This Falling Water review contains spoilers.
Falling Water Season 1, Episode 3
A recognizable pattern has emerged with Falling Water: each week, Burton will have the most interesting arc dealing with his job as a fixer; Tess will reveal more tantalizing details about her interesting back story; and Taka will conduct a surreal investigation that seems only tangentially related to police work. Meanwhile, the significance of the dream world remains frustratingly inscrutable, and other than the joy of seeing the three characters together in the same dream this week, these sequences are becoming tiresome at best, self-indulgent at worst.
If the focus were solely on Burton with the others relegated to B-stories, the intrigue related to the unscrupulous firm he works for might be enough to sustain audience interest on its own without the distractions from the other threads. Presumably, the Topeka initiative (or group or whatever) is tapping into the collective unconscious to predict markets or even manipulate world events. Or something bigger! The White Sand Equity deal with the Belgian and his nine-figure rare earth deposits in Mongolia is just quirky enough to pique interest, almost like Lost’s Dharma Initiative meets The Blacklist.
Tess likewise has a compelling story, although it’s more character driven than Burton’s corporate shenanigans. Having a pop psychologist for a mother and 137 boxes in a barn documenting your childhood has clearly had its influence on her life, and with the new details of missing, undocumented time in March and April of 2009, the same time as her supposed epidural procedure, Tess has a dramatic tale to tell. Although her market trend predictive ability comes across as more of a parlor trick than genius, she’s still an interesting character that viewers want to know more about.
The same can’t be said for Taka, who continues to blunder about following an insane trail that must be driving his commanding officer crazy — “What cockamamie lead is Taka following today?” Having said that, the presumption that the green shoes characterize a cult that might be responsible for his twelve victims’ deaths and following up with the funeral home to see where the remains ended up isn’t a terrible idea; it’s just annoyingly vague. Ann-Marie Bowen is obviously a person of interest, but maybe Taka needs a non-dreaming partner to suss out her role in all this.
The problem is that the dreams, which are the cornerstone concept of the show, keep getting in the way. Surely the weird metal sculpture Taka sees, the repeated presence of Woody Hammond in Burton’s dreams, and the phrases “Topeka” and “His name is…” are going to have their payoffs, but until then, they’re just disconnected mysteries. Placing the burden on the viewer to file these esoteric details away for future reference doesn’t provide a pleasant puzzle to solve; instead it presents a befuddling collection of loose items to keep track of.
That’s starting to become true of Burton’s phantom lover, Tess’ dream son, and even Taka’s mother, although at least the latter has a catatonic analogue in the real world. Yes, it’s only the third episode, but each time the dreams show these significant figures in the protagonists’ lives, no new details are presented. As an example, when Burton asks the mysterious woman, “Where do you go when you’re not with me?” her answer shares nothing: “What lie do you want me to tell?”
The only takeaways from this episode for viewers who have faithfully held on this long are the real-life death of the Belgian ambassador after the green-shoed girl smothered him in the shared dream and the number on the “His name is…” flyer that Ann-Marie gives to Taka. Other details like the cremated remains being tossed to the wind on a parachute and the faceless man pursuing Tess in her dream are certainly visually striking, but they just get added to the pile of interesting images.
Help your viewers decode the symbolism, will you, Falling Water? You’re a high-concept show, but you’re either taking yourself too seriously or expecting too much cerebral acrobatics on the part of your audience. The undeniably literary presentation of your concept is all well and good, but until the goal is set, it’s all just a tour of the Willy Wonka factory. It’s an amazing fantasy world, but at some point the heir must be chosen.