the outgoing message. That apparently brings Tommy around on the restaurant idea. As Dion says, it’s time for the kid to see his father in his element, rather than just sad and mopey.
So all that’s left is funding for the restaurant, and Dion has a suggestion: Tommy’s father, who owns some sort of scaffolding business. Tommy hates the idea, and I’m sure we’ll find out why soon enough — this wouldn’t be a “prestige drama” without some daddy issues! — but for now it’s the only option they have. With an agent on Dion’s ass about getting intel about the Tooth Fairy, and both Tommy and TJ spiraling, something needs to change. Something tells me Thirio isn’t exactly going to be a saving grace.