[SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from the new episode]
Second Chance premieres on FOX on Wednesday nights (9/8C) and is intriguing enough to be worth your time. Pilots are always a difficult thing to pull off since they have only 45 minutes to introduce characters, provide adequate back-story, and establish the driving force of the series. It is no surprise that things may feel a bit rushed. They also need to be fascinating enough so that the viewer would be interested in tuning in to the series in the weeks to follow. Second Chance delivers a solid pilot covering all the requirements and sets up interesting themes to move the series forward. No doubt there are going to be some high expectations as the series evolves, considering the producers have some outstanding television credits as part of their resumes such as Life, Crisis, 24, Homeland, Tyrant, Law & Order: SVU, and Elementary.
Also, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the Eclipse interview with Executive Producer Rand Ravich and stars Rob Kazinsky for some great character insights.
As the series begins, we are quickly introduced to cantankerous 75-year old Jimmy Pritchard (Philip Baker Hall), a Seattle sheriff who has retired in disgrace due to his somewhat questionable methods of solving cases. He appears to have withdrawn to smoking, drinking, and enjoying the company of call girls (“don’t worry he can’t do much but talk.”). His son Duval (Tim DeKay of “White Collar”) is an FBI agent and often checks in on his dad, bringing granddaughter Gracie (Ciara Bravo) along to this particular quick visit. Another important part of the puzzle are genius, codependent, billionaire tech twins Mary (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Otto (Adhir Kalyan) Goodwin.
Since we know from the promos that Jimmy will be brought back to life, the pilot quickly develops the investigative situation that results in Jimmy’s demise in what is ruled a suicide. It also gives him a look at his own killers, which sets up the future investigation and revenge aspects quite nicely.
Of course, the twins with the social media empire known as “Lookinglass,” do not give Jimmy a second chance at life entirely out of altruism. It appears that Mary is terminally ill and Jimmy is that one-in-a-million DNA match which may give Mary her own second chance at life as a result of the experimentation on Jimmy. Jimmy is regenerated as a 30-something specimen of male perfection.
As the younger Jimmy (now played by Rob Kazinsky, “True Blood”) adjusts to his new reality, we see that his physical prowess is beyond that of an average person. His skills do not imply that he has super powers of any kind, just that he is faster and stronger than the average guy. He represents the human body to its maximum point of ability. But there is a twist that will keep him forever connected to and in need of services provided by the twins: he faces cell degeneration and needs to be back in the regeneration pool every 12 hours or he will die for good. That means no third chance of coming back.
There are elements of the fish-out-of-water themes that often occur when someone is put in situations that do not equate to their age, gender, or place in time. In the case of Jimmy, he is an old-school sheriff thrust into a highly technological world, but still trying to use his basic cop skills to bring down the bad guys. And since a guy needs a good set of wheels, the twins give him a very appropriate classic muscle car: a beautiful, all-black, 1971 Buick Riviera. I am guessing at some point the twins will also help fabricate a new identity for Jimmy since the picture on his driver’s license no longer matches his current looks or stats.
Jimmy meets up with family members through various situational circumstances without revealing his true identity at this point in time. He provides evidence so that his FBI son can look into his killers (another twist pointing to a deep cover-up in the case), and explains his association to the old Jimmy Pritchard by stating that he “used to work with your father”. It is doubtful that an FBI agent who is suddenly faced with some strange associate of his father’s will simply let that slide and not begin to look into this person’s background. But for the time being, Duval focuses on following the evidence presented to him. The case is not solved in this one episode, leading us to believe it will evolve over time, while the better, stronger, faster Jimmy will take on cases that can be solved within one episode. Second Chance is basically a sci-fi procedural, but it works in great part due to its cast who is able to deliver interesting characters that play well off one another. And the family connection between characters serves as a strong springboard: the brother fighting to save his sister’s life; the father keeping his son safe and trying to be the father that he never was before.
There are some interesting themes being set up that the series will hopefully tap into: What would you do if you had a second chance? Would you embrace a new purpose or fall back on old habits? What are the moral and ethical implications of playing God? If we had the power to bring people back, should we? Who would deserve a second chance on this already over-crowded planet?
There were a few issues that made the standard suspension of disbelief required in sci-fi difficult. All fans of sci-fi realize that the events they are watching are not actually possible, but they want details to be presented in such a manner as to make them believe they are possible. A few of the most obvious include the following:
= It appears that Otto and Mary have been developing and testing this regeneration technology for a while, yet the only living creatures tested successfully so far were goldfish. To jump from goldfish directly to a human subject (and have it work) was far-fetched, even for a sci-fi show. It would have been better to at least have shown that the science was successful on other mammals, like mice or rats.
= The subject is thrown into a suspension liquid and somehow his cells regenerate. The show does not make even a meager attempt at a plausible explanation as to why this could possibly work, or why they don’t need to breathe while in there. It just all seems to happen by magic!
= Jimmy Pritchard is reverted back to his younger self, yet his own family does not recognize him. Rather than the simple “you look familiar” that we hear a couple of times with no further recognition, the reaction of Jimmy’s children should have been more along the lines of “this is really strange, but you look exactly like my dad when he was 30”. Supposedly the regeneration process does not change Jimmy’s appearance, only makes him young once again, so this oversight in recognition is a bit hard to believe.
Second Chance will be up against Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds and Supernatural, along with Comedies Modern Family and Blackish. Viewers already dedicated to watching comedies on Wednesday will not likely make the switch to a sci-fi drama. The procedurals may lose a few viewers looking for something fresh, and I bet that a large part of the Supernatural audience tunes in to this interesting sci-fi show – at first. But that audience is also very dedicated to Supernatural, helping it stay on the air for 11 seasons, and still going strong enough to make a season 12 a good possibility. Once their show returns from break in a couple of weeks, it is doubtful they will continue to live-watch Second Chance.
As a new series, there will always be a large enough audience to tune in and “check it out”. As always, the big question will be if those same viewers are willing to give the series a second chance by tuning in during the weeks to follow and provide adequate ratings numbers to FOX, who hasn’t exactly been a good friend to unique sci-fi series. (Yes, I’m still angry about the cancellation of Almost Human.) In an unusual move, FOX reduced the original 13-episode order to 11 episodes, mostly for scheduling reasons in order to accommodate so many of its current series returning as well as make room for X-Files and Lucifer.
SECOND CHANCE (previously titled The Frankenstein Code and Lookinglass before settling on its current title) is a production of 20th Century Fox Television, in association with Kara Productions and Teakwood Lane Productions. The series is written by Rand Ravich (“Life” and “Crisis”). The series is executive-produced by Ravich, Emmy Award-winning executive producer Howard Gordon (“Homeland” and “24”)., Donald Todd (“Sleepy Hollow”) and Brad Turner (“24”). Hugh Fitzpatrick (“Tyrant”), Richard Hatem (“Witches of East End”) and Gwendolyn Parker (“Law & Order: SVU”) are co-executive producers. Emmy Award winner Michael Cuesta (“Elementary” and “Homeland”) served as director and executive producer on the pilot. Photos courtesy of FOX.
FINAL GRADE: B-