Intruders Series Premiere Review: Wait, What?!

Intruders S01E01: "She Was Provisional"

TV pilots can take many different forms, but there are common beats found in nearly every one because their purpose is always the same: to introduce viewers to a show. We usually meet the characters, get a feel for the setting, and discover of whatever conflict will drive the series. Oh, and there's almost always some heavy-handed exposition to help lay out the basics of the show's premise—something that critics love to bitch and moan about because it constitutes telling and not showing. 

That's why, in theory, I should be ecstatic that the first episode of BBC America's new series Intruders skipped that last element and jumped right into the middle of the action. But alas, that's not the case. 

You can call me a hypocrite later (God knows I've bemoaned the exposition/"pilotitis" problem several times before), but Intruders' first episode could'e benefited from a bit of explanation. Even just a quick title card with some background on who the Qui Reverti are—you know, before the opening scene in which a young girl slit her wrists after writing a letter to a boy named Gary Fisher that said she wasn't Donna—would've been immensely helpful. 

As it were, I had to watch "She Was Provisional" several times before I could even begin writing this review. Each time I picked up on more details because I knew what to look for, and what I was listening for, but I suspect that most viewers won't be so generous with their time. A pilot is a show's chance to hook a viewer, and with so options on an ever-growing list of networks, it feels like somewhat of a misstep to drop viewers into the middle of a story as complicated as this one with zero explanation and hope they're left feeling intrigued rather than confused. It's frustrating—and yet, I also understand the show's desire to be opaque at the outset. However, I'm not sure Intruders, which is based on Michael Marshall Smith’s novel The Intruders, is as clever or well-written as it needs to be to warrant that sort of mystery.

At the heart of the series is the Qui Reverti, a secret society whose name roughly translates to "who's returned." Its members—which include James Frain playing yet another bad guy—chase immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others. Our entry point to the story came through John Simm's Jack Whelan, a former Los Angeles cop who wrote a book titled Afterlife and then relocated with his wife Amy (Mira Sorvino) to the Pacific Northwest (of course) in search of a quieter life. When Amy went missing the day after her birthday, it was Jack's search for clues that drew us into the story. 

The mysterious way in which Amy seemingly vanished—she left for a hotel in Seattle, never checked in, and dumped her cell phone in a cab—was suspicious enough, but she also wasn't acting like herself in the days leading up to her disappearance. And by the time Jack discovered her absence, we viewers were already aware that the woman who'd gone missing wasn't actually Amy. Indeed, she had displayed the telltale characteristics associated with the Qui Reverti piggybacking on another body: Her pupils were blown, she was acting weird (she was really into jazz all of a sudden, as if she'd been watching the Homeland credit sequence on repeat), and her strange behavior and the timing of her departure coincided with her birthday. 

But what's more interesting than Amy's disappearance is 9-year-old Maddie (a surprisingly adept Millie Brown). She's unwillingly hosting an Intruder named Marcus, and that douche-nozzle strangled Maddie's cat in a scene where Maddie and Marcus struggled for control of Maddie's body. Then, Frain's Richard Shepherd stalked and attempted to kill Maddie/Marcus for reasons I still don't understand—but Maddie was able to convince him to spare her/them. But by episode's end, Marcus had won the battle for control, and he called up Shepherd with a baffling threat: "You brought me back too early," he said in one of the hour's most confounding moments.  


My complaint about Intruders' debut isn't that viewers won't be able to understand that these characters are not themselves—that's pretty obvious. It's that we don't know anything else about WTF is going on, and after watching "She Was Provisional," it's still not clear why we should care to stick around and find out. The episode was full of questions and zero answers. Why and how do the Qui Reverti hitch rides inside other people? And why do they appear to have a limited life in said bodies? Furthermore, why is Shepherd, who appears to be a member of the society, killing them? Do the human bodies have to die before Intruders can be released and jump into a new body? And just what does any of this have to do with the number nine, which was present throughout the pilot: It was on Shepherd's cool-looking business card that he left with the Qui Reverti when it was time to get the hell out of Dodge, it was the number on Maddie's birthday cake, and it flashed behind Oz's head (more on Oz in a second) when Shepherd met up with him in Reno. The show is certainly using the digit in a symbolic way, but I don't know if it's supposed to represent something like the nine lives of a cat, or if the producers just thought it looked cool.

