Hit or Sh**: USA’s FALLING WATER

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

falling water

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FALLING WATER makes an earnest attempt to be a high concept, high quality drama, but it fails to pack a punch. It’s an obvious attempt by USA to brand itself as a premium network after its success with MR. ROBOT, but FALLING WATER lacks the foundation necessary to craft an engaging story. The characters are often monotone, largely one-dimensional, and bogged down by a story that haphazardly jumps from one narrative to  another.

The premise is INCEPTION-esque, centering around three strangers who unknowingly share dreams, which are no doubt the key to unlocking their respective mysteries. However, it’s mostly just confusing; not because the storyline in itself is excessively complicated, but because it’s difficult to pay attention. In its quest to be edgy, FALLING WATER makes the most basic mistake of favoring ideas over its characters, who are quite frankly boring. We see their dreams, their professions, and their outstanding predicament, and then without any time to process, we are yanked into the next big mystery. While I can understand the stylistic merit of this erratic pacing, it’s ineffective, as it asks us to become invested in characters’ dreams before we’ve even grasped who they are.

Burton (David Ajala) dreams of an ex-girlfriend, who may or not be real, while balancing his day job as head of security at an elite firm. He’s smooth and composed under pressure and maintains the same poker face throughout the entire episode. On the other hand, Taka (Will Yun Lee) is a homicide detective who struggles to care for his invalid mother. His character is about as fascinating as the concept of seeing yet another detective on television.

falling water shirt edit

“…you passed the time by putting on a clean shirt from the box of clean shirts you keep in your bottom drawer” – We get it, you’re boring

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Tessa is this series’s most compelling character. Lizzie Brocheré portrays her with a visceral kinetic energy, infusing her scenes with a momentum that is largely absent from the rest of the show. Her search for her lost son, who appears only in her dreams because all traces of his existence were seemingly erased, is gripping. After the first episode, I admit I was genuinely rooting for her to be reunited with her child, and even more curious to see how her flighty nature could potentially cope with parenthood. But one fascinating character out of three is hardly a wash, and certainly not enough of a reason to stay.

The dream conspiracy itself is predictably trippy. Everyone’s dreams are somehow linked and dream master Bill Beorg (Zak Orth) claims to have the answers. So in a direct INCEPTION ripoff, Tess is connected to some wires and takes a nap beside a bearded man. Then suddenly she’s inside his dreams, because apparently Tess’s profession as a trend spotter renders her qualified to tap into the “collective unconscious”? But again this is coming from Beorg who thinks dreams should serve as an updated version of the iCloud. It’s all extraordinarily implausible, and just a mite bit silly.

falling water nap edit

A group nap — cool

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Water is also a constant motif, serving  as an indicator that we are entering a dream world. Here, water has an ethereal quality. It is unknowable and ominous as the camera blurs in and out of focus and screeching music swells in the background. And I think that is an apt metaphor for what FALLING WATER is trying to do: assign a deeper meaning where there is none. Sustained interest in a show is not predicated upon the promise of more intrigue, but fascinating characters whose flaws, trials, and tribulations reflect vicissitudes of our own reality. FALLING WATER simply lacks the tools to tell a meaningful story, proving yet again how difficult it is for shows to live up to their epic promises.

Verdict: Sh**

FALLING WATER airs on Thursdays on USA

April French

April is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She believes cold brew coffee holds the answers to life.

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