Friday, December 29, 2017

Pilot Review: Wormwood

Wormwood (Netflix)
Premiered December 15

Sometimes going into a show knowing absolutely nothing about it proves detrimental since it’s hard to understand without any context or introduction. It probably would have been useful to know that this show was about LSD and featured the suicide of an infamous subject on the drug as its central event, especially since this show has a very intense feel to it based on its incorporation of the drug and its history into its plot. I was most taken by the impressive names in the credited cast, though I didn’t see most of them in this initial hour. Peter Sarsgaard, of course, did make an appearance, though we have much more to learn about Frank Olson and the circumstances surrounding his untimely demise that is dramatized in the opening scene and haunting opening credits of this show. Molly Parker and Christian Camargo have both shown that they can do tremendous work on television shows like “House of Cards” and “Dexter,” respectively. I also like Michael Chernus from “The Big C” and “Orange is the New Black.” Tim Blake Nelson is dependable, as is Jimmi Simpson, recently seen on “Westworld.” As for the show itself, I found it hard to get into, and the use of narration and interviews to chronicle events that I’d much rather see play out on screen is disappointing. I’m mildly intrigued both by the premise and by the talent involved, but this opening hour was relatively dull and unmemorable considering the potential it had to be very good.

How will it work as a series? It’s only designed to be a six-episode miniseries, and so I’d imagine that it can take its sweet time in exploring the meat of its story as it wades into all that starting in episode two. I really do think that it’s critical to utilize the cast and make it more engaging than just retelling the story without showing it, though some further research indicates that this is meant as more of a documentary than a narrative project.
How long will it last? I seem to be in the minority in my attitude towards this miniseries, which has a very strong 84 rating on Metacritic. Despite that, I don’t imagine that Netflix is going to renew something that was always meant as a standalone limited series, so I’d be very surprised to hear that more of this same story was being commissioned. Similar projects from director Errol Morris, on the other hand…

Pilot grade: B-

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