There's also the question of how any (or all) of this stuff is connected to former-cop-with-a-newly-missing-wife Jack, whose BFF in high school was Gary Fisher (Tory Kittles), the same boy to whom Donna—the girl in the cold open—wrote her suicide note. Fisher is now the executor for the late family of Bill Anderson, an acoustics engineering professor at the University of Washington who is (or was) studying sound frequencies that the human ear can't process. As far as I can tell, Shepherd went looking for Bill—who's currently missing—because Bill discovered that said frequencies hold the secret to immortality. When Shepherd could only find Bill's family and they weren't very helpful in directing him to Bill, Shepherd killed Bill's family and then set out for Reno in search of the the aforementioned Oz. Oz was a wackadoodle dude who broadcasted conspiracy theories from his van, which he naturally described as being "everywhere and nowhere." But he apparently knew about Bill's sound-frequency research/immortality theories, which was enough to get him shot once Shepherd caught up with him. 

So, yeah. There's a lot of confusing stuff going on. And even though some viewers might be curious enough to tune in for Episode 2 with the hopes of discovering how all of these seemingly unrelated events are connected, I think it's far more likely they'll be quoting the Man of Mystery instead: "Whoopty do! What does it all mean?"


INTRUDING THOUGHTS

– Why is James Frain always cast as a bad guy? He plays them well, with convincing menace and all that, but you'd think he'd be tired of the typecasting. I can think of exactly one good guy he's played: Forney in Where the Heart Is (a.k.a. that movie where Natalie Portman had a baby in a Walmart). What gives?

– John Simm joins David Tennant (Gracepoint) and Karen Gillan (Selfie) in the "We're Not Really American!" club. What did you think of his accent? It sounded weird to me, but I can't tell if I'm just used to his natural speaking voice and my brain has trouble reconciling the two Simms in my head.

– That's Bear McCreary doing the moody score. If you still don't know who McCreary is, please rectify that immediately. He's brought his unique sound to Battlestar GalacticaThe Walking Dead, and Outlander, among other things. 

– How do you call unknown numbers? THEY ARE UNKNOWN.

thekaitling:list:intruders-will-you-stick-around-for-episode-2/

 

Comments (64)
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Don't like it at all..
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I have to agree with the point the reviewer made about the pilot... it was one big "W T F?!?" for me and I'm generally pretty good at picking up on small details and figuring out what's happening. It doesn't really start to "gel" until Episode 3. I've watched up to Ep6 and it seems like a worthwhile show but they REALLY should have put in SOME sort of background info in the first couple of episodes so viewers wouldn't be totally at sea. It'd be a shame if the series got cancelled because of something like this that could have easily been fixed.
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I have decided that I like this series. The ratings have descended into the abyss so I do not expect a 2nd season. I hope they finish this one.
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Well, after watching 3 episodes I'm becoming less convinced that intruders are all per se 'bad eggs'. In fact it is starting to seem like the Frain character is a good egg whose job involves deleting the bad egg intruders. He didn't kill the little girl once he saw she still had control of her own body but he had showed her the shell which woke up creepy and now he has to off it.
I haven't read the book so don't know exactly what happens every 9 years but it may be that souls swap over back and forth or even into new hosts without damaging host persona.
Hence wifey wanting to hang with hubby but can't because she is about to swap out.

Intruders is interesting and a lot more complex than it first appears or until a showrunner decides it needs to liven up and get simple good Vs bad for the criminal minds/NCIS crowd.
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The point of this show is to be slow, confusing and weird. I like it. It's such a difference compared to your boring, too-fast, straight-forward normal stuff.

I hope they bring in some juicy flashbacks in history to portray the different kind of characters these Qui Revertis have been living.
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I'm 3 episodes in and still have no frigging clue as to what is going on! Does their personalities switch from the intruder to.the host? If so why has thus never been raised as an issue? They have been doing this for several hundred years. Also, in the pilot when jacks friend visited and needed to talk in the woods, he never said anything.... At all remotely interesting or pertinent it was like "sup?"..... "nothing man, what's up?"... "nothing",.,. "ok bye".
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Frankly, I was expecting a slow burn, based on previews and interviews from the cast. That said, it did jump around a bit.

