You’ll like if you already like: Prison Break, 24, Designated Survivor, Scandal…
Likely timeslot: midseason (as a bridge between Designated Survivor season 2A & 2B?)
Welcome back to the early 2000s folks. Salamander, adapted from a belgian series, looks like a script that was lost during this period of time when every network wanted their conspiracy thrillers after 24 & Prison Break broke out. Remember Kidnapped, Vanished or The Nine? Salamander is one of these. They all tended to be appealing on paper based on the concept with their strong hooks and big twists. But at some point, they all had to face reality: it’s hard to pull off conspiracy-themed series on a weekly basis. They became silly and sometimes even unwatchable. And they got cancelled pretty quickly. Salamander is not totally dumb and silly. At least, not yet. But everything that’s happening is unbelievable and overall not that surprising if you watched the shows I pointed out a few lines ago. I would be very surprised if ABC gives it a chance. It looks like one of those pilots that got ordered “just in case”, just to see. And they could’t assemble an attractive cast, like The Crossing, to compensate. Not a good omen either.
As in Prison Break, the relationship between two brothers is at the center of the story and gives an emotional feel to a pilot that’s mostly about plots and twists. But one of them dies in the pilot, paving the way for another, more conventional relationship between our hero, a “normal nerd” and a psychiatrist who works at Homeland Security. They’re supposed to have a strong chemistry -we’ll see if that translates on screen- and the writer insists on it a lot. Way too much. We get it man. In fact, the pilot starts with them having a date. It goes horribly wrong of course. They agree not to see each other again. But you know fate. It’s twisty. 10 pages later they’re in for a big deadly adventure where everyone in New York seem to be dangerous and hiding a terrible secret. We meet so many secondary characters… it’s overwhelming! Between the senator who causes an explosion on a ferry, the man who commits suicide by jumping out of his office’s window, those you just meet in one scene but the writers warn you they will be more important later on… You can feel they have a plan. And they’d better! It’s based on an existing show after all. The way is already paved.
Despite this waterfall of characters, the story is more plot-driven than character-driven, especially when the leads are not on screen, which happens every other scene. For example, you can sense from the get go that the cops who interrogate Ethan Anders after the death of his brother are corrupt and you think they’ll play a bigger role later. Wrong: they end up killing each other. It’s one of those plot twists that give you an instant hard on because it’s exciting and surprising at the exact moment it arrives. And then you think about it and it just don’t make sense. Salamander asks you not to use your brain too much. Some people are good at it. Others just can’t. Your apprecIation of the show may very well depend on it. But above all, it’s a show where you’re clearly told not to get too attached to the characters because most of them are not there for long and that’s a problem for me. It’s hard to care about anything when you’re sent this message. Last thing that troubles me with Salamander is the fact that Ethan is an engineer. It’s way too convenient for the writers. Too easy. He can crack everything. It’s not the first show to do this but it doesn’t make it okay. And about Nora, she’s “just” a psychiatrist at Homeland Security but she has access to everyting. It just doesn’t make sense.
Salamander is not the type of show ABC should bet on though Designated Survivor proved there’s an audience for thrilling conspiracy series on the network when it’s well done. But this show doesn’t have Kiefer Sutherland, nor legs to work for a long time even if the pilot is efficient and action-packed. ABC has way better options to waste a slot on it. Go back where you belong Salamander: to the early 2000s!