Spring 2013 Review: Deception

8 Mar


Deception, in five words.  Primetime murder mystery soap opera (quick definition: primetime is not simply a time-the-show-airs issue, it’s an adjective describing the type of soap; priemtime implies a soap that’s a bit classier and less ridiculous (by soap standards, remember, so that’s only saying so much) than daytime soaps).

Now, in longer form.  The premise event of Deception is the mysterious death of socialite and scion of the uber-wealthy Bowers family, Vivian.  Her death appears on its face to be due to a drug overdose, but there are clear signs pointing the police in the direction of murder.  The Bowers family made their millions through the pharmaceutical company currently run by patriarch Robert Bowers (Victor Garber), and it’s a classic dysfunctional rich family fueled by jealousy and greed, which means that everyone’s a suspect.  While the family attempts to mend itself after hearing of Vivian’s tragic death, viewer surrogate Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good) must infiltrate the family to attempt to figure out who the murderer is.  She’s in a unique position to investigate the inter-family dynamics, given that she used to be Vivian’s best friend growing up, when Joanna’s mother worked for the Bowers family.  Vivian and Joanna were BFFs until a falling out about 15 years ago, which is slowly revealed through flashbacks, when Vivian attempted to run away and Joanna, believing she was drug-addled and liable to get herself hurt, tattled to her father, ending their relationship.

Since then, Joanna’s lived her own life as a member of the NYPD, which the Bowers family doesn’t know. With the convincing of her former partner/lover and now FBI agent Will, she agrees to make a return into the Bowers’ lives, ostensibly to grieve Vivian, but with the secret goal of figuring out the murderer.

Suspects include the father and CEO, Robert, son Julian, the bad boy now creating drugs for his father’s company, who Joanna once had an ongoing fling with, ill-tempered older son Edward, who was accused of strangling a woman years ago, but managed to fight off the charge, Robert’s second wife and former secretary Sophia, and youngest daughter Mia.

The investigation turns out to be even more complicated than originally thought when a tabloid journalist who was spying on the Bowers is murdered while waiting to feed Joanna some information, after he relates to her that there are allegations that Bowers’ company is about to put a drug on the market responsible for killing dozens of people in overseas test markets, a drug which was created by Julian.  The episode ends with the dual revelations that Vivian was pregnant when she died, and that she was pregnant once before, right when her and Joanna had their falling out, and that that baby was Mia, who has been posing as Robert and Sophia’s daughter.

Deception is another in the minor trend of thriller prime time soaps started by the minor success of ABC’s Revenge. The incredibly dysfunctional uber-rich family vibe being infiltrated by an outsider who is really an insider which features prominently in Revenge is at the heart of Deception as well.  The feature mystery here is of course the whodunit, and the family members are the primary suspects, though I’d guess there will be more peripherally shady characters entering at some part that could be involved somehow in the plot.

The show wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either.  The mystery is intriguing enough, and I”m generally a sucker for a classic whodunit, just not necessary enough to actually watch several hours of TV.  Similar to what feels like the last couple of shows I’ve written about (The Following, The Carrie Diaries), there’s not a ton that makes this show stand out in a crowd, but it’s perfectly respectable in its own right.  I could imagine getting stuck in a rabbit hole of Deception episodes on a Saturday morning on repeats on TNT someday, but it just doesn’t have quite enough to make me place it on my considerably crowded television schedule.  Like most serial dramas, the set up is easy, while the pay out is hard, and the set up here is certainly at least adequate, and honestly, if I heard the the later episodes were excellent and compelling and unpredictable, there’s enough for me in the first episode be interested in coming back to the show, but I don’t have implicit faith.

If Deception does succeed, it will be difficult to avoid the same issue that Revenge faced.  Pace it too slowly, people will get tired of waiting and it will seem needlessly drawn out.  Solve the feature mystery in good time and the writers need to think of something else equally compelling.  Shows like this are exactly why I support the expansion of season-long TV series, American Horror Story-style.

Will I watch it again?  No, I’m not going to.  Honestly though, it’s not a total loser.  It’s not required viewing by any means, but I still haven’t reviewed a truly terrible or even a pretty bad show yet from the Spring 2013 season.  I’m sure it’s coming and I’ve just watched them in the wrong order, but while I’m not going to watch Deception nor tell anyone else to watch it, I’d have no qualms if someone I knew told me they were watching it.  I might even read the wikipedia page later to find out who the killer is if the show makes it that far.

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