My questions were more mundane. I'm convinced all the pieces of the surreal elements will eventually fall into place. I get bothered by what's suppose to be our 'real' world. Perhaps we will be illuminated further on.
  • -Wife missing for 2 days before hubby notices/becomes concerned?
  • -Borrowing a friend's mechanically challenged car? Even if the Whelans are not a two car family, surely a hire car would have been a more logical choice?
  • -A friend/colleague from Jack's former life just 'shows up', and it's only safe to talk in the woods? Nothing strange going on here.
I'll have to do a re-watch about Oz. What I saw were dice behind him, when Sheppard and him met in the bar, and I had thought it was 8 (double 4) on the dice. Perhaps because he wouldn't be considered a returnee, he didn't rate a 9?

John Simm's American dialect. Wouldn't make comparisons with David Tennant (to be fair, he did a brilliant job on Radio 4 in Of Mice and Men). John has done loads of accents (watching him now in The Village where he does a Broad Yorkshire). I'm not quite sure, as the reviewer is in feels the same, that John's dialect is off, or I'm just used to his natural voice. If someone would ask me to point out an LA accent, I'd be truly hard pressed to do so.

Being an admirer of John Simm and the projects he's been in (including stage), I'm sticking around.
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I'll give it one more try, and then I'm out.
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I so totally agree with this review. When I come away from a pilot with only WTF on my mind instead of "Oooo, can't wait to see what happens next" it tells me it's a big ZERO! The writers, in their urge to be mysterious and exciting have written a boring and uninspiring plot. They may know what's going to happen but they haven't captured me. Judging from other comments, I doubt I'll watch anymore. I give it a big YAWN!
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I've seen the pilot, this could become one of my favourite shows of the year. Really intriguing, with a great James Frain and a John Simm who is always perfect. I couldn't disagree more with this review and the majority of the comments. Sorry for the show. it seems destined having very few followers like me.
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no i'm not going to be looking forward to this... i did not even finish the first episode
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-Because James Frain is so good at being bad. I love it. I just wish that he could be English as well.
-I was shocked at John Simm's American accent. Did a double-take and rewound. It was OK but I noticed it. Didn't bother me per se, but it was distracting at first.
-Great moody score
-Unknown! Exactly WTF?

This show was so weird and mysterious and spooky that I'm too intrigued not to tune in again.
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Whenever I hear someone Complain about Pilotitis/Exposition in the first episode, Im going to point them to this show. This is one of the times where you need to be Sherlock to figure out the "Show don't tell" thing on the first go through. I might go for the second episode but it sound like it isn't much better on the answers part and I don't know how much a 2nd or 3rd watching would help much. I am probably going to just marathon after the first season just so I can have some answers. This series should be done Netflix style.
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You nailed exactly why I am not sticking around. Two episodes in and this a muddle and boring and I do not care at all. I have a feeling I will not be alone.
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I convinced my wife to watch this and afterwards, she was saying it was a waste of time. The concept sounded good but the execution not so. I find it intriguing enough to want to watch the second episode but she will probably give it up.

I was a little disappointed to know that the second episode will be more of the same as the first. I just hope some answers will be given fast.

My guess is the host needs to be dead before they are taken over. If the host did not die, then there will be two souls fighting over a body. That is what we saw of the little kid.

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This show pass the 4 episode test barely. I almost gave up but things started to get awesome once it reached episode four.
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Re Bear McCreary, he's doing the score for 'Da Vinci's Demons' as well, and it is awesome.

As for Intruders, I was thinking the opposite regarding Maddie & Marcus...I was thinking it was Maddie who drowned the cat, and Marcus who was upset. 'What have I done?' is both an adult and a slightly old-fashioned phrasing, which makes me think that was Marcus talking, not Maddie.
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So I was bored in my hotel and decided to watch episode two and it is still kind of disjointed. We still don't really know what is going on, again as I said previously, that can be good if it is done right. A great example of this would be a personal favorite of mine and that is Person of Interest, we were thrust in with Finch knowing everything and Reese knowing nothing, but we discovered along with Reese what was going on. But this show doesn't really do that, mostly because there are a bunch of people that know what is going on and only one that doesn't. He doesn't seem adept enough to catch up to the rest unless certain convenient plot points drop in his lap. He was merely a patrol officer, he wasn't a detective and doesn't really seem capable of putting anything together, the only chances he grabs are those that the people who know what is going on gives him. It is all very very convenient. Had they given him nothing he would have nothing. And these are mistakes that someone or someones who were immortal would have learned by now, like not talking strange business in front of a cabbie when you can easily wait or even better speak in a different language. I do that all the time and I don't even have any big secret to hide.

