All pictures courtesy of USA Network
Hello again, readers and friends. So it seems that we are finally reaching the end of the Fall new show onslaught that has kept us all glued to our TVs in conjunction with the election coverage. While I would love to continue on this journey forever, my writing workload has backed-up so much that I did not finish a single project in the month of October. Also, I need to get busy on all of the editing that has been piling up since spring, which means this will most likely be my last new series three-week roundup. “But Michael, you never got to review my new favorite show.” Well, sorry. I’ll hit you with another post about some of the new shows that I failed to review and give you the reason why (some I might not even have time to watch). But until that day comes, we’re going to focus our efforts on another new sci-fi show for the season (Frequency was our first) in USA’s Falling Water. So, will this eerily bleak dreamland fulfill all of your REM wants and wishes, or is the show already sinking under the weight of its own pretentiousness? Read on to see.
The USA cable network’s new show Falling Water follows the lives of three main characters with a very important fourth side character thrown in for good measure. Three different narratives (no, that doesn’t mean it has the annoying narration of ABC’s American Housewife) will intertwine at some point in the series and already show signs of such intermingling on the first episode. At this point, you’re wondering why I practically repeated myself by talking about the three narratives in two back to back sentences, giving you similar information. I’m doing so because I’m debating which to elaborate on first: the concept of the show or the characters. Hmm? Thinking... still thinking... OK, I’ve decided that because the name of the show is so mysterious, I must tell you about the concept first.
|This Little Kid is Important. Name Unknown|
The show hinges on dream theory and Collective Consciousness or ether. One of the characters—that pesky fourth character I mentioned—is some rich business guy/scientist who has this theory: our dreams are not just our mind trying to make sense of the world but are actually trying to tell us something. There are messages within our dreams that either we pick up on subconsciously around us or speak to a kind of clairvoyance or ESP that comes through only when we are asleep because that is when we are most vulnerable (I put that last little twist on it, but you get it). His big twist: when we dream we enter into a secondary mental state. But what if that mental state, that construct of our mind isn’t exclusive to us? In other words, what if someone else could dream the same thing as you, or, even creepier, enter into your dream. What if they could do that to tell you something, or worse, take something from you, or worst of all, make you feel something you didn’t want to? What if that person was you? To summarize, this show is all about the dreams of the main characters, how they connect, and how they are telling the main characters something, but what? And here is where we start.
|Tess; Very Beautiful|
Falling Water’s premiere episode opens with our first main character Tess played by Lizzie Brochere (some may recognize her from The Strain or American Horror Story: Asylum). We meet her as she is in an operating room giving birth. The light set low and the aura of the scene blue (this is important for later in my review), she looks to have birthed the baby with the help of a few doctors. But when she asks to see her baby, she is told that there is no baby. That she didn’t just give birth to anything. Only then do we realize this is a dream. Slowly the doctors disappear, then she gets up from the bed and that disappears. No blood or afterbirth nor even a spot on her hospital gown, she finds herself in an empty room with walls that slowly blur as they melt away. Finally, she looks to the windows of the doors out to the hallway. She doesn’t go out, but instead sees water reflecting and flowing off the wall, as if the entire room is actually underwater and the hallway is ready to burst into the room and flood it. Then water starts trickling under the door, catching her eye until she follows it to where a little boy stands. Confused, she first looks at this boy with inquisition on her face, then with love. Both she and the audience gets this feeling that this boy is her son, but the boy says nothing. She asks his name and he can’t give it to her before the water touches her feet and she awakes to...
An apartment in New York City is littered with the semi-bohemian lifestyle of Tess. We find that her bedroom wall is covered in pictures, drawn pictures of that exact same boy. From all sides, the pictures show his face, capturing him in different moods and from different angles. Again, the fact that she drew him by hand from her dream is important for later.
Tess is a trend-gatherer or spotter if you prefer that terminology. Oddly, this job does exist. She travels the city and takes pictures of things that stick out to her as something people will clamor for. Big companies like fashion and architectural companies pay her big bucks to spot the next trend in their industry so that they always stay at the cutting edge of people’s desires. A freelancer, she’s considered more of an artist than anything, though she’s not really an artist, just as an artistic eye. She has a manager who I think doubles as her mother, though they don’t explicitly say in the first episode. Her manager wants to set her up with bigger gigs and make more money. All Tess wants is to figure out if what she’s been dreaming is real, if she really does have a son. In fact, she goes to not one but a few doctors asking them to perform an exam on her to see if she had a baby. By the time she gets to the one in China town, the woman refuses, instead recommending she get mental help. So Tess continues on in her life, semi-content with carrying on without proper answers. And then she meets the fourth character Bill Boerg (played by Zak Orth who most recently starred on NBC’s defunct Revolution, another Sci-fi show with potential).
