Monday, August 5, 2013

Zero Hour

ABC never really gave it a chance.  Network TV in general is an incredibly unforgiving environment where if you're not a hit right out of the starting gate, you're history.  I don't know what the TV equivalent of the Midnight Movie is; perhaps that's what Zero Hour needed to succeed.  Unfortunately, ABC seemed to be operating under the assumption that Zero Hour was something to be hyped like another Lost.  The problem is the show was not just another Lost, which probably accounted for the ratings decline that led ABC to cancel the show and shelve the remainder of the episodes they originally started airing this spring to the summer.  But in many ways I liked this show better than Lost (or what Lost eventually mutated into after the brilliant first two seasons, anyway) because of its differences.  Zero Hour was like Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The DaVinci Code.  Yeah, way better than Lost.

Zero Hour was equal parts historical exploration/conspiracy theorizing/religious faith/rigorous science, all set to a plot filled with globe-trekking adventure.  It revolves around Hank Galliston, played by Anthony Edwards, editor of the magazine Modern Skeptic for over 20 years.  His wife Laila, played by Jacinda Barrett, is kidnapped, presumably over a rare valuable clock she recently purchased.  As the series unfolds, we discover that not all the characters are who they appear to be, conspiracies layer over conspiracies, and each piece of the puzzle that is put in place leads to a race to find the cross that Christ was crucified on.  While only wood fragments eaten away by beetles are found, this leads to the real project as envisioned by the megalomaniacal Melanie Lynch, played by Amy Irving, which is to obtain the DNA of Jesus Christ and bring about His Second Coming.  It may sound over the top, but it was some of the most exciting entertainment I've seen in a TV show for some time.

But beyond the exciting entertainment of the relentlessly driving plot, one of the things I really enjoyed about this show is the way the characters unfolded and we came to understand them.  I was especially fascinated by the character Vincent, played by Michael Nyqvist.  He could very easily have come off as a one or two-dimensional psychopath.  Instead, it is almost as though someone took the Silas character from The DaVinci Code and invested him with intelligence and curiosity.  I think part of the success of this character is due to good writing, but a great deal of credit should be given to the acting of Nyqvist, who invests a garish character with a good measure of subtlety.  His relationship with Hank undergoes a fascinating transformation, and there is even a dose of kind empathy in his friendship with the mute Messenger Boy, played by Henry Kelemen (a very well-cast young actor reminiscent of a young Haley Joel Osment).  There are a number of other great characters, but for me Vincent was the stand-out.
Michael Nyqvist as Vincent on Zero Hour

Not to say this show was without its problems, by any means.  I found the labeling of the competing factions "Shepherds" and "Pirates" to be a bit cliched.  I found the fact that the character of Laila and what ultimately happened to her was not addressed by Hank at all in the final two episodes to be a missed opportunity for character growth and closure where their troubled relationship was concerned.  And what the hell happened to Lynch?  Did Vincent kill her?  Did the Book of Revelations dragon devour her and her mutating fetus?  My feeling is that once ABC canceled the series, the finale was rewritten from a season finale to a series finale, which inevitably leads to loose ends.  But all things considered, the writing stayed fairly consistent from beginning to end.

One element in particular from the finale that I especially enjoyed was the denouement with Hank and his fellow reporters/partners in conspiracy adventure, Arron and Rachel, played by Scott Michael Foster and Addison Timlin.  Having spent their entire careers devoted to writing skeptically about conspiracies, yet just experienced a conspiracy beyond belief, Hank believes they should now devote the magazine to return to every story they had previously debunked and examine it again, looking to see if they possibly "missed something."  I found this ironic and refreshing, considering the name of their magazine is Modern Skeptic.  So many so-called real life skeptics are solely self-styled "debunkers" who, rather than keeping an open mind in searching for the truth, have built a cottage industry around finding facts to fit a pre-determined conclusion designed to ridicule, disparage and obfuscate any possibility that a conspiracy could explain a particular event.  I would not call such researchers skeptics, I think the term "septics", as coined by kentauros on Democratic Underground, is more appropriate.  Rather, I would say that what Hank and his crew have chosen to undertake at the end of Zero Hour is a better representation of true skepticism: research, gather the evidence and keep digging until you've arrived at the truth.

1 comment:

Tanya Savko said...

Sounds like an intriguing show! Interesting that you mentioned Lost - Aidan and I have been watching Fringe, which is a JJ Abrams show, and also much better than Lost.