Forever Series Premiere Review: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

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As the pilot stands, Morgan stays mum about some the personal travails from his past, which means we may have to spend more time with him before we connect to him emotionally. Abe is the only character who knows Morgan’s secret, but Morgan’s morgue lab assistant Lucas (Bones’ Joel David Moore) is curious and wants to know more. Also intrigued is Detective Jo Martinez (Law and Order‘s Alana De La Garza), who is well on her way to partnering with him for a variety of whodunits. It is easy to see how the creator wants to create a light sexual tension between the two investigators a la Castle and Beckett. The one uniting factor between the two, besides their detective work, is that both lost their life partner. However, Forever races on with the central mystery before either character reveals more.

Forever was not as much created by Matthew Miller as formed from the basis of several programs with a quirky lead character caught up in some leaden murder mysteries. Morgan’s deductive reasoning echoes Sherlock Holmes – a character with successful series on both sides of the Atlantic – and his scientific and medical expertise recalls Dr. Gregory House, who was himself inspired by Conan Doyle’s creation. However, as nice as it is to see Gruffudd getting work, it is a rather plain protagonist. Miller (who also penned the pilot) is still searching for a personality that can stand out from the other intelligent investigators on network TV. His Morgan is a faint variation of these colorful detectives.

Meanwhile, the Brad Anderson-directed pilot is rather perfunctory in its look. A few of the flashback sequences are brightly lit to the point that they suggest an otherworldly quality. Besides those, Forever looks like any other New York-set show, meaning the exterior scenes are more eye-catching than the interior ones. The central mystery, in the meantime, is mostly a snooze, as Morgan and Martinez try to figure out whether the train conductor’s sudden death right before the subway crashed is a homicide. Meanwhile, there is a mastermind going out of his way to find Morgan and may be ripping off the twist from M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable in his pursuit, as well. (Like that thriller, Miller sets one of the pivotal scenes in Grand Central Station.)

Keeping his Welsh accent, Gruffudd is too slick and not quirky enough to make Morgan a memorable character. When he tells Abe that he needs time to wallow in the wake of the perilous experience from the subway, the actor does not convey much sorrow or feeling. In another scene, Martinez calls Morgan a weird, creepy and unusual person – something that the protagonist does not quite take as an insult. Alternatively, Miller’s show could find offense with being called weird and unusual. It is content to be average, and comes off as flat, mostly forgettable and trying too hard to imitate its primetime precursors.

At the beginning of Forever, Dr. Morgan cleverly introduces himself by joking how his “story is a long one.” Well, it may be hard to imagine that a series with so many reference points to superior television dramas – even some that are still airing – will last long enough to tell his story in full. It is also hard to imagine that Forever will live long on ABC’s schedule.