|Bill Boerg the Sleep Science Guy|
Bill, as already stated, is a rich guy seeking answers to his questions and theories on dream science. Tess’ manager hooks her up with this guy because he is fascinated with Tess’ ability to always spot the next hot thing, almost like precognition of what should be good. He compares it to her jumping into the head of people around her—sound familiar? Needing someone who he already believes has a kinetic ability to connect with others before they know what they want, he wants her to join this trial/study he has going on with a few sleep patients. And here is where I remind you that this show is about three people and that I will jump to the other two as soon as it gets strange.
Continuing with Tess, she only agrees the first time because the man promises that he knows something about her son. How he knows that she is looking for this son doctors swear she never had is beyond me, but he has tracked down a factoid he’s willing to share so long as she does this sleep experiment. All she has to do is fall asleep next to this man who she’s never met, then, once she is consciously in her dream state, see if she can find him.
And she does.
While every rule of this experiment is not fully known yet, it does seem like the guy she found knows that she has crossed over to his dream, rather than him being in her dream or them sharing one singular dreamscape. Things get odd for the viewer when she briefly sees our second main character, Burton.
Burton is played by David Ajala who some might recognize from Fast and Furious 6 or Jupiter Ascending. We meet him as he is getting out of a couples’ shower with who we originally assume is his wife or fiance or girlfriend who is only known as The Woman In Red, played by Anna Wood. As she continues to shower, Burton gazes at a picture stuck to the bathroom mirror. I feel like this picture is iconic and I’ve seen it before, though it could be simply something taken for the show, but in any case, we’ll call it The Falling Man. The Falling Man looks very similar in tone and definition and evokes the period of the stock market crash of the 1920s when businessmen and stockbrokers literally jumped from windows all across the New York skyline, plunging to their deaths after losing everything. I think that this is important that you know this history and have The Falling Man evoke that very feeling because it is later revealed that Burton works for a brokerage firm, but I’m jumping ahead of myself. Also, I should mention that the man and the blurriness of the picture could also allude to the feeling of flight within one’s dreams or free-falling without the stopping threat of ground beneath, but I digress.
|Burton Looking at The Falling Man; He Dries Quickly|
Anyway, back to Burton. As he stares at the picture, The Woman in Red comes out of the shower and wraps her wet body around his. They flirt about how they are supposed to be together, but she resists. Apparently, he made some kind of mistake because even though she is currently there with him, she knows they can’t keep doing what they’ve been doing, and he’s already lost her. She then disappears and so does The Falling Man, all before he awakens on his couch, completely dry. He receives a call and has to leave in the middle of the night.
Now, back to what he does. Burton works for a brokerage firm in NYC but not in the way you immediately think. He’s a lawyer, more importantly, a fixer of some kind similar to Scandal’s Olivia Pope. He is there solely to serve the firm, make it look good, make sure it’s not violating the laws, and keep its employees out of trouble. The call he receives is from one of the company’s most recent top brokers who went out for a night on the town, drank a little too much, and got caught with what looked like a Trans-hooker. The police get involved, but Burton handles it in the moment, though it could blow back on the company. What’s most interesting, however, is that the cops find a piece of paper in the man’s pocket containing the word: Topeka, and a bunch of numbers on it that look like account numbers or something to that effect. Burton immediately recognizes them as something important to the firm.
The next day, Burton takes the numbers to his boss at the firm. It turns out that he thinks Topeka is in reference to one specific portfolio that the man manages where he’s had nothing but profits for the last few months. Naturally, this smells of insider trading, but Burton doesn’t want to alert the man. Instead, he asks his boss for permission to deep dive into everything that man is doing concerning that account and his personal life as they think this could blow back on them in a huge way.
While at work, Burton sees his love waiting for an elevator in the foyer on his floor. And here’s where things get strange and why I think Burton is the most interesting character of our three mains. With Burton, you never can tell when he’s dreaming or not. That speaks partially to the aesthetic and tone of the show, which I will touch on later when I give my grade, but the difficulty of figuring out if he’s dreaming is intriguing because he seems to rarely wake up or fall asleep. It can also get annoying. Whereas Tess is specifically in a sleep experiment, and we almost always see her both falling to sleep and waking from her slumber, not to mention she has far stranger dreams, Burton’s dreams are so pedantic, so normal that you’re unsure if he’s ever asleep or awake... or maybe both. Hmm?
