This Falling Water review contains spoilers.
Falling Water Season 1, Episode 1
Is there such a thing as too much mystery? In a premiere that leaves viewers sometimes intrigued and other times mystified, Falling Water seeks to capture audience attention by introducing three characters whose dreams blur the line between reality and fantasy, presumably explaining their success in careers that make use of their powers of perception. The premise works, but although the hints at a deeper conspiracy are tantalizing, there are almost too many strings to pull on.
Take for example, the three dreamers. They don’t seem to know it yet, but their dreams are trying to tell them something. According to the narrator, billionaire Bill Broeg (Revolution’s Zak Orth), dreams are “like tiles in a grand mosaic we’re all dreaming together,” implying that Tess, Burton, and Taka can cross into others’ dreams granting them a special power that “could lead to a revolution in our understanding of human existence: the idea that we are all connected in ways that we can’t even understand yet.” The audience is left wondering, perhaps critically, perhaps with genuine curiosity, “And?”
More successful is the subtle way in which their powerful dreams influence the main characters’ lives. Tess (The Strain’s Lizzie Brocheré) is the most outwardly obvious example (probably why she’s singled out by Boerg) as she spots fashion trends by unknowingly tapping into the unconscious desires of millions. Burton (Jupiter Ascending’s David Ajala), as a security expert and fixer for a big financial services company, has his knack well illustrated by a colleague’s characterization, “You have an unerring nose for malfeasance.” And Taka (Hawaii Five-O’s Will Yun Lee), as a special investigations detective, presumably uses his intuitive powers to solve crimes.
That last one is difficult to nail down because Taka gets the least amount of characterization in the premiere, and his dreams are centered around something more real (and therefore less mysterious) than the others: his catatonic mother. Additionally, his investigation unveils the most incomprehensible parts of the overall mystery. What are viewers to make of his dead subject, Anne-Marie Bowen, who bears the name of different mysterious woman whom Taka saw outside a house belonging to an elderly lady — a house which then blew up? And if that’s not confusing enough, there are the dead bodies in their underwear to contend with. It’s a bit overwhelming.
It’s much easier to deal with Burton who skillfully makes problems go away for his wealthy employers. His investigation of Jones, a rainmaker for the firm whom he suspects of insider trading, is much more interesting. Jones’ references to something called Topeka (a term which also appeared in Taka’s story) hints at a deeper world that may be using the same predictive powers the dreamers seem to have. Before blowing his brains out (!!), Jones indicates that whatever he’s caught up in is “so much bigger than we should ever know.” A much better hook than Taka’s tale!
And then there are those who exist only in the minds of the dreamers. Whereas Burton has a troubled but undeniably steamy romance with a woman whom only he appears to see, Tess has dreamed up a son with no memory of having been pregnant. Although Jones mentions the nameless woman to Burton and Boerg insists he can help Tess find her son, it’s still hard to tell how real these loved ones are. Perhaps Taka’s Anne-Marie Bowen (not the dead white woman; the other one) falls into this same category.
Regardless, Tess carries the weight of the narrative, giving viewers the clearest look at the possibility of communication through dreams. Because of Bill Boerg’s curiosity about her powers, Tess is able to meet up with another more experienced dreamer, who immediately tells her to lie about her experience to Bill. Honestly, though, who can blame either of them for mistrusting him? The guy was running over people with a bus in Tess’ dream! That has to mean something!
And that’s what the Falling Water premiere ultimately accomplishes: introducing a world where humans can be exploited in new ways, a world where the future “hinges on the fate on one person, a powerful person.” But as the episode ends with the young boy skipping between dreams and with the silhouette of a chained, bestial figure in the sewers, viewers are likely left with their heads spinning. What does it all mean? With only a few hints hidden in the deluge of mysteries, it will be interesting to see who among the audience will stick around to see things unfold and who will decide it’s just too much work.