The medical drama is nothing new to TV, which could be good or bad depending on the overall series. The ones that stand out somehow manage to do something truly different and refreshing enough, while maintaining an overall compelling narrative that keeps you coming back for more. The ones that have a specific theme at its core seem to be even rarer, and so it’s pretty much up in the air on whether or not it’ll be worth watching.
The Entertainment One series “Mary Kills People” is interesting thus far, but seems like it’ll have to be watched all the way through. For starters, it’s only six episodes long, so it’s not like you’re wasting too much time. I certainly wouldn’t be as I tend to give any new show at least six episodes to convince me it’s worth watching. So, in this case, it’s perfect! However, I don’t feel that the pilot fully accomplished what it needed to do, which would’ve left me with no doubt that this series would be worth watching. It did what pilot’s do, but somehow that wasn’t enough. There was no hook. Certainly not in the way that I was hoping. I guess the overall premise will have to do as the hook.
The hook, or premise as most are likely to call it, is that Caroline Dhavernas’ Mary Harris is an ER doctor who moonlights as an angel of death. Put simply, she helps people end their lives on their own terms. Seeing as that’s illegal, she’s got to make sure she steers clear of law enforcement and is also able to be a single parent. So, there’s a lot there, but does it make for compelling TV?
I’d say, yes, yes it does.
Firstly, which I’m amazed at, the central issue of assisted suicide, while not exactly hidden in any way throughout the episode, is never forced down your throat. Yes during the episode Dhavernas makes it clear why she does it and why it must be done in such a specific way, but that’s for background and understanding of the character. Beyond that, which is also what I love, it’s really just another way to view the issue at large. Then, the balancing act is able to commence. The issue at the show’s center is ever present, not that you could forget it after the opening scene in this episode, but it’s more supposed to be in the back of your mind. The focus, by and large, is all the drama that stems from every other aspect of Mary’s life.
Seeing as Mary’s a single parent with two kids, a doctor and just trying to live a normal life, it’s tough. But rather quickly, thanks to a charismatic and slightly humorous performance, you get to see and know her pretty well. The only drawback, like with the other characters, is that the background you get isn’t enough. It’s typical pilot behavior, which also really only serves to set up the show’s overall storyline, which is done by forcing viewers to spend time with Mary’s eldest daughter and her friend so they could discover the drugs hiding under the floorboards of a shed. It’s also a good start to introducing the characters, so at least there’s that. I liked what I saw. Also helping is that balancing act the show must do. Because of all the hats that Dhavernas wears, there’s a lot that needs attention. Somehow, and maybe that’s because I didn’t have any expectations with this show, I found that the majority of what occurred was pretty organic. It was easy to believe. Throw in the dark humor, which mainly comes from Dhavernas and Short’s characters and provides some amazing chemistry, and you’ve got another aspect of this show to consider.
Then there’s the rest of the episode and another, more dangerous, aspect of Mary’s life. The cops are after her. How? Time will tell, but they are. This, even for me, seems to carry most of my interest in seeing the rest of this series. Perhaps it’s just the idea that watching cops pursue a suspect, and the suspect trying to avoid being caught, that fascinates me. This wouldn’t be the first series to employ that kind of storytelling, and I doubt it’ll be the last. The only difference is, I don’t find that Dr. Mary Harris fits your typical mold of an anti-heroine. So, it’ll be interesting to see how she develops throughout this first season.
Speaking of cops! Because of this aspect, there’s a tiny bit of suspense and mystery. Primarily, will Mary be able to avoid capture? How long will she be able to keep her life together? While in this episode it’s compelling to know how they discovered her moonlighting activities, it’s not without its own drawbacks. Somehow, which I’m still not too certain about, it wasn’t as impactful as I was hoping. Perhaps that’s because I knew Jay Ryan and Lyriq Bent were cops to begin with. Maybe the promos told me this or it was just too damn obvious that something seemed off. However I knew the truth, it dulled the surprise and made it just come off as good plot point to have.
For a pilot with a central premise that could, if it hasn’t already, turn people off instantly, it’s not a bad start. Not having expectations helps, but at the same time, it could very well have ended up a disaster. It could’ve been one of those well meaning shows, like some TV movies, that tackle a serious subject, but only end up being laughable messes. While it’ll never be some top tier series, it certainly wouldn’t be the worst way to spend an hour each week for the next several weeks.
Original Air Date: April 23, 2017
Creator: Tara Armstrong
Starring: Caroline Dhavernas, Jay Ryan, Richard Short, Lyriq Bent, Greg Byrk, Abigail Winter, Grace Lynn Kung, Katie Douglas and Alexandra Castillo