Drive: The Starting Line/Partners (series premiere)
(S01E01/S01E02) To be honest, I was sold on this one long before we finally got a look at what the Drive team has been working on all this time. I count myself as a Tim Minear fan, so his involvement was enough to get me interested. Add in a cast including Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Melanie Lynskey (Two And A Half Men), Kevin Alejandro (Sleeper Cell), Kristin Lehman (Tilt), Dylan Baker (The Book Of Daniel), and Taryn Manning (Hustle & Flow), and you really have something.
So it all sounded great on paper, how did it play out? Even setting aside my penchant for Minear stuff, I thought this was some pretty good television. Right from the start the show established a look, and a pace, that draws you in to this strange new world. The quick vignettes introducing us to Alex, Wendy, and Winston were a nice way to get a bunch of exposition out there in an intriguing way. The "Google Earth" style transitions were very slick as well.
It's worth noting the appearance of Richard Brooks (Law & Order) as the detective that interviewed Alex. His was one of a very nice string of guest spots that gave the premiere a nice boost. He also has a little history with Minear, having played Jubal Early on Firefly. He shares that Minear connection with Beth Grant (Jericho). She was Pat, the waitress that encouraged Wendy to eliminate Ivy. She also had a guest spot on Wonderfalls.
Patrick Fischler (Nash Bridges) is another Minear alum, having appeared on Angel. I always think of him as Pepe though. Paul Ben-Victor (The Invisible Man), as the truck driver, was another welcome surprise. The idea that anyone in any scene could be working for the sponsors of the race is interesting. I'm not sure whether we will see some of these same players show up again, or continue getting a steady stream of mysterious strangers. But that's for the coming weeks, for now let's look at these two episodes.
I especially liked how Alex missed orientation. Aside from just being a funny scene, "Mr. Tully, the PowerPoint is put away..." it also put Alex in exactly the same spot as all of us. He has no idea what is going on, and neither do we. That wasn't the best Alex moment of the night though. That one would be when Corinna asked, "I guess the real question is, who are you?" It's not a death defying car chase, or a wrench to the face, but it does put a pin in just what it is that will keep me coming back for more of this one. I want to know what's up with Alex. He's not just a gardener.
It's a tricky bit of business doing a show like this. You have to set up an intriguing mystery in order to gain the interest of the audience, but solving that mystery risks losing their interest. The trick is in balancing the small mysteries that can be solved with the big ones that take more time. That's something that I thought they got right here.
I suspect that the mystery about what is so special about Alex that someone went to all this trouble is going to be one that takes a while. In the meantime though, we found out about Corinna's parents and her history with the race, Winston's father, and John's terminal illness. They also set up a couple more mysteries that offer potential. I'm really curious to learn more about Wendy's husband Richard, seeing just how Sam ended up with Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley), and what is up with Ellie (Mircea Monroe) and deleting the phone messages.
The big reveal that Corinna was the little girl from the race 27 years ago wasn't really much of a surprise. The 27 years, and the fact that it was a blond girl were some really big clues. It was still a very good scene, as it reinforced the mystery surrounding Alex. The fact that Allan couldn't do anything to Alex says a lot about where they both stand. That can't be the last we'll see of Allan either. You don't just get to hit a guy in the face repeatedly, with a wrench and a shovel no less, and have him go away. I look forward to his return.
On the other hand, the video of Kathryn with the truck driver did surprise me. When he mentioned having something in the back for Alex I thought he was going to have Karina tied up back there. When that didn't pan out I dismissed it as cryptic language for the sake of mood. My mistake. It made for a very creepy reveal. Ben-Victor just looked menacing on the phone.
So, overall, some pretty good story to kick this whole thing off. And that's just part of the equation. There was also a lot of really great stunt work. The Alex/Allan, Winston/John, and Alex/Winston car race/chase scenes were all very well done. As was the crash scene with Karina's parents. Along with the driving and crashing it is all edited together very nicely. As cool as all of it was though, it's also the source of my one complaint for the premiere. Those exciting car races are a breeding ground for continuity errors. Watch the bumper on Alex's truck during the scene with Allan, or his headlight and Winston's taillight in their scene.
All things considered, great action, a nice opening to the story, and a fantastic slate of guest stars. It was even better than I thought it would be. I'm giving it a 6, out of 7. Episode three is Monday night, which will be the regular slot for the show. At least until Fox moves it to Friday... and cancels it... and we have to revolt all over again.