Monday, April 16, 2007

Drive—Premiere Event

Part One: The Starting Line

We start with a brief introduction to our characters. Alex Tully, whose wife has mysteriously disappeared, Wendy Patrakas, who's just given birth and appears to be fleeing from her husband, and Winston Salazar, who's just gotten out of jail. There are a few others, presented more in the background. All three of them get phone calls on mysterious cell phones, giving the opportunity to drive to Key West, Florida, to find the answers they're looking for. Tully thinks the phone call is directly related to his wife's disappearance, and immediately acts on the orders he's given. It's not what he thinks, though, and to make things worse, he's late to the orientation. He goes all badass on the person in charge and gets a quick rundown--an illegal cross-country race, 32 million tax-free dollars at stake.

Things are pretty ruthless. One of the other participants drives Alex's car off the road and comes after him with a gun. At which point another contestant appears in the back of Tully's truck and jumps into his passenger seat. A cute blonde contestant, conveniently enough for Tully. This is Corinna, who's escaping from her insane boyfriend. Except he's not her boyfriend--he's one of the people who runs the race. She stole a flash drive from him that might have all the information they need on it to win the race.

Wendy's husband has reported their car stolen, so she gets pulled over by the cops and ends up in jail. Her husband comes after her--she's obviously afraid of him. But the "husband" is actually one of the race personnel, sent to get her away from the cops. She has a doll with her in a carseat to take the place of her baby who she apparently left behind. She refers to her leaving as "escaping"--have to wonder why she's gotten involved in the race. She comes in last and is given a loaded gun and a picture of one of the other participants, Ivy, as a penalty.

The race participants are sent cryptic text messages over their phones that they then have to interpret for the next leg of the race. Apparently the people who run this race will go to extreme measures to get participants, including coercing people into racing. The implication so far is that they may have kidnapped Tully's wife in order to bring him in as a participant. With a 32 million dollar prize, one has to wonder why it's so hard to get people to "play."

Salazar stops by his dad's house to steal a bunch of his stuff. His dad doesn't seem to like him very much. Neither does his brother, but they both dislike Dad enough to team up.

At the first checkpoint, a lighthouse in Jupiter, FL, we discover the sheer size of the race--there are at least 50 cars at the checkpoint, perhaps more.

I'd call this a solid start. The premise is a bit outrageous but the execution is great. Nathan Fillion's Alex Tully is the great mix of wit, befuddlement and badassery that made him so appealing as Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. The exposition isn't too heavy-handed, and the story moves along at a quick pace, the race segments taut and involving, the lulls between peppered with emotional moments as well as humor and intriguing characterization. The overall tone is very Minear--reminiscent of Angel, Firefly and Wonderfalls. Hopefully the more contemporary setting will make this show more accessible to audiences than other of Minear's work, which was excellent but not ratings-heavy.

Note of Possible Interest:
I was lucky enough to have seen the first six minutes of the original pilot when I saw Tim Minear at the Screenwriting Expo in LA last fall. In that version, the drivers received their instructions via large, clunky orange phones rather than the text messaging cellphones in this version. In at least one of the shots of Wendy in her car, the orange phone is still visible on the dashboard, making me wonder if they recycled a bit of footage from the original pilot.