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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Should Fox Give Second Chance Another Go Next Year? Season Postmortem Review #SecondChance #Fox #Postmortem

Should Fox Give Second Chance Another Go Next Year? Season Postmortem Review #SecondChance #Fox #Postmortem

All pictures courtesy of FOX unless otherwise noted

'Sup, everybody! That's my new sign-in to make me sound hip and cool. Is it doin' things for ya, reader? I hope so. For the last few months I have been embroiled in a battle of seasonal preparation, sluggish writing, writer's apathy, an overly-long vacation and health issues. In all of that, I didn't get to cover many of the shows I was watching and missed sharing my thoughts on American Horror Story's finale (loved Gaga's performance, didn't care very much for the season; in fact, I thought Hotel drew a little too much from the first season AHS: House. Remember people who moved in there never really left either, not to mention a distant father, an erratic mother, an ignored child, and a younger child who everyone was going googly-eyed over. It felt like House from a different perspective). I also missed talking about many specials and some films I've seen (loved Grease! Live but as a Christian, I didn't too much care for The Passion. It felt long even though it was shorter than Grease, and it felt too talkie). But most importantly, I've been so busy writing (writing sequels is the worst) that I missed doing my 3 week roundup on many of the mid-season replacement shows. I managed one for The Family (#TheFamily), due mainly because of the speed in which it came out (three episodes in two weeks). However, other shows like You, Me and The Apocalypse and Second Chance weren't so lucky. Thankfully, many of these shows only had ten-episode orders, and wouldn't have been extended this season anyway. Their fates always relied on the strength of the ten episodes and would not be bolstered by three or four more episodes tacked on to the back-end, but would simply be decided in the summer. With that said, I feel comfortable doing a postmortem on these shows as they are still being considered for return next season (don't believe me, look at Wayward Pines and Secrets and Lies as examples from last season). Second Chance, you're on deck.

Obviously this will be a little different than a three week roundup where I dive into each episode. I'll begin with the premise and characters and work my way through.

Second Chance centers around two families, one Indian and the other white. The contrast should be stark but doesn't feel as such due to the way the story unfolds. The Indian (not Native American) family is comprised of two fraternal twins, one girl, one boy. Otto Goodwin, the boy, is an antisocial tech genius and founder of the company Looking Glass similar to Apple. Antisocial is probably not the proper word, though I forget exactly what word they used on the show. He's always understood and viewed the world differently. Like Einstein, he didn't speak for a very long time, at least not proper English; he and his sister have their own version of twintalk which they still utilize as adults. People, and to a greater extent the outside world, frighten him because of their unpredictability and uncontrollable variables. For this reason he spends life inside his home shared with his sister who is his primary caretaker of sorts.

His sister, Mary Goodwin (played by the scrumptious Dilshad Vadsaria) has always subbed for Otto's mouthpiece. The business-minded CEO of Looking Glass, she runs the company her brother fuels with his genius, a burgeoning billion dollar tech firm. I mention that it is a tech company again because of a thought that occurred to me later in the season that I'll address. The visual cue behind Looking Glass, Mary is often too busy taking care of her brother or his business to engage in any outside relationships. While she and her brother are helped throughout the series by a genius, Otto-created AI named Arthur and Mary's assistant Alexa (played by Vanessa Lengies who I also enjoy), they haven't much personal interaction outside of work. The kick of the series comes from Otto's love of and dependency on his sister. Years ago, doctors discovered that she was dying from an incurable, rare blood cancer, which has now become more aggressive. She has months to live. Otto has a plan to save his public surrogate, but it's gonna take a dead body. Pretty much all good plans start with a dead body, I guess... or, maybe that's just my plans. Uh, ignore that last statement.

