Initially this was posted on the original Media Observers site before it was temporarily shut down. At the time, it was planned to be moved to one of my other sites but remained in draft status. Thus, it is returning to Media Observers. Please remember this was initially posted sometime June 2015.
One of the occasional perks of being a cord cutter and only watching a streaming network such as Hulu Plus is the occasional ability to view a pilot episode before the general populace views it on its network air date. Hulu has had the Stitchers pilot, “A Stitch in Time” available for about a month and I finally got around to watching it last night. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t know anything about this show until I saw it while browsing through Hulu’s new television episodes. So there was no anticipation from me to create any bias or the feeling to necessarily defend the show.
Basically the show is about a young female hacker named, Kirsten, who has some type of brain condition which dulls her emotions and sensitivity to the passage of time. Whether this condition is robbed directly from Lost I don’t know, but a quick search of Google provided no realistic brain conditions to equate it with. Never the less, I’m probably explaining her condition wrong, but the lack of emotions is the most noticeable symptom in the show. Her mean personality is revealed as a side effect of this condition when Kirsten has a back and forth conversation with Maggie, who claims to be the exact opposite of Kirsten when it comes to time sensitivity. Either way, Kirsten, for some reason, is a prime candidate for Maggie’s super secret government project which allows them to insert a consciousness into the dying consciousness of the recently deceased. While there are probably two to three major side plots introduced for Kirsten in the main episode, her feats as a consciousness explorer is the main sale of the series.
With that said the show has a major issue for me, and from what I can tell skimming the IMDB message boards, a large portion of viewers as well. This issue is the main character, Kirsten:
- The whole emotionless factor is supposed to pull you in, but it comes off cold and distant.
- Coupled with #1 is her “I’m better than you and smarter than everyone in the room” personality and reaction to nearly everyone.
- Her inability to empathize with others beyond using logic and reason to determine the proper response, which is almost always the wrong response, to someone’s reaction to her.
- Her inability to follow orders because of numbers 1-3. Granted, I see this as a necessity for story writing purposes, but the fact she comes off as a “know it all” and belittles people far more experienced in these situations than she is just makes her far less likable.
A number of Kirsten supporters have already rallied around the show and have taken on a defensive strategy of comparing Kirsten to Temperance “Bones” Brennan Booth from Fox’s Bones. The difference is Bones’ supposed emotionless responses were more quirky and funny. She was never presented as cold and distant to people around her. She has friends as opposed to Kirsten and Bones knows how to treat her friends despite her logic driven lifestyle. All throughout the 11+ year life span of the show, Bones has been shown to be privy to her emotions plenty of times. She’s shown love as exemplified by her relationship with Booth, she’s shown anger in plenty of episodes and particularly when someone tries to harm her friends or deceive her. She’s shown worry, concern, empathy, etc. So there’s really no comparison between, Kirsten who couldn’t even comprehend her roommates disdain and annoyance with her nor show any type of emotion regarding the death of a pretty close family member. Bones has shown all these emotions, but to be fair we’re comparing a show 11+ years into its success with the pilot of a show not even officially aired yet. I personally think it’s an unfair comparison, but then again I’m not the one bringing it up on the Internet.
Eventually Stitchers does provide the viewers with two counters to Kirsten’s jerkiness. These counters come in the form of Salli Richardson-Whitfield’s character, Maggie, and Kyle Harris’ character, Cameron. As I mentioned before, Maggie acts as a counter by claiming her time sensitivity is spot on. She does this by supposedly answer Kirsten’s questions regarding how long Kirsten has been detained or talking with perfect accuracy. However, as the viewer we have no frame of reference to verify if Maggie is indeed spot on or just speaking figuratively. Either way, Maggie counters Kirsten’s personality and mental condition with stern yet gentle authority as opposed to the Detective we were introduced to earlier in the show. Cameron, however, matches Kirsten as a scientist and a geek. Their brief back and forth introduces him, unnecessarily so in my opinion, as an atheist, then as a neurological genius, a science fiction fan and many other things. His back and forth causes Kirsten to resort to name calling which pretty much means he won the battle of wits between the two of them. He further matches her jerky wits later on when she questions his work by telling her in a snarky way she has not real experience to tell him about his work in the first place since she hasn’t studied his field of expertise. With these two characters on board, despite my minor issues with Cameron, I have to admit it was nice to see some characters shut down Kirsten’s “I can do better than you and I’m smarter than you” disposition temporarily. It’s a nice attempt balancing out the problems with the main character without really dealing with the problems of the main character, but sadly, it’s not enough.
I could go on about the actual idea of consciousness and whether or not it’s believable to insert another consciousness into a dying one without invoking the philosophical discussion of what consciousness is to begin with. Suffice to say, science has no real answer for what it is or what it isn’t. Trying to figure it out by pure material means is, in my opinion and experience, never going to really bring us to a true resolution of understanding this metaphysical part of our existence. While experimentation has shown there may be a “switch” in the brain to make someone unconscious, this does not truly give us an explanation of what it is and its true source. I’ll say this, as a Christian, I equate it with the invisible Spirit or Soul. Thus, for me the whole concept falls a little flat since inserting one consciousness into another is akin to possession. Yes, as in demonic possession.
The other issue I have with this show is the plausible receptiveness of both the future of the show and the idea in general. This has all been done before in The Cell, a 2000 film which featured Jennifer Lopez as FBI Agent, Catherine Deane. Agent Deane persuaded a scientist to allow her to enter the mind or consciousness of a serial killer to discover the secrets his mind stored about a case she is working on. The concept is also repeated again in The Cell 2 where Tessie Santiago’s character, Maya, has psychic abilities and she uses them to enter the mind of a serial killer to help with a case. Finally, it was done in a 2012 movie called, Extracted. In Extracted a scientist has developed a way to watch people’s memories and ends up trapped in the mind of a drug addict after attempting to see if the addict is a murderer. Thus, the concept is nothing ground breaking and I’m sure many people can find many other films and television shows with the same basic plot line. I’m not saying Stitchers is bad for having similar plots to The Cell, The Cell 2, and Extracted. It’s not, it’s a pretty average show and if anything bad due to the characters, but I wanted to point out its immediate similarities to previous concepts using this plot device.
With all that said I believe the show will only survive if, like “Bones,” the writers find a way to make the lead character, Kirsten, far more likable than she is now. Otherwise, I’m not sure this show will survive on the plots alone, especially after each series becomes pretty procedural. Which I suspect it will become routine with surprise elements thrown around here and there. Some have compared it to CW’s iZombie in the fact the main heroine gains access to the memories of the recently deceased. In doing so, I have to point out a fourth possible idea the show is borrowing from, but also in doing so I’m pointing out the formula of the investigative portion of the show. Victim dies, main heroine gains access to memories to help solve case, in which main heroine and team proceed to investigate the case of the week with smaller plot elements to the overall narrative of the show building up around it. Sadly, I don’t know how well this will work out for well known former Syfy actresses Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Allison Scagliotti. Hopefully, it goes well for those intrigued by the pilot episode, but for me, I can’t promise I will continue to tune in and I can’t promise I won’t check in to see where the story is heading either.
2017 Update: Thus far, only my wife and eldest daughter have relatively kept up with the show. I believe I watched most of the first season and after starting school my level of television indulgence significantly decreased and Stitchers became a causality along with a long list of shows I stopped watching.