|Booth at the M|
Anyway, Burton sees The Woman In Red and flirts. She couldn’t resist coming back to visit him at work but chickened out because she knows that what they had is over and she shouldn’t. She mentions nothing of the shower, which we know was a dream, but does get suckered into a date with him at the place that used to be their favorite spot, a place that we’ll just call M for right now as I don’t want to butcher the name. They meet later at the M where he is sitting in a booth at the back and she comes in slightly tardy. They go back and forth with each other about how well they know each other in a very toned-down Gone Girl kind of way. He knows she fretted over that dress and not coming because it would give him too much hope for the future, and she knows he changed his shirt from the one he worked in into a new, crisp white one he had tucked in his drawer at work because he always likes to be in control. She basically calls him a needy mama’s boy and he doesn’t blink at that assessment because it seems like a needy mama’s boy is precisely what she wants. He tells her he loves her and she threatens that if he says that again, she’ll leave. He says it again, and next we know, they’re in bed.
And then things get really trippy because next we (both he and us) know, we’re back at the dang M restaurant and she’s staring at him as if them going back to his place and doing the hokey pokey in the sheets ain’t happen. Like, huh? He starts to wonder what the heck happened because just a minute ago they were in bed, and he asks how they got there and she says that they always come there, and he sees this old Asian lady (important, just wait) sitting across the way. Then they start to leave and, I guess, go back to his place again, though I’m really not sure. Things get really murky as she has already told him that she is staying in one particular hotel she always stays at now that she no longer lives in the city. They leave the M restaurant and once out the door, they take a hallucinogenic stroll down the alley late at night. But as they are walking, Burton gets a funny sense of something ominous. He turns to across the street and sees not only the same insider-trading guy that he’s investigating, but he also sees some crazy shadow lurking against the building, resembling a gargoyle. In the strangest Terry Gilliam-esque slow-mo, as he watches the shadow and his girl watches him from the sidewalk, he wanders into the street where he is immediately hit by a car and flung into the air. But wait, it gets stranger. As the woman in red runs to him to force him to say that he is OK, the people from the car that hit him run to the two of them. Do they want to check on him to make sure he’s OK? No. Instead, they grab her and force her into the car, kidnapping the woman, and leaving him in the street to watch the car zoom away. He closes his eyes as he drifts off into what we assume is an unconscious pain state and suddenly...
Burton awakes, alone, in his bed, not handicapped or physically challenged by the car at all, and again we are challenged by the logic of the show as we don’t know which parts of this were a dream or if it all was a dream. It continues to get weird for him as he encounters the same insider-trading guy at the firm who gives him this look, then goes on to explain that Burton “looks like he got hit by a car,” and that when he’s feeling terrible he likes to go on a staycation in the city at this one particular hotel (the same one as the red woman) and eat at this one particular diner/restaurant (same one as Burton and the woman always frequented). Burton can say nothing in response because what the heck is a good response for that? As he continues to look into the man about the Topeka accounts and the insider trading, he discovers that the man was possibly having an affair with their boss’ wife as he found an explicit text message from her on the man’s company phone. The insider traitor is married, too, and knows he’s being surveilled by Burton. He calls Burton to one of his places in the city, says something that really doesn’t have much to do with anything (maybe), and proceeds to blow his brain out in front of Burton, which we are supposed to believe is real? Maybe.
|Taka's Back. Sorry. Face Pic Further Down|
The third and final main character is Taka. Played by veteran Will Yun Lee most recently of Hawaii Five-0, Taka is an Asian detective in New York who we first meet upon a residential street in what appears to be a suburban community. I think the show warrants the observation of a keen eye, which is why I point out that Taka is unique to me in that he is the first character we see that ties everything together amongst this group of unrelated people, and he is also the only one of the three not introduced with the motif of water within his dream. While Tess has the water in the hospital and Burton is stepping out from the shower, Taka is seen standing in the middle of a residential street staring at a frightening sight. Both his connection with all other characters and the lack of water within the dream make him the most important character while Burton remains the most intriguing. Before describing that sight, let me also point out that I am not completely sure where or, more importantly, when, Taka is supposed to be. Yes, it seems as though he works for NYC police, however, in the first three episodes he seems more to be shown outside of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Also, while both Tess and Burton’s intros are completely probable and possible real scenarios that become more bizarre and more like a dream until they are revealed as such, Taka’s intro is immediately identifiable as a dream. Maybe this is because, after the other two intros, you’re conditioned to see any new character’s appearance as a dream or maybe it is the nature of the oddity of the dream, but either way, it was obvious to me unlike the other two.
