Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Game Of Silence: Premiere left little time to breathe

I'll preface this blog post by saying this review is part review and part fangirling. I cannot be unbiased as I'm a huge fan of one of the stars of the show and I know I am more forgiving of things because of it. However, this show met and in some ways exceeded my expectations. Note: There are spoilers ahead.

Tuesday night's special premiere of NBC's new critically acclaimed drama Game of Silence wasted no time getting into the backstory that will push the show's theme in its first season. The story follows five childhood friends who share a dark secret (or, as we're told by those in the know - more than one). While saving their friend Jessie West (Bre Blair) , the lone female in their group, they take her mother's car for a little joy-ride and end up causing a head on collision injuring the other driver. Jessie runs off, but the four boys face 9 months jail time at a youth detention center.

That's when things really turn ugly. For Jackson Brooks (David Lyons), Gil Harris (Michael Raymond-James), Shawn Cook (Larenz Tate) and Gary "Boots" Nolan (Derek Phillips) the 9 months in Quitman was worse than Hell. Abuse - in all its forms - run rampant from other inmates as well as the corrections officers, and quite possibly the Warden. We see some of these horrors through flashbacks, though they always end just before the acts happen leaving the audience to let their imagination run wild. We meet the cast 25 years later after they've all gone their separate ways... or, well, at least one of them has gone his separate way. Jackson Brooks leaves his friends and past behind and moves to Houston to become a high powered attorney. Everything is going great, he is on the verge of making partner in his firm when his past shows back up.

Boots, on the job as a mover, runs into one of the inmates from his time at Quitman - one of the ones that tortured the boys mercilessly. He attacks and beats the guy's skull in. That's when Shawn and Gil end up in Jackson's office demanding their former friend to help Boots out. Jackson is unwilling until they mention Boots' motive for the assault. Jackson has too much to lose and agrees to help them out.

Throughout the episode both Shawn and Gil try to persuade Jackson to join in their cause to get revenge (Gil calls it Justice, but it's vigilante justice at best... and none of them are much like Batman or The Green Arrow). Gil especially seems out for blood as his PTSD from his childhood ordeal has given him a hair trigger. In fact the first scene we meet adult Gil he's beating and kicking the crap out of some guy who was going back on a deal they made. Shawn has taken it upon himself in a way to keep Gil from going completely nuts, and is the calming force and the glue that holds the men together. We have yet to really see Shawn's darkness surface, but we get a glimpse of Jackson's towards the end of the episode.

Jackson continues to deny he was affected by their time at Quitman until Boots is attacked in County Lock Up. In the hospital, Jackson is confronted with the horror that was their past. He apologizes to Boots and admits that he does remember. Jackson is wracked with guilt that he couldn't protect his friends from the horrors of the detention center. He was the one driving the car, who told them all to get in and ride. He was their leader of sorts, and he let them down... and then walked away.

Boots soon after passes away from his injuries, while his wife and friends look on. Gil leaves the hospital room and heads to his truck where *surprise* he has a gun. He's going to take care of the guy Boots beat up. Jackson follows Gil out and tells him he CAN'T do it that way. They have to expose their abusers. Gil's demeanor changes from bravado to desperation and fear. He tells Jackson that he'd rather die than let anyone know what happened to them. Jackson thinks his friend is being over dramatic until Gil puts the gun to his head. "I swear to God, Jackie." It's in this moment that Jackson realizes that while he could pretend his past didn't matter - his friends couldn't fight it. He tells Gil that they're brothers and that he will be there for him. Pleading with him to drop the gun.

It was quite possibly the most emotional scene in the entire episode. It was real - and surprisingly MRJ wasn't overboard in the emotion like he is for most of the episode. Gil is explosive, Gil is a raw nerve, so the over the top anger makes sense... but in the vulnerable moment Raymond-James quieted his character down and let him grieve in an incredibly real way. When the two men embrace and Gil breaks down I heard sniffles behind me and I turned to see my dad even feeling it. It was that powerful (okay so Dad cries at stuff all the time, but still).

Episode 2 airs Thursday night after The Blacklist. Thursdays are Game of Silence's scheduled air days. The show is 10 episodes long, and while they do plan on wrapping up the main storyline by the end of it - they promise matieral for more seasons. That's if it gets renewed. It's getting a lot of good vibes so I have high hopes. The cast has said that the rest of the episodes build and are even more charged than the Pilot. Honestly I don't know how much more charged I can take. I was having a hard time remembering to breathe. I didn't tweet as much as I normally do during an episode of TV I'm watching. I planned to, but I couldn't take my eyes away, so I was left tweeting mainly during commercial breaks.

My dad said that if the rest of the show was like the pilot then he wanted to see them get a bunch of nominations (and wins) come award season. And WITHOUT MY PROMPTING he said MRJ was the one that stood out the most. (He isn't alone in that, several reviews by critics have also favored Michael.) If I had one big complaint - but minor in the grand scheme of things - is that no one sounds like they are from Texas - which is where the entire story takes place (it was filmed in Atlanta though). It's not a deal breaker but I find it odd that they all sound like they're from northern cities (oh, wait...). David Lyons is an Aussie, and he masks his accent pretty well, but it's fun to hear it catch every now and again.

I'm looking forward to the second episode, though I was HAUNTED after the pilot. I had a hard time sleeping last night (so what am I doing? rewatching the dumb thing before bed). It will definitely stick with you (as Gil says "this thing will *haunt* you, Jackie"). Overall this show is MUCH DARKER than what we're used to on a network television show. A lot of people were taken aback watching it the other night, but many more were loving the risks the show seems willing to take. If they keep up the emotion and momentum they could really have something here.

Check it out, it's free on iTunes (Pilot), or you can stream it on Hulu or the NBC app.

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