[This post contains details from the Second Chance episode that aired Jan. 13]
In a past life, Second Chance was called The Frankenstein Code. Makes sense: The show finds a lot of its inspiration from the classic Mary Shelley tale about Dr. You-Know-Who. Then it was renamed Lookinglass, as in the Google-like tech empire that plays a central role in the series. But that was eventually scrapped, too, so now we have the generic title Second Chance.
Could these name changes suggest that a potentially exciting, Wayward Pines-y sci-fi drama has been sanded down to a less imaginative network procedural? Or is it possible that the show was never going to be able to match its ambitious premise? Who knows. But no matter how you dice it, the premiere leaves a lot to be desired.
Here’s the show’s premise in all its wacky glory: A 75-year-old disgraced former sheriff is killed under mysterious circumstances, only to come back to life as a super-strong, young bad boy thanks to the unsolicited help of a pair of billionaire tech twins, who have their own motives.
So. Let’s start with those twins, the Goodwins. We first meet Otto Razor-scooting through the Seattle offices of Lookinglass, the Google-ish company he founded with his sister, Mary. Otto is the passionate, idealistic one, and Mary is the practical realist with the head for business. Their work has turned them into media celebrities, the sort that get asked to do TED Talks or appear on Piers Morgan’s show. (In this universe, Piers Morgan still has an American TV show, which might be Second Chance’s biggest stretch of all.)
But Mary is also dying of…something, so Otto decides to help cure her by rashly going ahead with a top-secret experiment that could save her life. Mary objects to it — but not that strongly because they end up going through with the scheme anyway.
Enter Frankenstein! Or, well, enter Rob Kazinsky, who plays Jimmy Pritchard 2.0. Like the older one, this new model comes with an attitude and a nose for solving crimes. Oh, and he now has superhuman strength (and, um, super-potent sperm).
This all sounds like it could be pretty fun… So why isn’t it? For its popcorn premise, Second Chance can be weirdly serious about itself. There are a few flashes of self-awareness sprinkled in here and there, but they tend to get lost beneath the overcooked drama and generally messy plotting. If there’s an antidote to that, it’s Kazinsky. His sly performance as a devil-may-care party boy helps loosen up the show. That comes in handy when, say, the twins are hard at work making super-concerned faces about science or shareholders or whatever. For better or for worse, Kazinsky is the only one in on the joke.
As for the story, there are logical issues left and right. That’s a given, though. If you’re thinking about them too much, you’re doing Second Chance wrong. The premiere veers less toward the sci-fi stuff than the cop-show stuff, and it expects you to follow suit. The central plot revolves around Pritchard’s quest to find out who killed his older self and why. The answer involves corrupt law enforcement, and it goes All The Way To The Top — and also happens to implicate his son, Duval, an FBI Agent.
That sets up to be the show’s main emotional element — Jimmy trying to connect with his son without being able to tell him who he really is. Moreover, Jimmy hopes to change how Duval feels about his crooked-cop father. Their strained, surreal relationship is full of potential, even if it’s hard to imagine it sustaining an entire series. The pilot ends with the two of them hesitant but on the same side, leaving the door open for plenty of future father-son high jinks.
But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Will Second Chance be able to outperform Fox’s other recent stab at the sci-fi procedural genre, the failed Minority Report? Maybe. The pilot offers up a few threads of intrigue worth pulling, and you could see the producers finding interesting ways to debate such hot topics as gene editing and Silicon Valley’s God complex. Ideally, that would help keep the dull, clichéd procedural stuff to a minimum. Because if the show has any chance of keeping viewers hooked week to week, it will need to show some more life.
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