Monday, January 26, 2015

Favourite New US Series - Forever


For the past couple of weeks, I have been binge-watching a new TV Series which began airing in America sometime last year. Its called Forever, and under this rather un-inspired name, there lies some smart writing, and some great performances. The series revolves around its main character, Dr Henry Morgan, a medical examiner in New York City. Henry helps the NYPD solve some bizarre murder cases after drawing amazing conclusions from the dead bodies of the deceased. Well in this area, the series seems a copy of Bones, another TV series where the lead character is a genius anthropologist. But in Forever, Dr Henry has a secret - He is Immortal. Yep, you read that right. Henry has been alive for more than 200 years, every time he is killed, he simply returns to life naked in a nearby water body. Originally from Britain, Henry has travelled around the world, living and experiencing cultures which others can only read from books. Only two other people in the series know his secret, one is his closest friend and adopted (sort of) son Abraham, and the other is the antagonist of the show, another immortal , who calls himself Adam, who has been living for 2000 years !


Now I understand the central premise of this story is supernatural. But there have been more bizarre TV series in the air for some time. Supernatural, Walking Dead, LIbrarians…..they all have supernatural elements, often stupid. Everything else in Forever is completely scientific. Dr Henry has accepted that he is not a man of religion, he is a man of science, so he does not believe in God. While others might consider his immortality a gift, he himself has come to loathe it, and considers himself cursed, in a way. He has not been able to life his life to the fullest, because while he is always stuck at age 35-40, everyone he loves grows old, dies, or is killed. He has to experience a strange kind of loneliness, and now wants to escape his immortality. He wants to grow old, and experience the other parts of his life. So he has become a 'student of death' , and opens up dead bodies and studies them, in the hope that he will find a way to escape immortality.


So then, what is the best part of having an immortal lead character, one who is not a teen vampire ? His back story. Flashbacks. And a sort of time travel. You see, since Henry has been living on the planet for 200 years , he has experienced in his life, actual history. And years and years of wizdom. In every episode of the show, we see Henry remembering incidents which occurred in his life, shown in the show as flashbacks. And it is these scenes, combined with his intricate knowledge of the human anatomy, that helps him solve the bizarre cases coming his way. Detective Jo Mortinez, the other lead character of the show, finds out Henry can draw amazing conclusions from the cadavers, but does not know his secret. In the flashbacks, we see Henry at various points of human history in the last 200 years: on board a slave ship, serving in the second world war, present in London during the Jack-the-ripper attacks, settled in America during the Vietnam war.

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Henry does not rely too much on modern technology or gadgets like those guys on CSI or Bones, he doesn't even carry a cellphone. He relies entirely on his knowledge of his past. Its amazing how he can relate to every case he encounters, personally, recalling clues and ideas. It shows how much the world has changed around us, in just 200 years.

In every show, there at least three flashbacks to his past, and I watch the show mainly for these scenes. The first flashback happens usually 10 to 20 minutes into the episode, Henry has just learned something from the cadaver , and this triggers a memory. He is at some point in History, minding his business, working as a doctor, and trying very hard to hide his secret.  The second flashback occurs after half way into the show, and chronologically follows the first flashback. He finds his first credible lead, by which the team is able to narrow down a suspect. But this suspect is always a decoy, created by the show writers to throw us off track. The suspect is usually just at the wrong place at the wrong time, and Henry realizes his mistake and that he is missing something else. He returns to the cadaver and looks at it in fresh light, trying to correlate to his past experiences. This time, it is a hidden or uninteresting point in his memory which grants the final answer, and the memory finds him the final clue. There are no last minute surprises, the audience discovers the truth the same time Henry does.


So far, my favourite has been episode 12, where we see Henry's dilemma as a father to his adopted son Abraham, because Abe wants to serve in the US Army during the Vietnam war, just as his father served in the second world war. He scenes where he talks to his son in 1965 and the final reunion scene of the three 'nam friends, well, they were very emotional. Abe has grown old, but Henry is still the same, reinforcing the fact that at one point, Henry will lose Abe too. There is no escaping that. It is said that there is nothing more painful than outliving one's children, seeing their death.

I do have a problem with the show's antagonist, another immortal who calls himself Adam. He is clearly insane, and his motives at not at all clear. You see, Henry is absolutely in-corruptible, he is honest and righteous. He never once thought of taking advantage of his condition, and wants to escape it. But Adam has had the course for 2000  years, and by now he has turned into a psychopath, stalking Henry. There is no point in the series to have Adam try to kill Henry, or the other way round. So then, what is Adam's role ? He makes it clear that he wants to corrupt Henry, and by episode 10, has lead Henry to kill an innocent someone. I think he too feels lonely, and wants a comrade with whom he can share his plans of eternity, sort of ruling this world. 

What is the cause of Henry's immortality ? The show has not touched upon this at all, and probably not for some seasons. My personal theory is that Henry was killed at sea somewhere some supernatural phenomenon. Maybe its the Bermuda triangle ? There cannot exist any scientific explanation for his condition.


So then, I am looking forward to more snapshots from history on the show, and see if Henry is able to escape his curse after all. Don't screw this one up, show writers.

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