One Dollar has an intriguing premise, but its premiere episode, “Garrett Drimmer”, lacks drama, clarity and momentum.
In one hour, I watched one dollar change hands multiple times, usually with an accompanying zoom and an ominous chime to let me know that the transaction was significant. The crumpled dollar bill is at the heart of the new CBS All Access thriller, and the premiere’s namesake, Garrett Drimmer (Philip Ettinger), a struggling steel worker and single father, is one of many seemingly unrelated individuals who come into contact with it.
The catch is that the dollar is somehow related to a murder – or maybe seven murders. It’s a little unclear.
At this point, everything about One Dollar is a little unclear. Series creator and writer Jason Mosberg has crafted this big, interconnected rust belt town of Braden, PA, stratified by class and coloured by tragedy, but he seems to have forgotten to include any reason for an audience to care about any of it.
Garrett Drimmer is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the focal character of the opening hour, but One Dollar remains relatively tight-lipped about his circumstances beyond his employment at the local steel mill, his financial woes, and his two-year-old. The girl’s mother isn’t around, but we don’t know why. The show seems to treat every character and emerging sub-plot this way, perhaps confusing a lack of explanation for teasing ambiguity.
Garrett’s other function is to be a symptom of the town’s decline, and a sulky victim of its heavy-handed classism, such as when an uptown housewife sticks some money in his coffee cup, confusing him for a homeless man.
There’s a chance encounter between Garrett and another upper-class citizen, Dannie (Kirrilee Berger), a very pretty high-school graduate whom he encounters late at night and whose boyfriend he mistakes for an attacker and viciously assaults. In some way this will all inevitably tie into that dollar bill, which is passed hand to hand like a baton in a relay race, leading to one tangential perspective after another, including one belonging to Nathaniel Martello-White as a private investigator who might be an insomniac or narcoleptic – again, it’s a little unclear.
We’ll see how it goes. There’s little to recommend about One Dollar thus far, but there isn’t much to condemn, either – there just isn’t much, period. But the premise is there, and the setting is relatively well-defined, and the actors seem keen. Perhaps it’ll turn out to be a bargain.