The second family is pseudo-headed by Jimmy Pritchard. I say psuedo-headed by the 75-year-old man because he's not exactly favored by his two adult children. The subject of ire for his FBI agent son Duval, he enjoys razzing him about how bad of a job he's doing as an agent. Jimmy, in his younger years, was a policeman who made it all the way up to the sheriff's position before a forced retirement/resignation due to some bad police work. Now, he spends his days drinking and sitting in his raggedy old man apartment, and his nights, uh... drinking and sleeping with ladies of the night in his raggedy old man apartment. Duval's mother and Jimmy's former wife is long gone, not to mention he cheated on her when she was alive, so he doesn't have anyone outside of his kids and his granddaughter. His daughter, Duval's sister Helen is unfortunately never really flushed out even in an episode focusing on her rekindled passion with an old boyfriend from her teenage days. It's not completely clear, though it seems at times that she lives with her brother and his daughter and acts as a surrogate mother to the young teenage girl whose real mother isn't spoken of in great detail (she's dead... presumably). The girl's name is Gracie and she is the typical rebellious teen who doesn't think her overly-protective dad is right. Her rebellion plays into the end of the season in quite a predictable, but excusable way.

How do these two families intersect? Remember that dead body? Turns out it's Jimmy's. When the cantankerous old man's police instincts kick-in one more time to try saving his son from corrupt bureau agents, he wanders into a situation that gets him tossed off a bridge. Granted, this was on the pilot which I always say, "never judge a show by its pilot alone because it's trying to get on with it too quickly and doesn't give enough time for anything to build," but this part of it made me roll my eyes. With all of the crime TV shows on air, this one had the audacity to make us believe that this old man being pushed over the bridge was actually ruled a suicide. Why was this laughable? Because he was found lying on his back. What? Not only that, but there were no footprints on the bridge from where he'd have to have climbed over the railing to jump. Most crime shows and even documentaries will tell you that when people decide to commit suicide by jumping off something, they go face-first, not on their back. The psychology behind this is far too high-grade for this blog, but just believe me when I say that it's very rare for law enforcement to rule the way he was found a suicide without a note or something, even accidental suicide. Don't believe me, google the HBO suicide documentary The Bridge, about San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge. Over the course of a year they filmed people jumping (hopefully they found peace on the other side). Out of all the jumpers, only one I can remember did it backwards. But I digress.

Using their connections and manipulations of computer files, Otto and Mary get his body. Why? Because apparently Otto's plan hinges on a person having a certain genetic trait found only in less than 1% of the population. Jimmy has that marker. The plan? Use a never-fully-explained algorithm and medical concoction to resurrect Jimmy and create a near-perfect human being. Ladies and gentlemen, your new Frankenstein.
Otto's creation is supposed to not only create a perfect human being from the remains of a dead one, but in its blood hold a Rosetta Stone of sorts for cures. A blood infusion from the newly resurrected Jimmy should help cure Mary of her cancer, and serve as a map for other cures of incurable diseases (goodbye cancer, HIV, diabetes, etc.). Though it isn't completely explained, it helps the body heal itself in some way, and can extend the life of the resurrected person, with a caveat. And that caveat is as big as Randy Jackson circa 2003 American Idol. On a cellular level, Jimmy will breakdown over a matter of 12 or so hours before he has to go back into a tank of goop, which, up until the last two episodes, seems to be there for no other reason than to show his manly chest partially naked every episode (a gift for you, ladies). And so starts our journey.

They get Jimmy and use some electrodes and the goop to bring him back and he comes back not only better, but significantly younger than when he died. While his age is never mentioned he looks somewhere between 30 and 40--younger than his son, Duval. Having not asked for such a blessing as a second chance at life, he isn't content to stay locked away in the twins' house in a specially-made replica of his old man apartment. These two highly intelligent (one a genius) people fumble worse than Tony Romo against the Seahawks when trying to contain their new creation. Not only does he break free from their house and gallivants around the city, he also discovers he has superhuman strength, agility and endurance, multiplying the extremes of such abilities ten times of what the normal human can accomplish. Not without their safety precautions, they have linked him into Arthur and the Looking Glass web system which is able to not only track, but monitor his vitals. After a little free-running, he collapses and they bring him back to explain his new situation. Since it is still his life and his blood they need to save Mary, they strike a deal. He wants to bring to justice the men who killed him as he believes his son is in danger. Otto, being the standoffish-science nerd he is, doesn't agree with this as he sees the man as nothing more than an experiment which can and needs to be controlled for Mary's safety. His sister doesn't agree and allows him leeway to pursue this justice so long as he safely returns to the home. In fact, she helps him by using Looking Glass to research these men. The Arthur AI, paired with Looking Glass' power is akin to combing Google with the FBI's inner-company servers. They get info on anything and anybody at any time. The one thing standing in Jimmy's way: his son, and the relationship Duval has with one of the men who killed him (his current FBI partner).

