Episode 2 improves and becomes more Fringe-y, and that's a good thing
by Chuck Duncan
The first episode of NBC's new sci-fi procedural Debris did an adequate job of setting up the show's premise, but I feel that this week's second episode really moves the story forward now that we've gotten past the 'origin story' that is often slow going, whether it be a TV series or a movie. We know pretty much who Bryan Beneventi and Finola Jones are at this point, and this episode peels back another layer to their characters. In a word or two, it's working.
I'm also liking how the series is taking aspects of both The X-Files and Fringe without being a complete carbon copy. From what we've seen over two episodes now, there is an ongoing story arc -- the effects of the debris raining down on Earth after an alien ship exploded in space -- but the two episodes thus far have also had self-contained stories with the CIA and MI6 having to investigate the effects of the debris in various locations. There is also another intriguing plot point introduced this week that could also carry through the series (think along the lines of Fringe's alternate universes and multiple versions of the various characters).
This week Bryan and Finola are sent to a small town in Pennsylvania where another debris incident is taking place -- various metallic objects are moving through town of their own accord, or rather being dragged, and selectively. Not all metal objects are being moved. It seems so far that the citizens of Earth are being kept in the dark about this debris phenomenon with Bryan quipping that if anyone asks what's going on, they'll just blame it on the Russians. Was that just a joke, or could this have larger implications down the line? The problem with the items moving about is that they can't locate the debris to which everyone believes the objects are being drawn to. A satellite view shows that the objects aren't just being dragged to a single location, but they are actually building a barrier wall.
Bryan spies a man watching things happen in this apparently abandoned town, but the man can't really tell them anything. He barely knows his own name, Eric (David Alpay), and is so intently focused on finding something that he doesn't even notice the objects moving down the street past them. They have Eric taken to a secure location, but a short time later Bryan and Finola see him again, this time trying to break into a car, his shirt bloodied. Concerned that he injured some of their people, they try to take him in again but he runs to his house.
There they discover the debris in the basement. It is also found that the metallic items aren't simply creating a barrier, they are creating a mathematically correct circle around the area with the center point being Eric's house. While Bryan is in the basement, Finola is outside and she finds Eric again. Inside, Bryan hears a noise upstairs and discovers ... himself. Before his doppelganger can shoot, Bryan pulls the trigger and kills his double. Eric gets away and they engage in a foot chase, following him to a factory. Finola finds the frightened man inside while Bryan finds the panicked man outside, so now the debris seems to have the properties to create clones of whoever comes into close contact with it. If this has happened in Pennsylvania, has it happened elsewhere? There is a very real possibility, which we'll get to in a minute.
None of the three Erics seem to be the original as each of them are very specifically focused on a single matter -- a lost love, a job -- and none are fully emotionally formed. Bryan deduces that the real Eric is still somewhere nearby but is dying so these manifestations of himself are the less important things his psyche is letting go of as he, and they, die. But the one that survives is the one intent on finding the woman he lost because of a new job on the other side of the country that he was going to take. Eric's car was obviously used at some point so it could have also been dragged to the barrier.
Bryan and Finola walk in a straight line to the barrier to locate the car while a team is back at the house trying to deactivate the debris (this is something new introduced into the mix, seeing that they can effectively 'turn off' the debris). Bryan finds the car and Eric is inside, unconscious, and Bryan climbs the pile to get Eric out. Suddenly a blast emanates from the debris and hits the barrier, slowly compressing it. The car is being compressed with Bryan fighting to get Eric out, but each blast makes that more difficult. In the house, the blast is also generating more copies of Eric ... and Bryan, grotesquely morphed together into two-headed monsters. The team finally manages to shut off the debris, and Bryan gets Eric out of the car safely, giving him the opportunity to call his love and ask her to stay.
While all this was happening, Finola was trying to get in touch with her sister back in London, who apparently has some substance abuse and abandonment issues. They finally do talk and it seems Finola has gotten through to her sister, who was about to indulge in another round of drugs but instead went home, promising Finola she'd answer the phone when she called later. What she wants is for Finola to come home but she obviously can't and she can't tell her sister what's going on. Finola tries to dig a little deeper into Bryan's background, but he is reluctant to share much. But there is a deep loss there that she can clearly see in his eyes.
Bryan, though, is also feeling bad because he has to lie to Finola about what he's learned from his boss, Maddox. MI6 shared some information with Maddox about a group called Influx, which seems to be dealing in the sale of debris, but there is still the question of Finola's father being spotted. Bryan casually asked Finola about the last time she saw her father, and she told him she stayed with his body at the morgue the night he committed suicide. Maddox noticed in the photo of George Jones that there was something wrong with one of his eyes. Are they dealing with a clone of Jones, or was Finola actually sitting with a dead clone and the real George is still out there? And what exactly is his connection to the debris? And are the more clones? And what about the Russians?
Overall, this was a pretty good episode that expanded the premise and gave us a little more information about the characters. Jonathan Tucker and Riann Steele have some good chemistry together, so hopefully their characters will become closer as the situation escalates (hopefully the writers won't fall into the trap of making them romantic partners). It's probably not out of the question that they will have to join forces against their own agencies as the conspiracies deepen.
Debris airs Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC.
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