‘Debris’ creator J.H. Wyman isn’t a stranger to slowly-unfolding alien-influenced conspiracy dramas, having been a producer on Fringe and Almost Human. His track record makes us think that we’re going to see something similar from Debris; Beneventi and Jones tracking down a different piece of debris every week and seeing the various mind-blowing effects of the debris, and then in the background, there will be the ongoing investigation of just where this ship was coming from and what these aliens wanted from us.
Things moved so slowly in the first episode that we had a hard time getting invested in the mystery or the two people investigating the debris. There was too much-convoluted plot to help us figure out what the potential or danger of this debris was, and truly see how both Jones and Beneventi are approaching this investigation.
NBC’s “Debris” has a challenge in the era of streaming. Releasing weekly episodes when most audiences are used to binging is tough, but particularly so when you’re telling a deliberate story about aliens and the answers aren’t particularly forthcoming. Debris follows a pair of agents, Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) and Finola Jones (Riann Steele), as they investigate “debris events” following the explosion of a massive spaceship whose debris has been steadily falling to Earth for the last six months. As we find out in the show’s cold open, this isn’t simply a matter of recovering extraterrestrial materials; these pieces cause unpredictable and potentially very harmful effects on any human that interacts with them. For Finola, retrieving the debris and understanding their properties not only presents the possibility of using the science to aid mankind, but it also advances the work and legacy of her now-deceased father, astrophysicist George Jones (Tyrone Benskin). Bryan, on the other hand, is of a more pessimistic mindset, countering her with an, “in the wrong hands it could be the end of humanity.”
The series owes a debt to The X-Files, down to having two agents on two sides of the belief spectrum -- Finola does believe in a higher power and an order to the universe, while Bryan doesn't. The differences in opinion don't give way to arguments though -- instead, it sparks deeper discussions about humanity's place in the universe, our connection to tougher emotions such as grief, and how to allow empathy and compassion to transform grief into personal power. Indeed, the series premiere episode focuses exclusively on how grief can transform people into shells of their former selves if it gets out of control. Even though the show looks like a typical "problem of the week"-style, high-concept procedural, and can be creepy at times, Debris is a meditation on how to engage with the messiness and chaos of the human experience.
It’s a pretty interesting series. Great acting. The character development is sufficient enough to keep you interested in the characters’ stories and their relationships with one another. What is nagging at me is that every moment in Debris seems to be overloaded with meaning and emotion. A character can't walk into a room or look at a crime scene without being emotionally overwrought. The approach provides no room for the audience to breathe with the material, learn about the situation, and understand the characters and their power dynamics.
A well-written and directed show in this genre doesn't need to manufacture human emotional connection and hit us over the head with it like a metaphorical two-by-four. When done correctly the sci-fi tropes mirror the human condition in subtle yet powerful ways that become obvious as the characters develop in front of our eyes. Instead, Debris assumes we already care about the two leads and want them to succeed, both personally and professionally. And that may be this show's ultimate downfall.
Final Score – [7/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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