We're gonna skip ahead here like one of those replays of live sports events that cut minutes of nothingness out because it's unnecessary. After catching his killers with the help of Mary and Duval, who still doesn't know that this is his dad brought back to life, Jimmy realizes that there are still other cases that he either had no time to solve the last time he was alive or he didn't have the resources to solve. New deal: allow him to help his son solve cases on a weekly basis, preferably at nine o'clock eastern standard time every Friday. He shares his blood with Mary once or twice every day, he hops into his tank of goo to sleep and replenish himself, Otto gets to keep his experiment going, and crimes get solved for the FBI. Now you're wondering, "Well, if Duval doesn't know who he is, then who does Jimmy say he is if they're working together?" Easy. His bastard son, you know, the one he had during one of his many affairs he had while married to Duval's mother. Isn't that just a sweet story and beautiful lie to tell your son? That you had an entire second life where you not only knew about this other out-of-wedlock child, but actually hung out with him at some of your favorite places like the Chinese bar where you used to smoke, drink and gamble when you were alive. Hell, the bar was such a staple of Jimmy's Sheriff routine that it has a picture of him hanging on the wall in his uni with a knife he used to gash the wood on the bar for every bad guy he personally caught.

Jimmy on the left, Duval on the right

The fact that Duval doesn't know his own father is working with him as his CI for the first couple episodes is cute and kitschy as Jimmy happens to show up in random places just as Duval shows up waving his badge. They do the whole, "Wait a minute, you can't be here. You're a civilian," shtick and Jimmy saves his son more than a few times. Duval has no idea he's using billionaire tech Looking Glass to help nor does he know about his superhuman abilities but he suspects that something is up outside of the man being his long-lost brother who he isn't too happy to find.

Is this another police procedural/case-of-the-week show? Why yes, it is. But what makes it different from many of the other new procedurals from this 2015-2016 season is the family bond and the new twist on the Frankenstein paradigm. Jimmy is not an ugly ogre with little intelligence but a fully formed, perfect man. Argue the actor's looks all you want, he fits the role. The cases, unlike Minority Report (an ill-fated Fox show from earlier in the season) and Limitless (the still-running CBS procedural) aren't groundbreakingly new in the way of criminal craft, but they do advance the plot and help you better understand the characters. Many of the cases this season were linked invariably to the old Jimmy. One of the women he had an affair with in his old age turned out to be a car dealer on the surface and a drug kingpin in her secondary career. The Chinese bar/restaurant frequented by Jimmy is a hotbed for criminal activity, and how Duval suddenly does super well in solving cases with his new CI is also briefly touched upon. But it doesn't really get interesting until the changes in the main characters become apparent.

The most significant change comes from Otto. Initially billed in the premiere as an innocent, family-loving genius maladjusted to society, he slowly devolves in a very unique way into a para-villain. As it turns out, Mary's assistant Alexa is actually one of his previous attempts to create this perfect human. She died at 82 from a slip in the shower and has come back as a young woman, hired by Mary with no knowledge of her background. She has a still-aging husband at home who she hopes to have this process done to so they can live a youthful life together again. Through her story, we not only realize that Otto is rather cold and calculating in his pursuit of a cure for his sister's disease, but that he is also easily manipulated. He discarded her for being imperfect before she had the chance to fully form her face and body, hence her unrecognizability. He also never told Mary about other attempts, very seldom keeping secrets from his twin. As said before, he wants to treat Jimmy as an experiment, but finds it increasingly difficult to accomplish when Mary starts forming a deeper connection with his "lab rat." The fear of being cut out from his current life with Mary pushes him to dismiss Jimmy as soon as Mary is cured, essentially giving the man the license to leave their home and go die in a dirty hobo-filled back alley.