OK, as far as the dream goes, Taka stands mid-street looking at a woman in a dress sitting in a chair also in the middle of the road, with her arms tied to the armrest and her face indiscernible. As he nears the person, both he and the viewer realize her face is indiscernible because it is wrapped up in what looked like plastic to me, though the person I watched it with said he thought it was foil. She throws her head from side to side, going crazy in a strange stop-motion, fast-framed, epileptic, Hellraiser-Cenobite sort of way. He reaches for the stuff wrapped around the woman’s face and then he awakes.
As Taka sleeps in his car, here we finally see the water motif for the first time as raindrops gather and slide on his driver’s side window. The woman he is seeing we are to assume is his mother. He visits his mother in the hospital/out-patient-care-facility (not really sure what it was, because of something seen in a later episode, just bear with me), which reveals that she is some sort of invalid who can’t speak or truly communicate in any meaningful way. She sits in her wheelchair all day and stares up at the nook where ceiling meets wall, almost in a waking coma. He talks to her and tries to be a good son, even bringing a pedicure bath to wash her feet, but she has no response. Then he gets a case.
His latest case is at one of the many foreign consulates in the city which we only see him at for a minute. A woman fell down the stairs, but some suspect murder, hence, he comes to investigate because he’s a homicide detective. While there, he sees the kid, and this is the first clue we get into how everyone is connected. As I mentioned before, he is one of the most fascinating not because the writing for this character is so good, but because he seems to tie them all together first. The child he sees is the same one in Tess’ introductory dream, the same one she suspects of being her son that everyone tells her she never had. Taka sees the boy sitting on a chair at the consulate for a second before looking away, looking back, and finding the boy disappeared. Note: While this is confusing because we are half led to believe that the boy is either an allusion to a greater plot point, an illusion of Tess’ mind or both, this slight vision was not as confusing to me as Burton’s entire plotline. Here, it seems firmly established that Taka is not dreaming, though he may have glimpsed a dream figure.
|Notice the Design of the Image? Look Farther Down for Similarities|
Taka gets side-tracked by another case that connects to the consulate—the Feds want to take over the murder investigation. This case leads him to the suburbs to the same street as seen in his dream which plays into another theme of the show: precognition or ESP. We don’t know if Taka has ever been to this neighborhood before but we can read from his expressions that he is freaked about how the place he dreamed about, suddenly factors into a case. He has arrived to question someone. He goes to the front door, knocks, then notices a neighbor lady from across the street eyeing him. A black woman (yes, her race is important), she is unloading groceries into her house. She watches with concern. He eases off the front stoop after a few knocks, looks inside the front window, and spots the horrendous scene. He whips around and tells her to call the police as he runs to the back and breaks into the house. Inside, he goes into the front room where he finds what look like a group of Yogis who all killed themselves to go catch the Oom-bop comet (wait, was that the comet or the Hanson song? Hold on, was Hanson singing about the comet? Mind blown!). All wearing green sneakers, the bodies lay in a circle on the floor on Yoga mats. The craziest part: on the wall is the word AKEPOT, which you all should be all to decode as the word TOPEKA spelled backward. Again, another connection, this time to Burton.
Taka takes a break to dream about his mother once more, this time undergoing what looked like a past memory either completely re-lived as it was or run through a nightmare ringer. It reveals the essence of his conscience and how he views their relationship. In it, his mother whirls like a Dervish or Woodstock-Hippy sunflower baby in a sunny park. Both child and adult observer, Taka watches his younger self run to her and stop her spin to give her a hug and a smile. Broken by this heinous act, she thrusts him off her hip, and flees from him, escaping into a small house across the street.
Taka awakes to the info that the deaths were ruled a cult suicide pact—murder. More craziness coming your way in 3, 2, 1... apparently, this cult is semi-known only in so much that they know a few members, but have no idea what the group believes or is really about. But they do know that one of the members and suspected leader is a black woman, the very same woman he saw bringing in her groceries. Gasp! He rushes back to the same neighborhood and knocks on the black lady’s door. Expecting the black woman to answer, a tiny old white woman answers much to his shock. She explains that he must have the wrong house and no one else has ever lived there, especially not the woman he is asking for. She keeps him at the door, barely opening it (important) as she tells him that he looks like Chicken Little. He smiles and takes off as he can’t make sense of it all.
Before Taka can completely leave, he sees some papers flapping in the wind. The water motif coming once again, he approaches a water fountain with three cherubs standing statuesque at the top as the water falls. Upon the fountain, he finds one of the pieces of paper partially wet. He examines it and what is on it but a picture of the boy, the same one he saw at the consulate and Tess saw in her dream; in fact, the picture looks exactly like one of the ones hand-drawn by Tess at the beginning of the show. This picture is a print-out of that, so it seems, but Tess is not involved with these people... so we think. And then boom.
