Debris Episode 1 Pilot Review- The Extraterrestrial Mystery Begins
Grief is a tricky thing. In Debris Episode 1, it has the power to kill and reanimate in a desperate need to hold on to what’s already gone.
NBC’s latest dip in the genre pool is a smash. From J.H. Wyman known for Fringe and the criminally underappreciated Almost Human is Debris. The tightly packed Debris Episode 1 looks and feels like a love child between The X-Files and Fringe. It is creepy, thought-provoking, and endearingly quirky. If the rest of the season is as good as the pilot, NBC has another hit to fill in some of the gaps between the next episodes of Manifest, which comes back April 1st for Season 3.
What Fringe did so well was establish the main players and framework quickly and then let its actors and the writing shine. Debris does the same thing. In short order, we meet Agent Brian Beneventi, played by a fantastically stoic Jonathon Tucker(The Ruins), and empathetic MI-6 agent, Finola Jones, portrayed by a passionate and earnest Riann Steele(The Creeping). Within the opening sequence, we run straight into a brick wall and then pass right on through.
There is a black market for everything, and in Debris Episode 1, that includes the physics altering artifacts that fell from the sky recently. The opener is slick, stylish, and features even bit players who are recognizable faces. Brian and Finola don’t get their man, but they find another piece of the wreckage that has tragic effects on a poor maid. Already in the first moments, you can see this is going to be good stuff.
Brian and Finola are an odd couple who are forced together by circumstance but don’t entirely trust each other. That doesn’t stop them from having fantastic chemistry, even in the first episode. Brian is a skeptic and a pragmatist. He was a soldier and now wants to continue his heroic ways. Finola is an idealist. Her father, who recently died, was a famous physicist who first discovered the debris. She believes the debris represents hope and possibility. Ironically they both have a right to distrust the other’s government even if they should trust each other. They aren’t that different from the other.
Their dual country task force must work together to keep the world safe from the debris that fell to Earth not long ago. Both countries want the wreckage for themselves but play nice out of necessity. Piece by piece, they round up the wreckage and try to solve the greater mystery of why it fell to Earth and who sent it. It’s a perfect recipe for both short-term and long-term series arcs.
Right away, a creepy kid shows up, and it becomes clear, Wyman is leaning hard into the horror genre along with sci-fi. As Mom floats out of the car and into a cornfield, yes, that really happened; you half expected Malachi to jump out with a scythe. This is a spooky place, and Debris is a successful hybrid of both genres.
When the two head to middle America to locate a piece, they encounter a woman stuck on a piece of barbed wire. When Brian releases her, she floats independently of any wind to a wheat and other victims’ cyclone. If that wasn’t odd enough, the people are dead but still animated. Meaning they may be aware of what is happening to them but helpless to do anything about it.
One mother’s grief over her dead son combined with the artifact was deadly to a dozen people. Her son died in a car accident. When the debris landed near them, it fed off of her grief, and a new son materialized out of thin air. The biggest problem being that this new child needs an energy source, and humans provide that. Thus all the floating, mostly dead corpses. It provides for a philosophical question to a very metaphysical issue. When is it time to say goodbye?
That entry into the hard and soft sciences is where the show really shines. Brian and Finola are likable and believable. Neither is too solemn or too cynical. Brian has a particularly enlightening moment when talking to the only surviving member of the family. This poor teenage girl has to get through to her dying mother and convince her to let go of Kieran and return to her. He has layers we are only scratching the surface of.
When Finola tries to inspect the artifact, it manifests a vision of her dead mother. The relic can read your greatest longings. Much like Apple TV’s Servant shows how grief can affect your memories, Kieran returns again and again to the same gas station and has his victims follow the same route as the one his mother took the day he died. He is a product of pain and sadness. Until he is allowed to move on, he will continue to drain one victim after another.
The stakes are elevated when Finola is consumed by the same need and Brian must convince the daughter of the family to get through to her mother. Tucker is emotive in a standout scene that speaks volumes about the type of man he is rather than the hardened shell he presents. The daughter is successful, and the human batteries wake up, including Finola. The two agents begin to develop a bond that is quickly snatched away. Brian’s boss Craig Maddox(Norbert Leo Butz) tells him that Finola’s father is alive and traveling with the dealers from the beginning of the episode. He instructs Brian to keep it quiet. Brian questions the morality of this, but like all good soldiers, he follows orders. The episode closes with a look inside Hangar 13 at Groom Lake(I’m assuming) and a half-built alien aircraft.
Visually this is an intriguing episode. Debris Episode 1 was filled with hi-tech mumbo jumbo and washed-out country fields. No amount of money was spared in the special effects department, and it shows. The tech is complicated but accessible at the same time. The way the series looks compliments its greatest strengths. Strong writing and acting are where this show will succeed. The mystery is just getting started, and for the first time in a while, I’ve got something to be excited about on Monday night. Follow all our Debris coverage here.
- Teleporting into a concrete pillar is terrible. Someone should really master this ability before ending up encased in a caustic, immovable space.
- Finola’s Dad isn’t dead. Is he another battery avatar from the aliens, or is this the OG? If it’s the real guy, did the artifacts cure him somehow, and how much does Finola know?
- What are we building in the warehouse? Do we even know, or are we letting the pieces place themselves? What happens when it is complete?
- Debris reminds me of some of the best series. A little dead father who isn’t from Utopia, surprising emotion from Warehouse 13, and government conspiracies from Threshold.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.