NBC's new sci-fi show gets off to a good start just scratching the surface of its central mystery
by Chuck Duncan
Cast: Jonathan Tucker, Riann Steele, Norbert Leo Butz, Scroobius Pip
Airs: Mondays at 10:00 PM ET on NBC
NBC is launching another "police procedural" series this week with a science fiction twist, and a pair of investigators that give off a Benson and Stabler vibe. I smell a sweeps month crossover event with SVU!
Okay, we know that's not going to happen but it would be cool. So what is the new series Debris about? It takes place some time after an astronomical event sent the titular space debris to Earth leading to some very mysterious occurrences now under investigation by both the US and UK in a rather uneasy partnership -- neither country seems to trust the other and keeps important information to themselves, which is likely to cause issues for partners Finola Jones (Riann Steele) and Bryan Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) down the road.
The pilot episode is almost a self-contained story that sets up the series premise, but also has a beginning, middle and end. A woman has gone missing, her car just stopped in the middle of the road. The woman is found a couple of miles from her car, floating just above the ground, her hand caught on a piece of barbed wire fence. Bryan releases her and she continues to float toward the location of a piece of debris ... and there are other bodies there as well, whirling around as if in a small tornado.
Security footage from a gas station shows a boy in the back seat of the car, her son. Contacting the daughter at a nearby boarding school, she reveals her brother died several months ago and her mother could never get over it. That's why she went to the boarding school, to get away from her mom's insanity. At a diner, a woman exits and sees the same boy, and she instantly believes he is her son. They go to the same gas station and the same fate befalls her.
At a facility set up to examine the bodies, it's discovered that they aren't actually dead even though their hearts aren't pumping. Their brains are working though, and Bryan and Finola have to piece together how the boy is tied to the debris and the victims. Knowing they are alive, Bryan brings in the daughter to try to talk to her mother, to get through whatever is holding her in this state of suspended animation.
Meanwhile, Finola is still investigating the area where the last victim was discovered and comes across a large piece of the debris (which we learned earlier is apparently from an alien spacecraft that exploded in space). Her close proximity to the debris draws out memories of her mother and nearly brings her close enough to touch the object. We saw earlier that touching the metallic debris can transport a person or object through solid matter, as happened to a hotel housekeeper who plunged several stories to her death.
Just in the nick of time, the girl breaks through to her mother who awakens along with all of the other victims. Finola snaps out of her own stupor and this seems to put an end to the event. But is it the end, and why did this boy appear to so many people? Finola's father, whom she apparently thinks is dead or vanished, has turned up on security footage ... but this is information Bryan's boss Craig Maddox (Leo Norbert Butz) is instructing him to keep from Fiona.
There's also intrigue in the form of a black market cartel dealing in the sale of shards from the alien spaceship. One of the men comes to a particularly gruesome end while the other gets away, but this is certainly some dangerous tech for any civilian to deal with. And Maddox is even shadier when the final shot shows he and his team attempting to reconstruct the alien ship from the pieces of debris scattered across the planet. He can only be up to no good, right?
The pilot of Debris is adequate for setting up the series. It gives us some interesting characters with Bryan and Fiona, revealing just a bit of their own backstories, and setting up Maddox as the potential series "Big Bad". It also has some nifty, if disturbing, special effects of floating bodies and people bleeding from their eyes, so there is certainly enough here to justify a second viewing. Can they keep it up and give us something reminiscent of Fringe? NBC doesn't have the best track record with sci-fi, although I suppose Manifest could fall into that category as well and has been a success. So we'll see where Debris takes us moving forward.