Skip to main content

Prop or meaningful thread?

On Monday, NBC premiered its new mystery-drama series Persons Unknown, which centers on seven strangers who wake up in a mysterious and virtually empty town in the wilderness with no idea of how they got there--and no apparent way to escape. Critics haven't been too kind to the series--Mary McNamara at the LA Times describes it as a mash up of Lost, The Prisoner, Saw and The Shining "with badly written and poorly delivered dialogue." Indeed, it does have an assembly line feel, as if it was designed to capitalize on the success and draw of series like Lost yet missing the substance that made that series work. But I'm curious enough to keep it on my DVR for now--in no small part because of one of the crumbs it threw our way in the form of a Bible and a key.

We are introduced to the story through the experience of Janet, a single mother who's kidnapped from the playground where she took her 5 year-old daughter to play. She wakes up in a hotel room, trapped there by a door she can't unlock. Then a man named Jake breaks open her door, and when she asks him how he escaped his hotel room, he shows her the key to her own door taped inside the hotel room's Bible.

A key in a Bible--that's a pretty hefty two-by-four like symbol, heh. The question is, however, is it simply a prop or is it the beginning of a meaningful thread to be developed?

Over the last few years, there have been several stories that posit that we live our lives in a larger context, even that (as Doc Jensen put it regarding Lost) "our lives play out in a fundamentally spiritual reality." Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and (to some extent) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Justified are recent examples of stories that take this possibility seriously.

I'm not sure about Persons Unknown, however. Because the pilot had such deep flaws in its writing, the Bible-holding-a-key comes across as a clunky prop tossed in as an attempt to add depth to an otherwise plot-driven story. There wasn't much else in the pilot to suggest any spiritual themes or aspects, which is perhaps why it feels so much like a prop or plot device.

On the other hand, this is only the first episode; perhaps I should give it a chance.

(Image: NBC via Hulu)


Tami Chaffee said…
Ooh, I haven't watched it yet. Will try tonight.