The other major plot is the girl. What was good in the first episode was horrible in the second. It seems the girl/guy that resides inside of her has a catch phrase, "What goes around, comes around" this was all well and good when the man tried to kill her and didn't and she/he calls him back. But then she does it again, it seems forced because the scenario in which she/he does it is very contrived and it was unnecessary and silly for her/him to say it. In reality it would draw more attention then it the character would want. So is this what we are to expect from her/him. A guy steps on her trainers? "what goes around comes around". Splashed by a car? "What goes around comes around". And then the acting ability of the girl will be shoved aside by the annoyance of the character as a whole and the fallibilities of the adults she/he somehow convinces to help despite obviously being something that she doesn't appear to be. It can and likely will get bothersome.

The killing of the cat in the first episode was in my belief tacked on and used to try to shock and pull in viewers attempting to attribute a level of quality and edginess to a show that likely doesn't warrant it. In TV we are living in a post Carol killing Lizzie the psychopath child that killed her sister era. It was poor attempt at shocking the audience then and this is an even poorer attempt at trying to do the same thing. Them trying it in the pilot kind of shows their hand a little. This is a show that wants to capture fans and capture them quickly and it shows. Because of that it falls flat. As in relationships so goes TV shows, nobody likes needy people. The Intruders is trying way too hard.

I am going to watch one more episode and then will likely pass on it. There are just way too many problems for them to fix in a 4 episode test.

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I agree about everything in the review and it's quite disappointing as I had high hopes about the show. BBCA has produced terrific content recently, including Orphan Black and In the Flesh with fresh takes on scifi thrillers but this is just... nothing but a lot of WTF?!
Now don't get me wrong, I love shows and movies that are intriguing and don't reveal everything right away and keep the viewers guessing and I hate those that have long exposition scenes for dummies but there has to be a balance between dumb and Intruders.
Dropping the viewer in the middle of a story is one way to start and it's fine with me but after two episodes, you should get a sense of some of what is going on. Here, after two episodes, you feel like you have seen the same scenes several times without gaining much insight, like a bad reincarnation trip of some kind.
Fain's first scene, gunning down a teenager and his mother is a punch in the gut and a great way to introduce a character but... two episodes later, all we've seen from him is more of the same. That's not teasing or intriguing, it's just bad writing.
8 episodes in the first season, you would expect them to move a little more than that.
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At first read I thought the title was a quip. Unfortunately not. So it's about some immortals who don't die but for some odd unknown reason fear those who do die knowing and kill them? But wait. They also stick others in inappropriate vessels and threaten and/or shoot them for... Oh, what the fuck the kettle's boiling. PASS
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I didn't like the pilot. I guess the view of 9 year old girl drowning a kitty in a bathtub was just too much for me. I'm not going to watch the second episode.
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I agree, it was predictable and obvious, and it is tiresome why some many shows have to kill off animals in their weird plots.
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I watched episode 2 (it's up on BBC America's website) and still nothing more is revealed. This is only an 8 episode run so I hold little hope for clarification. Too much like The X-Files in that nothing will be revealed :-)
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The only scenes I found engaging in a "I want to know more way" were the ones with Gary Fisher and I guess the little girl. The rest of it was out of context and that's supposed to be the hook but I don't care enough about this story to know.

I love sci-fi but the concept is too simple, like okay they can jump and live in someone else's body..so what?
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Just because a show doesn't DUMB things down to the point of being written for a 5 yr old doesn't mean you can offer up this tripe of a review.

If your too stupid to comprehend the story or just so lame you need to express your bias in your tripe response then you really should not be reviewing shows.

