Who would ever have guessed that two procedurals focusing on entering the minds of the recently deceased to solve crimes would be competing across the summer TV landscape? What a time to be dead. In one (the CW’s iZombie) the heroine eats the brains to get to the matter of the brain matter, while in the other, (ABC Family’s Stitchers), she is zoomed into neural space through some pretty dubious-sounding tech.
Stitchers, created by Jeffrey Alan Schechter (Brink!) has the misfortune of premiering after iZombie claimed its fanbase. That means that to succeed, it needs to be better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
In Stitchers, an “emotionally void” (but brilliant, of course) young women, Kirsten (Emma Ishta), is recruited by a secret agency into the Stitcher Program. Here, explained through some fast-talking mumbo jumbo, an individual in a tight latex Cat Woman suit is able to sit in a tank (similar-ish to Minority Report’s pre-cogs) and be transported into the mind of a recently deceased person. And, Kirsten has been chosen for the gig. Somehow, the Stitchers team has found a way to slow down neural decay for 48 hours, but after that time, the corpse’s brain has hit its “best by” date, and cannot be accessed again.
Stitchers plays fast and loose with the tech, glossing over quickly anything that might give the series depth or a firmer foundation, or even conflict. It seems to presume viewers won’t be interested in the nuances of how or why anything is happening, but what viewers should therefore be interested in remains a mystery. So, moments after arriving and suiting up, Kirsten jumps into the tank to try and find out a bomber’s plans in his memories, as if it’s as simple as suiting up to play laser tag.
Stitchers’ second episode helps expand some of the show’s secondary roles, the most promising of which go to Kirsten’s roommate Camille (Allison Scagliotti) and lab techie Linus (Ritesh Rajan), who bond at a rave. Yes, a rave. In addition to combing through the minds of the dead, the group (which includes Kirsten’s presumable will-they-won’t-they, Cameron, played by Kyle Harris) also does some not-so-undercover field work.
Complicating things on the show and for viewers is Kirsten’s thin backstory, where her father abandoned her after her mother’s death by leaving Kirsten with a male friend of his, who then raised her. There’s no feel-good story here, because Kirsten wasn’t close to him, and isn’t affected at all when she hears he’s died. Though she starts to uncover some of the work connections between him and her father, and their involvement with the Stitchers program, there’s no urgency or emotion to the material, not even from Kirsten herself. (She also has a condition called “temporal dysplasia,” where she can’t process what time feels like. She also can’t process any emotions).
Beyond that, Stitchers quickly settles itself into a Case of the Week procedural, where the Stitchers Program goes about solving crimes and making the world a better place by invasively rummaging around through the grey matter of the dead. Or something like that.
The show’s premise thematically belongs to Syfy, and the cast is very CW, but nothing about Stitchers really comes together for ABC Family. Kirsten is described as emotionally void, and the show shares the same fate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t also happen to be brilliant to offset its other faults. The show is all over the place with its story and its tone, portraying Kirsten as a hacker, and then as a super-sleuth. Though there is some potential and humor present with its minor cast, the series pulls together elements of many other series — like CSI and Bones — without improving upon them. A missed opportunity, Stitchers is looking for signs of life, but hasn’t found them yet.
Rating: ★★ Fair — Only for the truly dedicated
Stitchers premieres Tuesday, June 2nd at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.