This week, ABC aired the first two episodes of its new immortal detective show Forever. And it was perfectly fine! In fact, it's a more-than-serviceable supernatural procedural. That I happened to fall asleep in the middle of.
Let me be clear: I'm pretty sure the reason I missed half of Forever's second episode was because of the death flu I've been battling all week and not because of the show itself. But this is yet another new show that's decided that "semi-philosophical voiceover" is something it needs in its toolbag. And I am tired of that. A lot.
This show hits a lot of buttons for me, so if you share any of these, this show'll work for you too. We've got a procedural, period flashbacks, immortals, quirky assistants, tough-as-nails police chief — it's a veritable trope stew. It's exactly the show that would have resulted if Highlander had decided that Duncan MacLeod was actually Sherlock Holmes. It's the Sherlock/Highlander crossover you always wanted! (Okay, I know that's a lie. The Sherlock/Highlander crossover everyone really wants is one where Sherlock and Methos meet. In fact, my biggest complaint about Forever is that it is missing anything like a Methos so far.)
Because this is a procedural, the actual plot points of the first two episodes can be dispensed with pretty quickly. Here be spoilers...
Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is a medical examiner who also happens to be a couple of centuries old. When he dies, he wakes up naked in water. Which I actually kind of hope never gets explained, because I like the idea that it's just a random set of rules people get in this world. "You: naked in water. You: Mukluks in a tree."
The pilot leans hard on the Sherlock associations. The music even sounds very Sherlockian. And we first meet Henry giving a classic set of Sherlockian deductions to a Russian cellist on the subway. Right before a crash kills them both. Henry also exhibits an inability to converse with the average person without drowning them in information and the superiority of seeing things others miss.
The case of the week is the subway crash, which was the result of the conductor being poisoned. This brings Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza, who has a number of other procedurals under her belt) into Henry's orbit. She discovers that Henry was on the subway train when it crashed and finds it odd that he didn't see fit to mention that. Also, his survival in the front car is suspicious unless he knew it was coming, so of course he becomes a suspect.
He's not the killer, obviously. They track down the poisoner, who lost his wife in a subway crash. He killed the conductor because that guy killed his wife and he's planning to poison a bunch more. Detective Martinez is shot, and Henry and the killer both go over the side of the roof.
In terms of threads to keep track of: Henry gets a call from someone who claims to have the same immortality problem he does and sends him a photo of Henry with his 1940s love, Abigail. Since Henry has no idea why he is the way he is, this is catnip to him.
And Henry's only friend (and only living person who knows his secret) is Abe. This is Judd Hirsch playing the Judd Hirsch role he always plays these days. This character could very well be the same one from Independence Day, except for the name. Abe, it turns out, is a baby that Henry and Abigail saved and raised. So add the complicated "immortal father, mortal son" gloss to that relationship.
Episode 2: Look Before You Leap
Case of the week: A woman who didn't commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. First they think it was her lover/professor. It wasn't. And we could have saved the time thinking it was him because he, too, is murdered. Instead, it was her fellow researcher, who was angry that the professor had her co-write a career-defining paper instead of him.
Meanwhile, Henry gets contacted by his secret-immortal-admirer again. He gets a letter on a piece of antique paper. But sourcing the paper doesn't tell Henry anything about the man who is contacting him, but does tell us more about Henry and Abigail. The paper was used in a hotel where Henry once tried to leave Abigail so she would have a normal life. She was not okay with that plan.
He also gets a phone call from the man, who claims that Henry still cares about things because he's "only" 2oo. He claims to be 2,000 and asks that Henry call him "Adam." Because he's the oldest. (Bullshit, by the way. Methos should sue him for copyright infringement.)
One thing I did notice was that it really does look like Henry's gotten worse about dealing with other people's emotions as time's gone on. Whether that's because all the flashbacks we've seen involve Abigail, and she's the reason Henry stayed connected to mortals (she's the one who convinces him to adopt Abe, so there's every chance it's true), or because he's slowly losing his ability to connect with others as he ages, I don't know. But the second episode had him explaining that he doesn't deal with the families of the dead that pass through his doors. And then he proves that he's bad at it when the parents of the not-suicide barge in.
He did connect fairly well with the professor's wife, explaining why she'd give the man an alibi when their marriage is clearly struggling. So maybe "Adam" isn't wrong about losing the ability to "care" as you get older, and this inconsistency in Henry is just proof of his transition.
Also, I laughed out loud when Henry manages to save himself from falling from the bridge when investigating it, only to get hit by a car immediately after. And when he poisoned himself in the pilot to verify his theory. A good comedy death is always worth having.
I've been burned before, but I'm actually totally on board with a show that's a procedural with just a little bit extra. There was some contemplation of the nature of immortality, but far less than I was actually expecting. Especially given the voiceover, which I demand take a sabbatical next year.