I enjoyed the show and will continue to watch it.
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No, this has nothing to do with the plot being complicated. It's not. It is very poor storytelling. Take The Leftovers for example. It adds mystery to mystery and it has me glued to the seat. Do we know what is going on? Hell no. But is it compelling and do you care about the characters? Hell yes. Intruders has very poorly written characters and the plot is as plain as they come.
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I personally found the pace and information to be good- I like things to unfold progressively. I actually found charisma and chemistry to be lacking which is what disappointed me.
- Please note this point has been articulated without insulting remarks regarding other people's opinions.
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Thank God, someone had to say it, you spare me the labor coming first.
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Bummer, you don't like my opinion.
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She may be too stupid to comprehend the magnificence of the story that is Intruders but she can spell.
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The magnificence of the story? Have you watched this under the influence or what? There is nothing exceptional about this.
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YEAH.
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I consider myself to be kind of smart, creative and coherent in the ability to follow what's being played out on a screen. I'm an author and is able to spin a story from beginning to end....but this episode/pilot just left me with a big WHAAAAT.....TF. Shame on such good actors.
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first episode was a mess
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Totally confused and I'm one who usually like slow burns in the first few episodes of a new show so the story can build. i need to watch the first episode again before deciding to stick around.
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I might give it one more episode cause that little girl was amazingly captivating in her scenes. But the rest was just bullocks :/
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I was confused as hell. In the end I thought Mira's Sorvino's character was an invader in somebody else's body (that girl whose birthday we see in 1990 in the beginning, and then she grew up as an invader and it was now time to switch bodies to continue being immortal. So, John Simm's character would have never known his life because she was really an invader, I mean, Intruder, all along. But now I realize she had this Marcus character inside her too and "She Was Provisional"??? Oh, well, I suppose in the subsequent episodes this mess will clear up. Or not.
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Umm I don't know about this. My biggest problem with it is that it reminds me a lot of The Leftovers. It is shot well, it is acted well, especially that little girl, I am not sure how she got past other shows with horrible child actors, TWD, Under the Dome, Extant etc. But if she met with their casting directors and they passed on her then they are well dumb. But, like the Leftovers, you are dropped in this weird universe and the pilot tells you nothing, less than nothing. Now in some cases it is fine, if it is done well, in the cases that it is not fine you get dreck like The Leftovers. And this is more the latter than anything resembling the former. Right now, I am leaning toward the not liking part, I admit that I am intrigued by the premise, actually I have been looking forward to this show since I first saw the previews, but if they don't make headway within the next couple of episodes then I don't see me watching the rest.
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Nah, what the hell are you talking about? The Leftovers is superior to this mess. This is just a wannabe mystery show.
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That's disappointing. I may wait until a few episodes have aired, and then I can know if it's worth it. The previews did look intriguing. From what I've heard though, The Leftovers has gotten a lot better since the 4th or 5th episode. I take it you don't agree with that?
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The Leftovers gets better each episode.
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I dislike The Leftovers, I think it actually has gotten worse. The whole thing with the Chief not doing anything about the GR is annoying and the predictability of Gladys' death was annoying. So I stopped watching it. I watch it through HBO go and they picked it back up and I regret adding to the viewership.
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When they spell it out you complain that hey act like were idiots and they don't leave any intrigue, when they do leave you guessing you complain again. Critics *shakes head* Personally I liked that we didn't know what the heck was going on. Edge 1710 maybe the 9 means the years they can be in a host, we shall see. Also James Frain is killing both "regular" humans & trying to get Intruders, so his case may not be so black & white as "he's the bad guy"

What didn't resonate was the talk of Gary Fisher with Jack in the woods, he did a poor piss job of explaining to Jack as to get his help.

The hook to me is the kid (she's very talented at the dual role of evil/not evil) and where id Mira Sorvino go.



