Debris is the latest series on NBC from producer J.H. Wyman. Fans of Fringe will remember that name, he was writer and director for most episodes. Just after Fringe he was also show creator for Almost Human starring Karl Urban. To prove that the apple does not fall far from the tree Debris is from the same mold as Fringe and The X-Files. Normally this would get me very excited, but alas such shows are rare after becoming extinct with failures such as Alcatraz, Revolution and a slew of others. In fact, I had not heard of Debris until last week. Debris stars Jonathan Tucker (Westworld) and Riann Steele as Bryan Beneventi (CIA) and Finola Jones as an MI6 operative, respectively. Together they must uncover the mysteries of falling alien debris. Considering series such as Westworld and The Expanse I wonder if there is room for a procedural series?
Debris, between Fringe and The X-Files
Despite my lackluster anticipation I did enjoy this first episode. Bryan and Finola are hot on the heels of a gang selling fallen alien debris. Quickly we see that these artifacts can have dangerous consequences for people when a cleaning maid at a hotel accidently touches a piece, then phases and falls through 14 floors and crashes into a ballroom table. Her death marks the beginning of a number of grotesque scenes. Those that are avid fans of The X-Files and Fringe will remember them. It is an effective prologue to an episode that starts a new series. Soon Bryan and Finola are onto bigger things when more debris is found in Kansas. Here the series manages to effectively introduce more sci-fi-esque elements along with drama. A woman who recently lost her son in car crash discovers a large piece of debris on her backyard.
The artifact gives her dreams of her son. One day he actually appears. However, the artifact is draining the mother of her energy, a problem that is quickly spreading until a half-dozen people are catatonic. Bryan and Finola must each deal with personal problems. Bryan is a former veteran who readily admits he will not be suited for anything else other than hunt down more artifacts. Finola’s life is even more complicated. Her mother died when she was young and her father was the person who first spotted the alien craft and its debris field out in space. She thinks of him as hero, now dead. But Bryan knows differently and knows her father is very much alive. Overcoming their past allows them to heal the people affected in a way I am not really sure how. But the story does not linger and hints at a deeper mystery.
What can we expect from this series?
For a show such as Debris the pilot episode is always difficult. I can hardly remember a pilot episode that I liked. From The X-Files, to The Orville and from Revolution to Lost. They were all poor examples of what those show would become. I cannot help but feel the same is true for Debris. When I see Bryan and Finola I am thinking of Fox and Scully. When I see people phasing through floors and walls and getting stuck in concrete, I am thinking Fringe. What is it then that Debris is doing new? Nothing that I could see in this episode. The creators are in fact taking a chance with the premise that alien artifacts are causing all sorts of abnormal incidents. It is a one-trick pony. The rivalry between the CIA and MI6 could be a source for conflict, but it also feels deliberately inserted.
Debris is not currently something I would say is ‘must-watch’. The gimmick that is a stand-in for the ‘monster-of-the-week’ from ‘The X-Files’ does not mesh well with its drama. In fact, the drama during the final act was somewhat cringe worthy. It is although the creators knew they had to steer away from the Sci-Fi elements. Considering there is little humor the number of reasons to watch diminishes. Even Fringe had a fair amount of humor. If the mysterious backstory does not work and if the lead characters have no chemistry then I fear Debris will be added to the long list of one-season failures. I will continue to watch Debris. There is little else on TV right now and I won’t judge a series by its pilot episode. However, the existence of Debris is a mystery that may be bigger than the one in the show.