Second Chance (2016): Season 1
One of the fundamental tenants of reviewing movies and television series is acknowledging that some themes so deeply ingrained in the zeitgeist of humanity or explorations of such basic insights into the psychological and emotional composition of our species that each generation deserves an opportunity to interpret them through their unique perspective. When applied properly it then results in iconic genius such as transforming ‘Romeo and Juliette’ into ‘West Side Story.’ Unfortunately, most attempts have failed to rise to the challenge. Statistically, there are certain to be a significant number that cluster in the middle of the curve. Among the more recent was an offering by Fox Television, ‘Second Chance.’ It was promoted as a modern reinterpretation of Mary Shelly’s iconic, ‘Frankenstein.’ This produced a reasonably entertaining series, but it fell short of successfully address the basic themes of the classic story. The premise of corned is transforming a senior man into a younger, perfected version of himself with preternatural abilities. One similarity is the methodology employed what contemporaries considered bleeding edge technology. For the nineteenth century that marvel was electricity which became genetic manipulation and nanotechnology in the modern variation.
Jimmy Pritchard (Philip Baker Hall), a 75-year-old former King County, Washington, sheriff, is retired from a long career marred by numerous incidents of illegal acts of greed, morally corrupt and criminality unbefitting a lawman. He is murdered in a fashion disguised as a suicide, but that is not the end but the start of the eponymous second chance at life. The twin tech geniuses acquire his body, Mary (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Otto Goodwin (Adhir Kalyan), how founded the world’s leading technology company, Lookingglass. In real-world terms, this company is the product of placing Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Intel in the Large Hadron Collider and smashed them together. Mary is outgoing, serving as the public face and spokeswoman for Lookingglass. This position is from necessity since Otto is on the Autism spectrum, lacking most social skills. He is so introverted that he prefers o communicate with his sister using a special ‘twin language’ that only he and Mary can understand. They subject Jimmy to a new procedure that reverts him to a younger man possessing greatly enhanced speed, strength and stamina. Otto devised the procedure to create a treatment, and hopefully, a cure for a rare, ultimately terminal medical condition. The augmented subject can produce antibodies that can be transfused into Mary. Jimmy requires periodic treatments to continue to live and help Mary. This is expedited by the Goodwin’s bringing him to live in their futuristic smart house, controlled by advanced artificial intelligence, Arthur (voiced by (Scott Menville). Its avatar is only slightly less silly than ‘Clippy.’ They build an exact duplicate of Jimmy’s apartment in a remote wing of their estate.
In the act of rebellion and reformation of his father’s morally bankrupt ways, his son, Duval (Tim DeKay), became a straight arrow agent of the FBI. Duval has always been ashamed of Jimmy but his younger daughter, Amanda (Amanda Detmer), retained affection for her father. The primary focus of the series contrives a partnership between the rejuvenated Jimmy and Duval. Because Jimmy is a perfected form, his son doesn’t recognize him. An inherent weakest of the series is how hard it tries to emulate the format of a police procedural with the perennial present mismatched partners. This contributes to the various reasons why the comparisons to the Frankenstein saga is at best strained beyond believability. Much of the potential residing in the series is a result of the texture and nuances that are interwoven in the primary narrative, an example that illustrates the deeper level of the emotional content is found in the factors that motivate Otto. From the perspective of a man with his unique circumstances, the procedure was more involved than just saving Mary’s life. Her fraternal twin Otto cannot conceive of life without his sister. They shared a womb, live in the same home and share the CEO responsibilities of a multibillion-dollar technology empire. Underlying all of this is a factor that most people cannot relate. Mary is more than a twin sister; she is his complimentary half. He would be lost without Mary; Otto would be completely cut off from others, trapped in a prison of his brilliant mind.
Another well-constructed emotional tread serving as connective tissue for the story is generally relatable, the dysfunctional American family. Duval is driven by distancing himself from the sins of his father. It influenced his decision to join the FBI and ensure his career was the opposite of his father’s reprehensible life. That feeling is juxtaposed against the tenderness that Helen demonstrates towards her criminally inclined father. Infusing a science fiction vehicle with family drama has been done many times before with better results. Still, even in those instances, ‘Defiance,’ for example, quality did not translate into longevity. The themes explored here were properly handled producing effective entertainment yet, in the current television paradigm makes the climate among the programming executives that is unforgiving. When a series requires time to establish its narrative style and consolidate its fan base, a few seasons are necessary. This doesn’t warrant the appellation ‘Brilliant but Cancelled,’ as with ‘Firefly,’ but it does add to the regrettably ever-expanding list, ‘Cancelled before its Time.’
In any story one of the most crucial elements is a means to generate a source of dramatic conflict, a ‘Big Bad’ to challenge the protagonist effectively. This is the most substantial weakness of this series. Instead of a distinct, centralized villain, the focus is divided. Duval discovers that the buff stranger is a close familiar DNA match leading to being read in by Mary. The [presence of a serial killer contrives to force father and son to join forces in hunting him down. This requires Jimmy’s past contacts and knowledge. A separate threat is mounted against the twins. Lookingglass is about to release a revolutionary new operating system, Cobra 9. The CEO of their biggest rival, Connor Graff (Adan Canto), is the intent of obtaining its secrets. This introduces the rather mundane plot device of industrial espionage as Connor inserts a spy in Lookingglass, Alexa, Mary's executive personal assistant, Alexa (Vanessa Lengies). The ultimate effect of this bifurcation is to dilute the nascent dramatic tension severely. It is regrettable when a series with such positive potential is canceled before prospering beginning.
The cast here is better than found on most broadcast television networks. Philip Baker Hall has been a sought-after character actor for decades always providing the ideal youth of realism to any project he undertakes. He wears the personae of (old) Jimmy, like a comfortable pair of jeans. His extensive experience brings depth to the character that sets the foundation for the series that allows the principle cast to craft an enjoyable show. Robert Kazinsky is about to join the illustrious MCU family as part of the highly anticipated Phase 4 release, ‘Captain Marvel.’ Mr. Kazinsky carries the look of a hero nicely juxtaposed to Mr. Baker’s presentation of a man broken from a lifetime of bad mistakes. The qualities of a redemption story help to redefine and override the resurrection themes that never truly hold the story together. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the preview DVDs. I thought that Fox completely abandoned this series, thankfully, that was not the case.