CBS’s newest procedural drama, Stalker, didn’t waste any time jumping right into the subject matter, so I won’t either. In the very first scene, viewers watched as Pretty Little Liars‘ Torrey DeVitto made a brief cameo on the show before literally going up in flames. The death of her character became the basis for tonight’s primary investigation, but viewers can already clearly see several longer lasting storylines starting to take root within the narrative.
For an introduction, the writers scored major points by going big. Off the bat they make a graphic statement about what viewers can expect from the show, and it’s fairly intense, although not entirely original. This series will have to give viewers something worthwhile if it wants to keep its fanbase intact.
Stalker sees Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott playing a pair of new partners, Lieutenant Beth Davis and Detective Jack Larsen, thrown together by virtue of the job – detective work is usually a two person activity. The writers follow the familiar pattern of introducing these characters to each other at the same time they are introducing them to viewers. The nice thing about us being able to witness their initial meeting is that no one feels like they’re on the outside of an inside joke – it makes their relationship more transparent.
Both of these characters have varying degrees of baggage. Beth takes her work home with her, meaning she can’t leave the job behind. Either she has personal experience with being stalked, which wouldn’t surprise me, or her career has really just made her that overtly cautious that she lives in an almost constant state of fear. Her actions at the end of the episode contradict the strong protagonist character that we saw for most of the episode (before calling it a night, Beth heads over the her local college campus for some pro bono threatening of one of the creepy co-eds). which is slightly problematic, but possibly explainable.
Jack, on the other hand, comes with what looks like some very one-sided baby mama drama. Guest star Elisabeth Rohm appears as his ex-something or another and mother of his son, and is very direct about not wanting anything to do with him. Jack apparently doesn’t share that sentiment. This is something that might be really interesting to watch unravel in future episodes and could definitely turn into the catalyst for some partner bonding, but could also blow up in the writer’s faces. Drama is good, but too much can be borderline obnoxious.
Stalker definitely deserves an honorable mention at the very least for their selection of recognizable guest stars. In the pilot alone, besides DeVitto, they brought aboard Bones‘ Michael Grant Terry as Kurt, one of the stalkers in question, and Daren Kagasoff, former star of The Secret Life of The American Teenager, as Eric, a victim of his own stalker. None of these are big names, but anyone with a diverse taste in television should recognize one, if not all, of these actors.
There was nothing glaringly wrong with the pilot, and overall Stalker has all the makings of a hit television show – great cast, decent storyline, interesting delivery – but, there was something missing. The chemistry between McDermott and Q didn’t play out on screen like I expected (read: hoped), and that’s a make-it or break-it element for any show. It’s still early on and there’s some time for the series to find its groove, so there is a chance that this will improve, but besides the obvious distance that Q’s character seems to prefer – “I don’t put it out there in the first 5 minutes. That’d be creepy.” – there’s an elemental cohesion that just wasn’t there. Also, the lack of memorable peripheral characters was problematic. Sure, they were there. But did they do anything in this episode to make you want to invest in them? Not really.
While I wouldn’t count Stalker out just yet (mostly because it’s statistically improbable that McDermott can star in so many failed shows in a row), I wouldn’t hold my breath for a second season, either.