Departure doesn’t have many new ideas, but it does have Archie Panjabi and Christopher Plummer, so that has to count for something.
Seemingly conceived as an answer to the question of what you might get if you combined elements of every major network mystery-cum-conspiracy thriller of the last few years, most obviously the ill-fated aviation seen in Lost and Manifest, the Canadian-British production Departure, making its way from Canada’s Global Network where it debuted last year to NBC’s fledgling streaming service Peacock, is a mixed bag of borrowed ideas.
Created by Vince Shiao, the show’s most novel idea is to frame its mysterious plane crash hook from the perspective of those who’re investigating it and stand to be impacted by it, be that personally, professionally, financially, or politically, rather than the passengers themselves, who are underrepresented by design but also, it must be said, to something of a fault. A public transport tragedy is a pretty human catastrophe, but Departure renders it on the macro, geopolitical scale.
What this means for the underlying conspiracy that caused the plane to go down is that it has to shoulder all of the viewer’s interest. There isn’t really a personal element for the audience to latch onto since backstory for the victims is thin on the ground and the looming threat of dodgy CEOs, magnates, and – all together now – Middle Eastern terrorism is clearly the show’s focus. The presence of Archie Panjabi in the lead and Christopher Plummer as a grizzled mentor, not to mention other solid performers like Dougray Scott, does suggest that there’s something about this narrative that appealed to such seasoned performers, but it doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to reveal what it might be.
There’s plenty of potential, though; we didn’t watch all the episodes for this review, and you don’t entice this level of talent by being garbage. But first impressions aren’t good. There’s a lot of silliness, a lot of clichés, and a lot of borrowed ideas. Whether you’re willing to get on-board to wait for some better ones to crop up is up to you.