It hasn’t taken Poppy Montgomery [Without a Trace] too terribly long to return to series television. Unforgettable [CBS, Tuesdays, 10/9C] finds Montgomery playing Carrie Wells, former detective with a medical condition that makes it impossible for her to forget anything – except for the details that might solve her sister’s murder.
We first meet Carrie volunteering at a seniors’ home where she persuades a recalcitrant gentleman to take his meds by listing the highlights from a day in the past – one that has a particular relevance to the fellow. From there, we follow her to ‘work’ – using her memory to win big at a casino before she’s hauled into the manager’s office for card counting. Again, she uses her memory to create a distraction to give her the means to get out of a sticky situation.
Once home, she hears a fight in a neighbor’s apartment followed by sounds of a chase down the stairs. She checks the hall and sees blood on the wall, so she goes outside, where she discovers the body of her neighbor. When the police arrive, she gives her statement and returns to her apartment where she is soon visited by Detective Al Burns [Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck] – her ex-boyfriend and partner from when she was a detective for the Syracuse Police Department. He’s now running a homicide squad that includes Mike Costello [Michael Gaston, Jericho], Roe Saunders [Kevin Rankin, Trauma] and Nina Inara [Daya Vaidya].
Although not happy to see Al again, Carrie agrees – after some effort on his part – to consult on the case because of her gift/curse. The case is unusual in that the murdered woman seems to have no past beyond 1993 – and one of the persons of interest, who appeared in a photo [now missing] that hung in woman’s apartment, is similarly without a past beyond that year.
Written by Ed Redlich and John Bellucci, the premiere of Unforgettable is a reasonably complex procedural whose hook is that Carrie remembers absolutely everything she’s ever seen, heard, or read – except for a brief period of time surrounding the murder of her sister Rachel. As she becomes involved in the case, she begins to remember things about her sister’s murder that she had completely blocked out before. The premiere also delves into Carrie’s past with Al – including the fact that he was working on her sister’s case and that, in part, led to their breakup and their moving, separately, to New York.
While the primary focus of the pilot is getting Al and Carrie working together, in spite of her conflicted feeling about him, each of the core cast gets a scene or two to give us a feel for their characters – Saunders, for example, is the newest member of the team and working hard to do well; Costello is gruffly affable, but not afraid to ask hard questions, and Inara has almost as much attitude as Carrie. We also learn a bit more about a woman named Alice [Deanna Dunagan], whom Cary tends in the seniors’ home.
Director Niels Arden Oplev [the original movie adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo] works in four palettes here: a sharp, blue/green based palette for the investigation; warm browns and golds for Cary’s volunteer work; heightened, slightly overexposed hues for Carrie’s work-related memory work, and a bleached out palette for the memories about Rachel’s murder.
Oplev takes the plot threads from Redlich and Bellucci’s script and weaves them together at a pace that isn’t quite as frenetic as most procedurals. After balancing all the elements of Steig Larsson’s bestseller, he definitely knows how use pacing, palette and score to build suspense. He does a good enough job that it’s only after the premiere ends that we realize that the device used to put Carrie in potential harm’s way in the last act is just a bit too contrived.
Overall, though, Unforgettable is off to a memorable [hey, it was there!] start.
Final Grade: B+