Monday, October 15, 2007

Notes on Bionic Woman, episodes 1-3

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I've been asked to quickly bring readers up to speed on the first three episodes of NBC's Bionic Woman. Rather than attempt a full-fledged plot recap, here are some brief summaries followed by (in italics) a portion of what I wrote for my own blog right after viewing each episode.

  • "Pilot" - Bartender Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is injured in a car accident right after telling her boyfriend Will she's pregnant. Jamie awakens to find that Will is actually a scientist/surgeon who has by way of saving her life implanted her with top-secret bionic technology. A horrified Jamie escapes from the facility where she's being held only to encounter Sarah Corvis (Katee Sackhoff) on the outside. Sarah is Bionic Woman 1.0, and (as depicted in a prologue)her bionics are causing mental illness and often homicidal behavior. In the climax, Sarah assassinates Will and fights Jamie to a draw before escaping. Will's father Anthony Anthros is the creator of the bionic technology in Jamie and Sarah. He's broken out of prison by forces unknown at the end of the pilot.

    After seeing promos for Bionic Woman every time I went to the movies for what seems like months, I'm happy to say that the show's pilot is actually pretty good. I was impressed with Michelle Ryan, who plays crash survivor Jamie Sommers. As Jamie adapts to her new body, Ryan's performance gives a sense of someone realizing just how much they're capable of. As you may have guessed from my post yesterday, I'm a huge fan of Katee Sackhoff. Best known as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Sackhoff plays fellow Bionic Woman Sarah. The pilot gives us just enough information about Sarah to make us want more; she goes on a killing spree at the supersecret government facility where she's being kept. She also seems to have some emotional issues and definitely has a grudge against the people who turned her into Bionic Woman 1.0.

  • Episode 1.2 - "Paradise Lost" - Jamie allies herself with Will's old employers, the Berkut Group. Berkut is a sort of freelance anti-extremist organization led by Jonas (Miguel Ferrer). For her first assignment Jamie accompanies Ruth Treadwell (Molly Price) to a small Idaho town that has been wiped out by a chemical attack. It's never made clear who is behind the attack, but Jamie and Ruth gather intelligence that leads to Berkut catching the bad guys and foiling their next move. Jamie also begins intense physical training with Jae Kim (Will Yun Lee), a Berkut employee whose loyalties to Sarah are made clear when the two hook up at a hotel. The episode ends with Jamie making it home just in time to see her younger sister Becca (whom she cares for) perform in a talent show.

    I'm guessing there's a central enemy out there we haven't met yet, perhaps involving scientist Anthony Anthros (Mark Sheppard). We saw Anthony getting sprung from prison in the pilot, he's the father of Jamie's late fiance Will.

    There's a fair bit of interaction between Jamie and her sister Becca (Lucy Hale), who is still feeling ignored and threatening to move out. Hints are also dropped regarding Jae Kim's lingering feelings for Sarah; they hook up at a hotel and someone even refers to Sarah as Jae's "wife." Entertainment Weekly points out that Katee Sackhoff threatens to overpower Ryan in their scenes. Next week's episode suggests a possible alliance between the two, but we'll see.

    So far, so good. Jamie is both emotionally vulnerable and still not quite sure of her powers. Sarah's presence suggests a dangerous path if Jamie doesn't embrace her new life with rigor.

  • Episode 1.3 - "Sisterhood" - Anthony Anthros urges Sarah to reach out to Jamie in an effort to understand how the bionics might be changing Sarah's mental state. Jamie is sympathetic, but Berkut wants Sarah taken out and their paramilitary efforts to capture Sarah lead to a breach of trust between the two Bionic Women. Jamie is distressed to learn that Berkut is tracking her movements with an "optical tracker" in her eye; Sarah shows her how to disable the device at will. Jamie is assigned to guard the obnoxious daughter of a visiting defense contractor. When gangsters threaten the girl Sarah comes to Jamie's aid, but Jamie still refuses to help. Sarah threatens Becca, but Jamie is able to summon help in time. In flashbacks it's revealed that Sarah was the driver in an accident that killed her own sister.

    Katee Sackhoff owned the third episode of Bionic Woman. "Sisterhood" gave us much-needed information about Sackhoff's Sarah, the first Bionic Woman now being driven insane by the shortcomings of the technology inside her. As the only other person alive who understands what Sarah is going through, Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is put in the difficult position of having her uneasy relationship with her employers at the Berkut Group put directly at odds with her humanity.

    Forgive the self-indulgence of quoting from my earlier writing. I've tried to hit the major plot points and give a little of the week-to-week flavor at the same time.


    Todd said...

    Thanks for the write-up!

    I've found Bionic mostly overcooked and underthought. The mythology is driving the characters, rather than the other way around. That pilot really needed to be two hours or a two-parter with episode two as well. Jamie just makes the leap from "I almost died!" to "I'm a superhero!" so quickly that it makes you lose interest in her as a recognizable human being.

    I liked episode three for what it was, but I don't know that the show will be able to make all of this work ever. I'll stick around until the episodes where Jason Katims took over and see if he could do anything with it (that doesn't involve dumping bodies).

    David Sims said...

    This show is a diversion for me, but I actually haven't given up hope like Todd seems to have (although mostly out of interest for the FNL crew's take on the show).

    Personally I'm happy they made that jump. Just cause "I almost died" is BOR-ING.

    Now, they just need to make it funny, make the characters interesting and the mythology deeper. I doubt they will.

    Todd said...

    Far better might have been to open after she's been Bionic for a while and do a flashback to how it all began as the season two premiere. I agree that her being glum would be boring, but they zigged and zagged past so many plot points in the first two that it all had the feeling of something where there were no characters -- just receptacles for plot.

    That said, I liked episode three much more, even if I wish Sarah had killed the sister.

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