I said BOOOOM! The house from which Taka just came, the same one where the old white lady and, apparently, not the black lady lived, blows up with him standing not but a few feet away... and we cut to the little boy running through the dreamscape as narration plays over his sprints. While I can’t say for absolute certain, I think the boy’s sprint through a few different dreamscapes is supposed to cement to us which sets will always be dreams and which won’t. In his sprint, he passes through M restaurant, through a hall of some sort that we haven’t yet seen, through the kitchen of the house that Taka’s mother ran into in his last dream (he even dances with Taka’s mom who is happy to see him), and finally through a door into what looks like a storm drain or underpass like from the film Brick where he stops at a sewer grate. Water flowing down into the grate, beneath, something ominous lurks as the narrator tells us so, giving an uneasy sense that this chain-trapped creature, weeping and wailing and gnashing its teeth, is some kind of boogie man, and our three protags’ villain.
I will try to give a shorter summation of episodes two and three as always, but know that this show is very detail-intensive, meaning that the smallest, micro-bits of stuff happening in one episode, be it images, dialogue, sound or situations, may seem trivial and easily dismissed, but could become potentially monumental in the next episode.
Episode two begins with a quote from Shakespeare over the opening scene of Taka’s closing scene from a different vantage point. As Taka stands at the front talking to the old woman, inside the house the cult is moving rapidly to box-up, burn and/or destroy everything they had in the house, which they used as their HQ for the last few months. Taka leaves, the old woman greets the black lady as they help the others gather the last of the needed possessions, and the black lady that Taka was looking for is the last to exit the house out the back door, closing it behind her and triggering the bomb that destroys any traces of the cult’s existence there. Strangest of all: the house was filled with pictures of that boy.
Meanwhile, Burton is still having ridiculous dreams. The first one seen dreaming in this episode, he goes back to that same M restaurant and waits for the red woman, who doesn’t show. When the bartender tells him that this is a dream, he trips out and awakes. He goes to work to find that the insider-trading man’s secret lover and wife of the boss, is visiting. Burton proposes to his boss that he go to the traitor’s house to search his personal things and computer for evidence because he doesn’t want anything to blow back on the company after the man’s death.
|Notice the Imagery Here? Seem Familiar?|
Tess takes the info given to her by Bill Boerg, and goes to the hospital. There, she learns that she has a mysterious ten dollar charge for an epidural from years ago, but she doesn’t actually have a patient file and doesn’t ever remember coming there. She goes back to Bill who tells her that he’ll help her figure out what’s going on if she agrees to participate in a full-blown sleep study. Plus, maybe she can find out more about why she’s having this dream about the child if she doesn’t really have one.
Back to Taka, he pursues one of the only leads he has in the cult case: the green shoes and the picture of the boy. He buys a pair of the shoes—cheap, bargain-brand sneakers—and, by chance, visits a person involved in the consulate case who has a picture of the boy hanging on the wall. The picture was supposedly drawn by a dead artist (musician and illustrator) who sold them in the 80s after going crazy. A gift, it came from the only place in town that sells both the man’s music and art: a record store called Topeka. Taka goes and buys the last album and only one ever released by the guy. He takes it home, puts on the green sneaks, and plays the album in hopes of getting into the head of the cult members. He dreams of an art exhibit. Upon waking, he discovers that the album artwork is a photo of one of the artist’s 1980s’ parties and that one of the people in attendance is his mother. He takes the album to her for a listen and while there sees a woman wearing green tennis shoes going into a cult recovery group.
Tess, meanwhile, gets situated in the sleep study. Today’s challenge: find a group of other dreamers in one central location. While many never make it, Tess, another woman, and a guy do. They aren’t supposed to talk to each other in the dream, nor in real life, but the guy initiates a conversation before Tess senses the boy is near. She scurries off and finds the boy who returns her affection. But when they both see two faceless men chasing them, the boy escapes into a side room from the hallway we briefly glimpsed in the first episode, and she awakes.
Burton goes to the traitor’s house where he speaks to the traitor’s mistress, his boss’ wife. At first, she denies they had something, then confesses that they had this passionate love affair, but that it was all in her dreams. The messages to his phone came after a night of intense dream-lovemaking. But can you really a relationship only in your dreams? Challenged, Burton goes back through his own murky experiences with the woman in red and tries to figure out if she is a dream. Returning to episode one, we see the same elevator/lobby scene as when Burton invited the woman to dinner, only this time we see him looking at the surveillance footage of himself talking to air. Apparently, his dreams are so confusing because he can go into fugue states at will or becomes wholly delusional while awake. The hotel the woman frequents has never had that woman in their system that dates back years and he can never seem to remember how he got to the M. He sees a strange symbol after peeping it drawn in some of the traitor’s things and thinks he is losing his mind.
