To understand where Fox’s sci-fi drama Second Chance is coming from, we first need to look at (fittingly) where it’s been. The show started off with the title “The Frankenstein Code,” which explains a little bit about its “monstrous” protagonist Jimmy Pritchard (Rob Kazinsky), brought back to life with new powers of strength and, potentially, immortality. That title then shifted to “Lookinglass,” which wasn’t particularly snappy, but it did betray another key aspect of the series. Lookinglass, in this show, is like Apple and Facebook and Google all combined — a powerfully ubiquitous global tech firm focused on social media, created and run by a young genius named Otto Goodwin (Adhir Kalyan) and his twin sister Mary (Dilshad Vadsaria).
How this all connects to bringing back a man from the dead goes like this: Mary is dying of cancer, and Otto (the far less socially functional of the two) is obsessed with making sure she stays alive. He’s been able to develop a biological function that, he believes, will work to achieve that, but the rub is that the human specimen who will test this theory needs to have a very, very specific genetic code. And also, he needs to be dead. Jimmy Prichard (a former bad-boy sheriff with a tarnished reputation) happens to fit the bill, but when we meet him, he is very much alive. Also, he’s 75 years old (played at this stage by Philip Baker Hall). This is where things start to get weird.
Second Chance goes to great lengths to create a reason for Jimmy to be resurrected, and yet, glosses over the specifics once things get down to it. It’s a smart dodge, though, since it’s patently ridiculous. Not only does Jimmy get put into a resurrection tank that brings him back to life (I won’t spoil how he finds himself no longer among the living), but it also makes him young again. This time around, he’s also smokin’ hot. There are people in Hollywood who would spend millions for this. Cheers to TV science!
Second Chance doesn’t spend a great deal of time on these elements, and viewers shouldn’t, either. The pilot’s opening act raises far more questions then it could ever plausibly answer, but does set up the show’s focus on Jimmy the monster, though in a metaphorical sense; he wasn’t a good guy when he was alive the first time, and that hasn’t changed. Now, he just has “monster” powers to go with it. And yet, the show is occasionally charming (despite typical pilot pitfalls), especially once it calms down and gets more into its procedural patter. For once, surprisingly, that’s actually something to look forward to.
Suffice it to say from the origin story told in the pilot that the experiment works and Mary is able to survive, but Jimmy’s role in the life of the twins starts to cause friction with Otto in a way that could turn Otto to the dark side — even though the two are more alike than they first admit (both are cynical, wary, and willing to bend codes of ethics for what they perceive to be a greater good). Jimmy also works to repair his relationship with his FBI agent son, Duval (Tim DeKay), who is now older than he is (physically) … which is possibly the strangest twist on the buddy-cop genre to date.
As mentioned, Jimmy isn’t a great guy; he’s a selfish boozer who gets roped in to assisting Mary and Otto help others (which Duval becomes a part of), but he’s also not repentant. And that, in many ways, is what makes the series intriguing. Jimmy is motivated to uncover the corruption that led to his death, and to save his son from the same fate, but beyond the he doesn’t yet seem to know what it is he should be doing with his new life. (One hitch to his new powers: he has a fairly short time limit on how long he can live without returning to the tank for a re-up).
The interplay of the relationships (and frankly, the agencies) among the four leads elevates Second Chance from just being a supernatural procedural (Jimmy currently possesses super strength, and may discover other powers). Regarding those cases of the week, Jimmy and Otto both want to use the Lookinglass technology to spy on people in order to prevent or solve crimes, like a social media version of Minority Report’s precogs. However, Duval and Mary feel differently, and the show has the opportunity to explore those ethical conundrums in interesting, relevant ways (which it needs to do in order to establish a compelling core).
Still, ambitious sci-fi shows on Fox don’t often fare well (R.I.P. Almost Human, Firefly, and many others). But if viewers can get past the bizarre opening act, there may be some hope for it, although that’s a lot to ask. Despite flooding the airwaves with promos for it, Fox also reduced the episode order to 11, which isn’t a great sign regarding their confidence in the series. Ultimately, it will need to make a strong impression on viewers if it hopes to live through (and possibly even past) the winter season. In TV, there are no second chances.
Rating: ★★★ Intriguing — Proceed with cautious optimism
Second Chance premieres Wednesday, January 13th on Fox.