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"The 9" actually comes up in episode three, but I won't reveal the spoiler since it would only a half a reveal anyway. Just mentioned because a few comments implied that this wasn't a carefully constructed and preconceived plot. I expect it will continue get deeper and deeper. One of those things will have a few "aha" moments as pieces fall together.
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There has to be a middle ground between "tv shows for dummies" and this. It's not just slow. I'm fine with slow and I watch a lot of snail paced indies so I'm not looking for action or anything like that, but there is very little in episode 2 for example, that hasn't been seen already in episode 1. That's not writing, that's recycling.
It feels like they are not so much trying to keep it intriguing as they are trying to hide the fact that they don't have much to reveal. I'm afraid the premise is about as developed as it gets in a 2 line synopsis. People are taking over other people. Meh.
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The biggest problem had was there just didn't seem to be a "hook" or compelling reason for me to keep watching. I'll admit, I quit watching about half way through because there really was no reason for me care about anyone. A girl wonders off, some dude in a van spouting about "them" but not saying who they are, and another guy indiscriminately killing a mom and son. They didn't get me to care about anyone, so I don't. Sorry, this may turn out to be a great show but I didn't see it.
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Exactly this. I love these types of stories and all the actors in this series, especially Simm, and I just couldn't care about any of it. My biggest issue was John Simm's (lack of) reaction to his wife's disappearance. He doesn't report her missing? Doesn't call in any favors from his police force buddies? No, he plays detective, and poorly, with little emotional investment and more concern about her phone than her. His attempt to speak "American" seemed to take up all his acting ability. I was really disappointed.
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I wasn't making much sense of this at first, and wondered if BBCA made a mistake putting two premieres back-to-back. (I was still thinking about all the newness from Doctor Who.)

It's not the first of these new short series not to bother with much explanatory and setup dialog. (This one is only 8 episodes?) They almost require the audience to rewatch, discuss or stick around for another episode to get more clues about what's happening. I'll stick around for at least one more, but my initial impression is that the story might not be intriguing enough for the effort required to piece it together.

John Simm's accent: it seemed odd to me because he talked slowly and with a slight regional dialect. Characters on TV usually talk faster.
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I hadn't heard about this show at all but the review confirms to me that it may be a wise thing to wait and see the first 2 to 3 eps to avoid the pilot issues (whether pilotitis or 'what was that' reactions)... Sometimes it is too tough to resist (The Strain!!! The Leftovers etc.) but I do think one gets a better feel for the show...
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Thanks for the review. Now I know what I actually watched. On the 9 thing I thought it meant the amount of years It can take over a host.
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Thank you for your review. If it requires multiple viewing to understand it I am willing to give it a chance. Great cast. Might become a favorite.
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It's not all that unusual for actors generally typecast as good guys/gals to play a dark part occasionally. That's all good and fine but what I enjoy much more is the opposite, seeing actors almost always typecast as baddies suddenly wearing the white hats. If I had to compile a list of actors whom I'd like to see do some role reversal, two names that would immediately come to mind are James Frain and Titus Welliver. TW has rarely been a good guy but there is precedent for it happening. However, I don't think I've ever seen JF not be a bad guy. Well, hope springs eternal, or so I've been told.

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In certain circles, Thomas Cromwell counts for Frain.
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Thomas Cromwell was an evil man in real life and in the Tudors. Most definitely does not count as a good guy.
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Really? Ghandi had thousands of women sterilised without their agreement but many still think he was a saint.
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The point is, one man's saint is another's devil.
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It's very OT but I'm curious... Sanjay Gandhi considered a saint? Or are you getting him mixed up with the Mahatma?
Because it was Sanjay Gandhi who imposed sterilization on thousands of women. The Mahatma was very much opposed to sterilization, as indeed to any form of birth control. In fact, he said that compulsory sterilization was an abomination and that voluntary sterilization only made sense for men.
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Titus Welliver is not a bad guy in Bosch, if you saw the pilot. He may be a tough cop but not a bad guy
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He wasn't a baddie in Lost, either. Like I said, there's precedent with him, just not a lot.

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I actually think it's refreshing to have to wait to find out the details. It's probably a little bit too X-Files at the moment though.
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After the first paragraph of this review I can't wait to check it out. I skipped the rest of the article because I want to be confused and love it.
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It was somewhat intriguing for the first half hour then devolved into the same "edgy" dark mess that thinks it's special but is just simply.... a mess. And Doctor Who is a terrible terrible lead in for this show. No common themes or tone at all.

I was really looking forward tot his because the concept seemed really interesting, but with the lazy reliance on cheap dark grittiness and death it was just another amateur attempt at something that could have used subtlety.
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BBC America probably used Doctor Who as the lead in because Simm guested on it, so they thought fans would tune in out of curiosity.
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No it use DW as a lead in because it get over 2.2 million viewers. Nothing more nothing less.
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