Finally, Tess meets the same man who talked to her from the group in the dream session. They do their little Hippy, free-love, dance-in-the-roof-sprinklers thing before sleeping together. He tells her he decided to join the study for the money. She freaks when she finds a picture of her supposed son in his possession—one of the same pictures that the Topeka store sells and that the cult has. She leaves him and he comes back to threaten her after Bill threatens to kick him out of the sleep study, but keeps her.
|The Woman In Red, Only Seen In Red Once in 1st 3 Eps|
Episode three begins with yet another one of Burton’s dreams, only this time he knows it is a dream for a change. He and the woman in red—now in orange—are visiting an art gallery in which they view a bunch of artistic photos. They key in on the Falling/Flying man, the same picture we saw in his introduction dream. He realizes that this is a dream-memory because he and the woman had visited there before, which means she must be real... right? He awakes Inception-style, on a plane and in a dress shirt and tie,
totally thinking that he and his father reconciled and that he can go back to America and see his children. The flight is to Montreal where the company is going to be closing a deal that his boss wants him privy to as firm attorney. Interestingly, one of the guys he is traveling there with is also the bartender/waiter in his restaurant dream.
Meanwhile, Taka talks to the lead therapist in the cult recovery group. She tells him a few things about cults to help his investigation, which leads him to search for the bodies of the deceased. The suiciders left their bodies to the cult for disposal. He follows one of the green-shoed people from the therapy group who is still active in the cult. They go to the cult, who takes the ashes of the deceased, throws them on a blanket in the forest, and tosses that blanket up into the air as if fluffing it over-top of a bed, sending the ashes trampolining into the atmosphere. A beautiful and ethereal scene and experience for Taka, he sees the black lady and starts to follow her before losing her to a vision of his mother.
|Tess and Her Manager|
As for Tess, it is finally revealed that that manager lady is not actually her mother, but is just her manager... maybe, as she and Tess take a trip into the ‘burbs to visit her real mother. Her family seems to have money as the house and property is frickin’ huge! In a very Gone Girl-ish twist, Tess’ mom is a child psychologist who cataloged her entire childhood as a case study of her daughter. Tess learns that there was some time missing that she can’t remember, and goes to the psych hospital her mother and sister put her in for a time nine years ago when she had a breakdown. But she escaped from that hospital for three days, a trip of which she had no recollection. One thing she did know: she even thought she was pregnant back then. Oh, and it’s revealed that she’s bi- or pansexual and there are hints that her manager is or at some point was her lover, or at least her mother thinks so.
While Burton is in Canada, he looks over the meeting between his firm and the other company and businessmen. Some of his guys go and party with this fat guy after closing the deal, while he goes to bed. This time, he knows he is dreaming when he has what I can only now label as the “chatroom” dream, so labeled because the M restaurant to me is like a 90s and aughts internet chatroom or loading bay for our three dreamers.
Starting with Taka, he stands in the same strange art exhibit as from the second episode when he encountered Tess’ boy, and the boy led him into that room while he listened to that old album. While Tess saw the faceless men chasing the boy and ran, Taka saw the men and they stopped, almost as if threatened. In the art exhibit, he sees the same young woman from the cult recovery group as she is wearing her green sneaks again. He follows her into a stairwell, where she takes off the shoes and gets into a dress. They go up to the restaurant where Burton already is. Here, we split into three vantage points as all three of our characters come to the same place all at once for the first time.
|What the Heck Did She Do to That Fat Guy?|
Burton, back in Montreal, has a dream encounter with the woman in red. They sit at the bar while the guy who Burton works with plays a dual role of both bartender and bar patron who says he’s allergic to peanuts. Burton confronts his woman, asking her what’s going on, if she’s real, what’s her name and if their entire relationship was a dream. Somehow, he knows what Bill Boerg has been theorizing, and thinks that they’re sharing a dream. She leaves without answers, and then he sees a young woman in a dress walk in, followed by Taka. Then Tess runs through the front door.
