September 26th, 2007
I’ve been in possession of the original pilot for Bionic Woman for quite some time, but I decided against watching it. With recasting and fine tuning being considerable (Deaf sister turns to decidedly not deaf sister), and talks of producer issues, the series is perhaps the second most troubled of the fall season (Next to CBS’ Moonlight). It is perhaps surprising, then, that I found the pilot to be about as good of an introduction to this series as I could expect.
There were certainly problems: some dialogue issues reared their ugly head, specifically the feminist rhetoric coming from a seven year old (Feminist rhetoric? Fine. From someone who would never actually say that? Not fine), and there were certainly certain characters that…well, never became characters. However, the pilot’s focus was not in making us like or dislike these characters, but rather that we could get caught up in this world.
Now, mind you, this is a flawed way of going about things: a general apathy towards a show’s characters is generally a barrier to enjoying the series as a whole. This is why a lot of the pilot’s goodwill comes via Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck, whose presence immediately elevates Bionic Woman amongst die hard fans of that series (myself included). More importantly, however, is that Sarah Corvus is a character who has history, motive and gravitas; these are traits we are missing for our titular heroine, portrayed by Michelle Ryan.
It’s not that Ryan is bad as Jamie Sommers, but rather that she is not extraordinary. And, as many have pointed out at Hey! Nielsen, it’s not that this doesn’t work for the pilot, where she is using her powers for the first time: rather, one questions whether her end of episode speech proves her worth as an action heroine. Considering that she’ll be sharing the screen with Sackhoff, Ryan is going to have to step up to the plate.
But is it wrong that I have a certain degree of faith in her? The show is being run by Jason Smilovic, who worked with Carla Gugino on Karen Sisco, so he knows his female action heroines. And, perhaps more importantly, I think that the setup has left the ball firmly in her possession; if she doesn’t run with it now, she must not like having job security.
Right now, I want the show to loosen up and give the show a sense of humour outside of Corvus’ rather delightful banter. Jamie’s sister is apparently some sort of internet hacker (who looks like that?) or something, but their relationship right now is too confrontational. Jamie has to deal with a depressing and gruff-voiced set of government types while “working,” so an occasional light touch might be appreciated.
So, consider my viewpoint as optimistic despite reservations, although said reservations can take over for some. Scooter McGavin over at the 9th Green notes the following:
The problem with this is the show looks like it wants you to think that show could possibly be happening as we speak so except for some super hearing, strength and speed there really isn’t anything out of the ordinary.
I would actually argue that this is one of the pilot’s charms, and one of the things that keeps me optimistic: this show needs to stay grounded in the ordinary in order for it to remain relevant. What I love about Battlestar Galactica is that, despite its setting, it is a human story about people and their mistakes and successes. While I too love the explosions and the space battles, it is the humanity of science fiction that keeps me returning to it. And, I think that this is what leads me to believe that there might be a great series lying beneath these surface problems.