When Mary rejects that twist from her brother, and dares teach Jimmy some twin speak to ask him to stay (he responds he doesn't want to go and she kinda gives him the feels), this infuriates Otto. Instead of staying and helping them continue to solve crimes, he flees to a competing company where the CEO wants his medical breakthrough info for himself so he can live forever. The problem is that this new CEO has been working with Alexa and discovered he doesn't have that special genetic marker to bring himself back from the dead. He believes that with time Otto will discover a way to do this for everybody, he simply needs a new test subject with the same genetic makeup as Jimmy. Lo and behold, who has the same genetic marker? Hint: It skips a generation.

Before we go to the last two episodes, let me stop and analyze the confusion about Otto's genius and Looking Glass. Most geniuses' knowledge concentrates in only one, maybe two subjects with a smattering of base info on other things. However, it seems that Otto's intellect truly knows no bounds. As mentioned, Looking Glass is a tech firm, yet the main thrust of the story has us believing that Otto has the medical science wherewithal to not only cure an incurable disease but to bring someone back to life younger and stronger than ever before. If overthought, some viewers might have a serious problem with this. While I'm not one of those viewers, I can see the distraction. It literally is akin to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates curing cancer personally, not just funding a cure. This touches on my complaint at the beginning of this TV season that modern TV is filled with far too many geniuses.

Back to the plot, did you figure it out yet? The hint I gave? The answer is his granddaughter, Gracie. Yes, Gracie becomes important later in the season when Otto decides to jump ship for the other company (again, it's a tech company but they want to venture into medical miracle cures, I guess). Otto's new "partner" orders Gracie kidnapped. Up until then it's a run-of-the-mill procedural but it gets really intense when we learn of the other "monsters" Otto has created and one is released. Gracie is taken and Otto shows little compassion for her as he knows that the extraction of the coveted DNA will likely result in her death, but... "eh!"
Even worse, because Otto took away Arthur who controlled the release of Jimmy from his special Frankenstein rejuvenation tank, Mary had to break it open and destroy it. Now, Jimmy's living on borrowed time (as if he wasn't already) as his cells breakdown and weaken. What would happen if this fully occurred we are never allowed to see , though I would hope he exploded like Fat Bastard in Austin Powers. Wait, did Fat Bastard explode open from eating too much or did I make that up/am remembering it from something else? Maybe I'm thinking of the glutton in Seven? Whatever.

Duval loses his mind and goes rogue while trying to save his daughter, Jimmy uses some of his last superhuman skills to jump down onto an SUV and save his son from being "taken in" by the FBI. In the most heartbreaking twist of the series, Alexa's old and decrepit husband decides that his once-old-and-decrepit-but-now-young wife working with this new CEO (she was partially responsible for manipulating Otto against Mary, though, similar to in the film Batman v Superman with Lex Luthor, she didn't really need to do much as the divide was already happening naturally) is wrong. He figures he's lived long enough and decides to off himself in the worst way possible: self-immolation. Yeah, he lit himself on fire, because, you know... he was a Sanders fan through and through and really wanted to feel the Bern (bad joke? Yes. Admittedly, even I shook my head at me when I wrote it). Guess he just didn't have time to drive to a good bridge and toss himself off. He couldn't leave a body behind anyway as Alexa would've still just brought him back.

Alexa, the other "monster" and Jimmy.