Tess, back at her mother’s place, falls asleep and awakens into her dream around her mother’s dining room table. As she fiddles with the place settings, she sees a faceless man (slightly different from the previous two that chased the boy) standing at the doorway. Frightened, and knowing it means something bad, she takes off, fleeing from him like a horror victim running from Michael Myers. Everywhere she looks, he pops up, until she flees outside and into what looks like a tool shed. Inside, she looks around to find that it is the M and all eyes, including Taka and Burton’s, are on her. Then, the faceless man enters behind her, causing her to back into some fat man standing behind her. The young woman who had taken off the green tennis shoes leaps forward with a plastic bag and throws it over the fat man’s head, suffocating him to death. The strangest part is that since everyone knows it is a dream, they do nothing but watch. That is strange to me because it feels like one would still have their same moral compass even in a dream, yet the detective didn’t do anything.
As it turns out, the fat guy that was in the dream happened to be the same fat guy that Burton’s work-buddies had gone out with that night. When Burton awakes, he is called down to their room in a panic and finds that the fat guy has died unexpectedly, and we’re all left with our mouths gaping. What? He searches the fat man and finds a pocketed card. Though I couldn’t read the front, the back has written upon it, “His Name is?” which happens to be the same question Tess has been asking about her boy (remember, her introductory dream had it) and the question Taka had about the boy in the picture.
Finally, Taka goes home back in the states and receives not only another picture of the boy stuck in his door but a call from the black lady. She tells him that some fat man just died in Montreal that fit the description of the guy he saw killed in his dream. The episode ends with Burton watching the M bartender he works with, and who was hanging with the fat man when he died, sitting on the company plane and telling the stewardess that he doesn’t eat peanuts because he’s allergic—ESP allusion.
What’s my grade? I really don’t know. At this point, I’d have to give it a B- but it is bordering on an A—I know that doesn’t make sense, but let me explain. Falling Water is an extremely ambitious show. Similar to Lost (don’t get confused, this has a far different vibe than that show), it has presented we viewers with a bevy of questions both philosophical in nature and metaphysical in construct, not to mention moralistic. From the very onset of Burton’s dream introduction, followed by Taka’s intro, you can tell it is setting up for something deeper and, hopefully, poignant. Of course, what that is is up for debate.
The first layer of poignancy lies within the construct of connectivity. How connected are we to one another? While I have seen no parallel or metaphorical dichotomy between our connections through dreams and our connections in the digital world, I think this show very much has that Matrix-y thought process behind it. But, therein can lie the untied shoelaces. As we saw with Lost and even the latter sequels of The Matrix, too much philosophy and too many strands left untied can trip up the writing and, ultimately, the audience. Audiences hate when you try to say too many things in too small a space. Sometimes, that leads to them dismissing everything you’re trying to say and believing that you don’t have any deeper message, or they can get extremely frustrated when the message they latch on to doesn’t come to what they think is a logical conclusion. Lost fans tuned in for years on end, getting a few answers to a few of the smaller, less abstract questions here and there, but when it came to the series finale, many were disappointed because the writers/producers essentially said, “Ah, you don’t need to know everything.” After all those devoted years, there was never a real understanding about what the island was, the sideways flash, how it disappeared that one time, who really were the smoke monster and his brother/the man in white/gray, and a myriad of other things that fans felt only got half-answered. Too much time, for little payoff.
|Guy Tess was Sleeping With|
Speaking of time, this show moves at a bothersome glacial pace. Literally, the show is slow. The ice caps are melting faster than this show moves. Outside of the repetitiveness of Burton and Tess’ dreams, there seems to be a love affair with slow-mo on this show. Granted, a lot of it is not the Matrix-style, high-action slow-mo we’ve become used to, but rather the horror film, The Shining kind of slow-mo: the picture is slowed by maybe 5-15%. This makes people, mainly Taka, appear as if they’re walking across the floor of a ghostly sea, the water all encompassing around them. Listen, I get it. As a filmmaker myself, I have seen and tried many an artistic style, and the way the show is filmed does have a certain aesthetic beauty in-line with USA’s other acclaimed show Mr. Robot, however, at times it feels so film-school art project that I half expect every episode to end with the word Fin, or drip into an immersive black and white to symbolize some deep meaning about the world being too strict or some other arthouse cliché. Again, I appreciate it, but it halfway gets in the way of the story, and while greatly enhances the visual feast, doesn’t add much to the actual storytelling or show’s language, which segues us into the next topic.
