This Falling Water review contains spoilers.
Falling Water Season 1, Episode 2
In this week’s episode of Falling Water, Bill Boerg once again tells a disinterested Tess that “It’s dreams that connect us. What we don’t know is how those connections work.” The same thing could be said of the plot of this second episode, “Calling the Vasty Deep.” Dreams connect plot details to character development, but the audience has no clue how those connections matter. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to feel invested in the outcome; clever mysteries and trippy visuals can only last on their own merits for so long.
Not that it isn’t fun watch Tess, for one, operate in a group dream setting. It made a certain amount of sense that a less skilled dreamer would be shown gardening in an enclosed room while Tess headed off to the more lucid group sitting in their airplane seats, odd as that may sound. The whole “purity of the data” concept was perfectly clear from the experimental standpoint, as was Tess’ decision to ignore the rules and look for her son, even though the dream itself was slightly off-kilter.
And, of course, the ensuing romantic tryst between her and Levon brought a welcome sense of happiness and comfort to a series that has thus far been brooding and a tad self-indulgent. It was easy to hope for Tess to make a personal connection with another lucid dreamer despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that it was against the rules. But of course, creepy Bill was tracking the “4GEN” phone he gave her, which put an end to that.
Besides that moment of drug-addled frolicking, though, all there is to hold onto is the almost inconsequentially small progress Tess and Burton make in their investigations. Tess looks into the $10 epidural charge but gets nowhere, merely drawing viewers’ attention to the date, April 17, 2009. Burton checks out the security footage of his conversation by the elevators with the woman in red only to find she wasn’t really there. Tess finds her son in the dream only to lose him to some men in suits and VR goggles. Not exactly a leap forward in understanding what’s going on.
And Taka’s story, which has always been slightly different, has gone completely off the rails. What seems like a good clue at first, a drawing of the boy we presume is Tess’ son, leads the detective down the strangest path, yet he follows it unquestioningly as if it were the most by-the-book police investigation. The drawing leads to a record store where a $200 indie album prompts him to put on the green shoes from the crime scene evidence box and take a nap. Wait, what?
Honestly, waking world details that are just as crazy are more compelling simply because they’re at least grounded in reality. The cover-up at the old lady’s house where the real Ann-Marie Bowen gave the command to blow the house up; Jones’ wife burning herself while admitting to Burton that she dreams about the weasel, Woody Hammond, all the time; Taka showing his mother the picture of her on the cover of the album he acquired under inscrutable circumstances. The fact that these details at least can’t be dismissed as dream symbology makes them more concrete if no less mysterious and weird.
In the end, it almost feels like that’s what Falling Water wants to be: a quirky puzzle box that’s fun to poke and prod. Those that play with the puzzle may never solve it, but it makes some interesting geometric shapes and feels nice as it twists and turns. The problem is the characters are only nominally following logical narrative paths, and it’s difficult to invest in their dream existence when the perceived stakes are only as deep as the puddles on the floor.