La Brea season 1, episode 1 recap – “Pilot”

September 29, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 1
NBC, Weekly TV
3

Summary

La Brea is extremely weird in a way that might well prove popular, provided it leans into its more outlandish elements rather than trying to emulate mysteries we’ve already solved.

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3

Summary

La Brea is extremely weird in a way that might well prove popular, provided it leans into its more outlandish elements rather than trying to emulate mysteries we’ve already solved.

This recap of La Brea season 1, episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.


It’s impressive how quickly NBC’s new genre-blending mystery series La Brea elects to crack the ground beneath the La Brea Tar Pits and send several buildings, people, and miles of surrounding L.A. traffic into the emerging sinkhole. It’s equally impressive – though perhaps ill-advised – how quickly someone in that sinkhole mentions Lost. Evoking the most popular network mystery ever is rarely a good idea, but in fairness, La Brea is a very different kind of mystery. It doesn’t drip-feed information and gradually introduce new characters and dynamics; it just drops everything in a literal pit and lets it all jostle around.

La Brea season 1, episode 1 recap

The La Brea pilot is, frankly, too much to make sense of. One gets the impression that nothing is really supposed to make sense yet, which is a good way to both bring viewers back and turn them away in equal measure. It does, admittedly, give a good sense of who the main players are going to be, and at the very least outline an idea of alternate realities or something similar. But between the natural disasters, prehistoric animals, government cover-ups, teen drama, the risky gambit of linking perceived mental illness to otherworldly precognition, and some visual effects that border on laughable even by the moderate standards of a network series, it’s difficult to make sense of what La Brea wants to be, much less what it actually is.

Nevertheless, here’s what we can piece together. Eve (Natalie Zea) is a helicopter mom of two teenagers, Josh (Jack Martin) and Izzy (Zyra Gorecki), the former of whom falls into the sinkhole with her and the latter of whom hooks up with her semi-estranged alcoholic former pilot father, Gavin (Eoin Macken), to try and solve the mystery topside. In the sinkhole, things are weird. The cars have been smashed to pieces but the people – including a stoner, Scott (Rohan Mirchandaney), a SEAL-turned-surgeon and his daughter, a cop, and a suicidal therapist – all seem to be fine. Much of the environment is recognizable Los Angeles real estate, and as Gavin figures out by the end of the first episode, has some thus-far nebulous relationship with its above-ground counterpart. But there is also surprising CGI weirdness down there, including extinct vultures that flock out of the sinkhole when it first opens up, killer wolves that set about everyone and grievously injure Josh, and a sabretooth tiger that functions as a snarling cliff-hanger. It’s… a lot, to say the least.

When you bolt an obvious government cover-up and conspiracy onto that, you might well have too much, though that remains to be seen. La Brea doesn’t look the part, but its cast seems determined to sell the human drama, and if it’s willing to get this weird this quickly, there might be hope yet. Little details like Izzy having lost a leg in an accident that Eve still blames herself for, and Gavin having turned to alcoholism to cope with his weird visions and blackouts, suggest characters that might have some interesting depth. The fusion of a natural disaster drama with a Lost­-like quasi-supernatural mystery and badly-rendered predators is such a bonkers idea that it might just work, provided La Brea is willing to really lean into that. One hopes that the reference to Lost was less mission statement and more assurance that no, we’re not in an episode like Scott suggests, but in something much different and much weirder.

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1 thought on “La Brea season 1, episode 1 recap – “Pilot”

  • October 5, 2021 at 1:49 am
    Permalink

    Terrible acting and the CGI are laughable. Good luck making this into a 2nd season.

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