Every show and film and even books—really any work of fiction—has what I call its own language. Less ambitious series commerce in a cookie-cutter style, which makes it easy to speak to the viewer, because you don’t have to pay much attention to the imagery or even the dialogue. That is their language: layman simple. But shows with more moxie often speak at a higher level to the viewer, making them pay attention, while still keeping things simple. An example of this would be practically any ABC show, but let’s look specifically at How To Get Away With Murder (not to compare them in quality or plot). HTGAWM has a dual timeline in which the show operates in the present and in the future. These timelines merge little more than halfway through each season. A mystery series, the future timeline sets up a murder and the present timeline drops hints and clues on who committed the crime, dragging you into a challenge to guess what happened before the two timelines merge. What is most important, however, is how the show speaks to us and tells us of these two distinct timelines. When watching the show, you immediately know that when the image is doused in a dark blue-green, that timeline is the future timeline, whereas when the show displays a scene in full color (albeit earthy tones) and without a tint, that timeline is the present. Even the audio cues change between the two timelines. Many shows do that in order to help the viewer understand that something has changed. It speaks easily to the viewer’s mind through the eye, so that it can get on with its storytelling. Falling Water is different.
|Burton, Don't Be Upset At What I Said|
Ever since The Sixth Sense, I’ve been pretty good at listening to the language of a film or show, however, with Falling Water, I can’t for the life of me figure out what language this show is speaking. In going back to Burton, it is so difficult to figure out when he is and isn’t dreaming unless he states this himself that I’d venture to say he is always dreaming, and he himself is a dream-figment. There are no visual nor audio cues to let us know when he has transitioned from dream to reality or vice versa. Even during his daydream/fugue state/delusion or whatever it was that had him inviting his love interest for dinner it had no difference of tone (visually or audibly) I could assess from the rest of the show. One might say that the music became slow-moving and dream-like, but all of the music is slow-moving and dream-like. For instance, when Taka sees the cult in the forest-clearing doing the ash-spreading ceremony, that scene plays like such a dream that upon re-watching it, I questioned if it was. Granted, I have calculated in the big caveat that this is the structure of the show and that, similar to eXistenZ (a similar movie that came out in that post-Matrix period), we maybe aren’t supposed to know the difference between dream and reality, but that can make the show more of a headache than an enjoyment. You don’t have to give away the secrets visually, but can drop hints audibly to let the more discerning viewer know what is actually happening, otherwise, everything becomes easily dismissed as being a dream. This becomes even more pronounced when the case is made in the third episode that what happens in our dreams can happen in real life with the death of the fat man. If there’s not at least some minute difference between reality and dream, that point gets muddled. It then ceases to be about connectivity and turns its focus to lucidity, which is not a bad point of exploration at all, but the show has set up one to work more in contrast with the other. The color palette across board is the same from one dream and dreamer to the next (a muted bluish), and all the music is mooted, as stated. There are no clues given to you to allow you in on figuring out the mystery, and some viewers could feel acrimony about having to be a passive watcher. This then makes the “chatroom” all the more important because it is the only place we know for certain has always been seen in a dream... so far, and is the only place we’ve seen all three of our main characters.
With all of that said, I do still enjoy the show. If they can begin to answer many of the questions they put forth, and creatively use some of the dream theories they’ve hinted at (an evil corporation being able to implant things in your dreams; murdering people in their dreams which kill them in real life), then I see this show possibly turning into a cult classic by its second season if it gets that far.
Should you be watching? I would say yes just for curiosity’s sake. You might enjoy it, or find something intriguing about it. Granted, with all of the existential films we’ve seen over the years, and with Inception still fresh in people’s minds, it isn’t plumbing any new territory here (yet), and even has many callbacks to those films, but it can put its own unique spin on things as it goes along. Falling Water airs on USA network on Thursday nights at 10pm EST, however, check your local provider for the time as it is a cable channel and those showtimes can vary wildly by region.
What do you think? Have you seen Falling Water? If you haven’t, do you think you’ll check out the new sci-fi drama? If you have, what do you like or dislike about it? While I would have loved to deep-dive into theories on what is happening, as you can clearly read, I just didn’t have time nor space to perform such analysis. But what are your theories on what’s occurring with our three mains? Does Tess really have a son? And, this might be a weird one, but do you all think that all three of our characters exist within the same time period because I have a sneaking suspicion that either Tess or Taka exist in the past? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).
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Until next time, “Wait, whose dream are we going into?”
‘Leo DiCaprio’s dream, the one where he plays Captain Planet.’
“Dang it! I was hoping for the one with the snowmobiles.”
P.S. If you heard the news, you know that Leonardo DiCaprio is negotiating the rights for Captain Planet. If you have ever truly followed this blog, you should also know that I have wanted to write a live-action Captain Planet movie for many years. I will make a full post about this again later, but I really have to throw my hat in the ring for this job. Wish me good luck and hope that I get an interview.
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