Tuesday, February 07, 2006

TV REVIEW: Surface Season Finale!

"It's a new world," a stunned Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell) declared during the explosive denouement of Monday night's fifteenth and final first season episode of NBC's Surface.

This pronouncement was given from atop a church steeple as a dramatic CGI pullback revealed that Wilmington, North Carolina - and indeed the whole South East sea board - had been devastated in a "tele"-tsunami (caused by the giant sea monsters). It was a portentous moment, and I hadn't seen so much bad CG work since Escape from L.A. in 1996, But heck, I was still shocked and awed, to turn a phrase. I always admire a TV series when - out of either creativity or desperation - it goes totally for broke. Cuz that's exactly what Surface did this season.

The show has never been terribly original, and the special effects are always dodgy, yet there's a ballsiness about Surface that I can't help but admire. Until the final episode, the two main storylines never crossed; and half the cast never appeared with the rest of the cast on screen. Then, in this final episode, Miles, Caitlin and my favorite character, Nimh, finally met Laura and Rich. I think their rendezvous was pretty elegantly accomplished, when the temptation must surely have been to throw everybody together to "solve" the sea monster problem as soon as possible.

And secondly, Surface - in ending on a catastrophic and apocalyptic note - proved to have the courage of its nutty convictions. It would have been tempting to end on an easier, less-expensive note, one that wouldn't turn the universe of Surface upside down. But instead, the writers and creators of this series (The Pate brothers) selected the hard way, and followed-through with the logical plotline (which involves damage to our environment caused by these man-made sea monsters).

If the show gets a second season, it will be fascinating to see where the series heads next. Surface can pull a Threshold and simply have the tsunami recede, and the Corp of Engineers repair the coast (anybody remember that crappy episode "Pulse"?) or it can acknowledge that the world - the very environment of Mother Earth - has irrevocably changed.

It looks like the creative team behind the series is picking the latter choice, and I appreciate that. Because - let's face it - the genetically engineered sea monsters are merely a metaphor for man's pollution of the environment, and the "climate change" that's going on right now all around us, only accelerated for purposes of drama. This series - in the grand tradition of the best science fiction - is a precautionary tale about scientists, corporate interests and governments that put power ahead of responsibility.

Which isn't to say that last night's episode wasn't purely and totally ridiculous. Let me get this straight: Miles realizes Caitlin is stranded at his house, jumps off a ferry at sea, and swims back to his home, rescues her, gets into a car, and drives downtown (to a bridge)...all in under fifteen minutes (the time left before the tsunami strikes)? Even the Man from Atlantis would have a difficult time with that feat!!

Secondly, Rich, who is trapped in Blofeld's volcano headquarters or some such thing, manages to get a cell phone call out to his wife and kids on the first try (even though he is several sub-levels down...), when Miles has repeatedly made a point of informing his parents (and thus the audience...) that the phone lines are overloaded and he can't get a call through to Caitlin. So the phones apparently selectively choose which people will have working cell phones, based on the exigencies of the narrative. If Miles had gotten his call through, after all, he wouldn't have had to jump off that ferry and swim to the mainland in time for the rescue.

Also, is it just me, or did the time till the tsunami strike vacillate wildly from moment to moment? I swear one computer read-out gave the countdown time as nineteen minutes, but then a guard in the scientific facility said that they had twenty-three minutes to escape.

I guess the bottom-line here is that I can nitpick the hell out of this (and every...) episode of Surface, but I still love it. I've told you why many times: sea monsters, E.T.-syndrome, blockbuster mentality, etc. I know others won't be nearly so kind, but what can I say? Surface had me at "hello" and kept my attention till last night's "Goodbye."

I really hope this series gets renewed. Where else can I get my weekly fix of cheesy special effects, cute little sea monsters and Lake Bell?


  1. U thought it was a pretty good end hopefully they will go ull steam ahead with the story. The cell phone thing that was bad and the timing of everything but still the worst most fake seen was when they espaed the hotel room in one episode and just used the atm card they had stole to get monety without a pin. that was the fakest thing ive seen

  2. I really like last nights episodes although the Miles swimming part bugged me and Laura not being able to focus when she needs to save Rich because she's looking at a hole in the ground. The CG in the show is always the worst stuff on TV but not everything can be perfect. It is TV afterall and they dont have huge budgets.