Wednesday, November 02, 2011

"Pan Am" - The Best of Episodes and the Worst

Article first published as TV Review: Pan Am - The Genuine Article on Blogcritics.

Episode 6 of this season’s Pan Am aired this past Sunday. It featured Maggie (played by Christina Ricci) trying to hold onto her job at the airline during a flight to Rio de Janeiro and showed us why that job is so important to her. Meanwhile, Kate (played by Kelli Garner) stayed in New York to handle a difficult mission for the CIA.

This episode, quite frankly, reminded me of A Tale of Two Cities – and not just because of its frequent references to world literature. It really was the best of times and the worst.

Maggie - before becoming a Pan Am stewardess
The story arc that found Maggie in Rio was spectacular. It showed us much of Maggie’s back story without getting in the way of its main story. The interplay between Maggie and Laura (played by Margot Robbie) reminded us why these are two of the most critically acclaimed young actresses in the business today.

They took each scene and fully made it their own. I also really like the photography on this episode. Without giving away too much of the plot (for those who haven’t seen yet the full episode is available on-line) towards the end of this episode, Maggie is seen in a room filled with several other people. However, the scene was lit in such a way that each person was seen in their own pool of light with strong shadows in between them.

As the camera moved towards Maggie, it was clear without saying anything that this character was very much alone in the world – regardless of how many people were around her. That, in turn, not only sent a powerful message, it also foreshadows the potential for some other plot twist in this story.

Of course, while the rest of the Pan Am crew was in Rio, Kate was back in New York with her Yugoslav diplomat of a boyfriend – and this was the portion of the story that I thought was seriously lacking.

Quite frankly, it seemed like the writers and director weren’t certain whether or not that portion of the story should be there. Every element of the story seemed tentative; something that they could back away from easily. Even with the way Kelli Garner played her role this episode, it didn’t seem like she was giving it her all.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that this has something to do with the way some television critics have responded to this portion of the show’s continuing plot. Some critics don’t believe that a Pan Am stewardess could have ever been a courier for the CIA, therefore, they have railed against this portion of it. I have to wonder if this has made the show's writers and directors a bit gun shy about this portion.

Personally, I think this subplot has some serious credibility to it. However, the topic of CIA/Pan Am connection is something for another post.

Regardless, I wish that the writers and directors behind Pan Am would either embrace the espionage subplot and run with it or just drop it. The tentative approach to the story that we saw this past Sunday simply will not cut it.

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