Her heart and mind changed (in future seasons I can see her taking the true mantle of Frankenstein's bride and there being a love triangle amongst her, Jimmy and Mary, rather than the familial triangle with the latter two and Otto), she decides to help the gang save Gracie. She knew the facility and has her own goop chamber which doesn't look as cool and isn't sequenced to Jimmy's genome. While Mary works on cracking a code to let her re-sequence the chamber to Jimmy's DNA, he, Duval and Alexa do a barnstorming of the evil CEO's lab. OK, they don't storm so much as quietly sneak in which leads to Alexa finally displaying her superhuman strength, and a very weirdly half-sexual, half-scientific encounter between her and Otto.
CEO guy plays a few tricks with Gracie as Duval and Jimmy capture Otto and seek to trade one for the other. Somehow, the baddies and Otto manage to escape with Gracie in-tow on a plane. Only then does Otto have his come-to-Jesus moment and realizes through reason that he is more a villain than savior to his sister. He orders Arthur (how the hell that computer goes everywhere he goes and controls everything is a mystery to me. It's more powerful than Iron Man's Jarvis) to fly the girl back home and does something crazy-cool to himself and the CEO which you can see with your own eyes.

At the end of the season, many things are left open for another season to take place with everything having uniquely changed. Mary left on a journey to find herself; Duval was thankful to his father for helping him save Gracie but decrees that he can't come around the family for a while until things with the FBI die down; Alexa is left to live with Jimmy in the house that the twins lived in where they both have ample access to money, zero bills, and a goop vat that works for both of them; and the thing that Jimmy fought so hard for the entire first season, his family and this new budding love, are both gone from his life, leaving him with only cases to possibly solve on his own. The pseudo-cliffhanger: Otto warns Mary of the possible future effects of the process he used on Jimmy. See, he tested it first on other animals, including fish as any good scientist would do. The fish, after being resurrected for some time, inexplicably turned deadly violent against other fish. He hadn't figured out a cure for this and knew it would eventually happen to Jimmy, too.

Gracie is the one on the right, in the yellow

That was a lot, wasn't it. Out of the ten episodes, it feels like I skipped over a lot of the episodes, like when Duval learned of his "half-brother" actually being his father or the other major plot points that turned out to be minor like Mary sleeping with the evil CEO. But I didn't find those that necessary to the review. Overall, my grade for the series is B. Surprisingly, I enjoyed this one. Again, if you're a TV WASP that only enjoys the highest of philosophical, theological or deep character studies, this probably isn't for you, but if you enjoy your procedural with a hint of sci-fi and a back-story in which all characters are allowed to grow and progress in different ways you may not be able to predict, then this might be for you. I legitimately did not see the whole Alexa side-plot coming, nor did I predict just how big it would be toward the end of the season.

Should you be watching? Well, yes. I say you should. Granted, it's far from perfect and has plenty of flaws both plot-wise and acting-wise, and not every character is given time to develop depth. It's a nice snacking show. Warning, many of the cases from week to week are forgettable if they don't uniquely apply to the overarching theme and story of the season played out amongst Otto, Mary and Jimmy, but you should enjoy yourself as you watch this lovable oaf try adjusting to life again when he wasn't anywhere near perfect living the first time around. I will use this little time to also mention that yes this show may have already had its season finale, but remember that it can still be caught OnDemand on most cable and satellite providers, as well as on FOX's website where you can catch the entire season. This is a way to vote with views on whether you want the show to return next year or not. I haven't checked the ratings (I know, I've been slacking on my homework) but remember that some low-rated series (see: Mr. Robot) come back so long as their fans are vocal enough and the costs low (this shouldn't have cost too much as the biggest effects it had involved Arthur the AI and a few lightning bolts). Until word comes out this summer, it isn't officially canceled (FOX has a knack for keeping certain shows on cough *Sleepy Hollow* cough), even with very low ratings.

What do you think? Did you watch Second Chance when it was on? If so, did you like it? If not, are you convinced to check it out after reading this review? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my new 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or  the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. The full first season is out NOW exclusively on Amazon; season 2 coming this summer. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "So, you're back from the dead. How does that make you feel?"
'Well... redundant.'
"Wow! So you've just been given a second chance to redo everything and you've already managed to find a way to suck at life. Interesting."

P.S. Like I emphasized, no I don't think the show was sucking at life. In fact, I found many of the things charming. I enjoyed how they did an ode back to Mary Shelley by naming Otto's sister Mary. I'd take the time to point out other easter eggs but Easter's over. So... yeah. And hey, aren't you glad I didn't ask you if FOX should give Second Chance a... second chance?  

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