Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
What’s It About?
What if our dreams are trying to tell us something? What if our dreams are all connected? Tess, Burton, and Taka – three, seemingly unrelated characters all having strange and recurring dreams – are about to find out, apparently. Honestly, that’s my best guess. It’s difficult to summarize exactly what Falling Water is, because it seems as though the show itself isn’t quite sure what it’s trying to be. Its absence of anything resembling a logical plot structure and sheer avoidance of any valuable character development leaves me baffled and entirely unsure of what I was watching for 75 minutes.
You’d think with that amount of runtime for a pilot a lot could be accomplished. Well, sure, there were several bizarre dream sequences, a group and solo suicide, some insider trading, an explosion, the constant mention of the word Topeka, a few exposition-heavy scenes, and a whole hell of a lot of water imagery. It sounds exciting, but it wasn’t. While there are hints at how all of this could be connected and transform into an actual story, they’re shaky at best. Falling Water seems desperate to be the next big complex and ambiguous mystery every one is dying to figure out, without earning its right to be such a thing.
The concept. This idea is ambitious and if well executed, could result in an epic show. It’s also fairly visually appealing. The dream sequences managed to perfectly capture those flowing, transition-less, and enigmatic feelings we all experience during dreams.
So far, it’s everything else. As enjoyable as those dream sequences were, they would have been even more impactful had the entire episode not felt like much of the same thing. Perhaps this was an attempt to blur the lines between the characters’ dreams and real lives, which is an interesting filming concept, but it did nothing to help illuminate just what the hell was going on. In terms of visuals, Falling Water also took a misstep with its special effects. There’s a creature of sorts lurking in the dreams/dream world but we only ever see its shadow. While the show may have been striving for ominous or even frightening, all I could do was giggle because of how silly it looked.
Most importantly, though, is the severe lack of character development. When a show presents such a grandiose idea, with such potentially far-reaching consequences, it also needs to offer some kind of rooting in a personal stake. We need at least one character – though ideally it would be a few – with whom we can identify and feel invested in their fate. Otherwise, why should we care? This pilot offered nothing in terms of connection to any of its core characters. It’s nearly impossible to tell if it’s the actors or the script that’s sub-par, or, and this is what my money’s on, it’s a combination of both. Each character has shown a trace of what might be driving them – a lost son, lost love, sick mother – but this barely amounts to even a sketch of what a fully rounded character should offer. How will we know if the events to come have affected these people, if we never even knew them before it happens?
If, after another episode or two, the convoluted plot doesn’t start becoming coherent, and there’s no proper character development to help ground us in that plot, I am so done. Truthfully, I’m willing to just let these episodes pile up on my DVR for a day when I’ve already watched everything else.
Watch this Instead
If you haven’t seen the pilot, but like the idea of Falling Water, let me suggest a few other shows/movies that have done something similar, but a whole lot better.