Review Scorecard: The Whispers 'Hide & Seek'

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 - 10:23AM
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 - 10:23AM
Review Scorecard: The Whispers 'Hide & Seek'
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Ray Bradbury's The Zero Hour has a simple, wonderfully elegant premise: children are cajoled by an imaginary friend to do unspeakable things. This is a viscerally frightening premise that served the pilot of "The Whispers" well, and one that mostly fell by the wayside in its unnecessarily convoluted second episode. 

Welcome to our review scorecard, where we (semi-arbitrarily) assign points to the parts of an episode that we loved and hated, the parts that worked and the parts that definitely didn't. We'll weigh more significant aspects of the show with more points, either positive or negative, and tally all the points up at the end for a final score that will reflect the quality of the overall episode.

The Good

111215 +2
This number appears on the Bennigans' microwave in the opening scene, and then again in one of Sean's tattoos. The mysterious numbers are giving me post-traumatic Lost flashbacks, but let's face it, this show would be lucky to be as good as Lost was when those numbers came into play.

Claire can't wait to meet her son's new friend +1
The opening scene was filled with annoying haunted house cliches, but the discussion of Bennigan's son's "new friend" was well-done. Since he didn't say his new friend was imaginary, Claire had no reason to connect him with Drill, and it makes perfect sense that she would be so excited that her disabled son was able to make a friend.

"You talk in nice voices but you don't sound so nice." +3
A lot about Wes's family drama falls flat (more on that later), but Minx's scenes are all poignant, and this line was a particular highlight. It was a sad line on its own, and it's commendable that the show is trying to avoid certain stereotypes about what a broken home looks like.

"It is a game. It's the most important game of all and I have to win." +2
This episode generally got away from its short story origins, but this line harkened back to the chilling "Invasion" game invented by Ray Bradbury. Love it.

MVPs: Lily Rabe and Abby Ryder Fortson +10
The acting on this show is a little spotty, but Lily Rabe and the children are all on point. Rabe's line readings make her lines sound much less hackneyed than they actually are, and all of the kids are dynamic and engaging, especially Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Harper. 

Minx's sly manipulation of her friend +5
True to her name, Minx was extremely mischievous in this episode, but she was never so unsettling as when she subtly manipulated her little friend into playing Drill's game. Her "I'm not supposed to show you this, so don't tell anyone, okay?" was the child's play equivalent of a stranger offering candy. 

This scene also gets bonus points for the friend's innocent, "This doesn't sound like a very fun game." Of course breaking into computers and stealing top-secret government intel would make for an extremely boring game to a ten-year-old.

Minx breaks the rules +3
Minx has proven to be a skilled player at Drill's game, but she still breaks the rules to stop her parents from fighting. 

Drill teases Harper +5
Waking Harper's mother for only a second was incredibly cruel, not to mention effective. It was just enough to demonstrate Drill's powers without changing the status quo enough that the grown-ups would start asking too many questions.

Minx runs away from home +3
Minx "doesn't want to be at home anymore," and rightly so. Drill leads her away from home in her pajamas in a scene that could have been a perfect, Pied Piper-esque ending, but they had to ruin it by adding that dumb scene in the tunnel slide.


The Bad

Opening the door and finding no one there -1
I often find haunting tropes amusing, but this one's a little too overdone.

The scenes between Wes and his wife -10
It's difficult to start following a couple who's already in peril, because you don't know why they fell in love to begin with or why you should be rooting for them. Since the writers haven't filled in any of these blanks yet, and the actors don't have enough chemistry to make up for it, these scenes fell completely flat whenever Minx wasn't on screen. Barry Sloane's presence was problematic all around; his scenes with Claire fared slightly better, but not by much.

"Since when have you been worried about breaking the rules?" "Since I broke too many of them." -2
Not only was this a melodramatic exchange, but the consequences for treason are considerably different from those for adultery.

The entire scene between Wes and his boss -5
Lo and behold the exposition. "You never liked me," "Being a good agent wasn't enough for you," "I wasn't after your job, if that's what you thought," etc. No one speaks this way to each other, tensions aren't randomly brought into the open and discussed explicitly except under extremely unusual circumstances. If the conflict was, in fact, out in the open to this extent, they would have had this conversation long before this, but more likely these would have just been simmering work tensions that they would never talk about, at least not with each other.

Actually hearing the "Whispers" -5
Hearing Drill whisper to Minx in the tunnel slide was far too on-the-nose. I love the idea that Drill is "whispering" to the children, but it's much more effective if we can't hear it. We are all "turned," after all. 

Random things happening that aren't very interesting -10
I appreciate a slow-burn mystery as much as the next person, but the obscure clues we were given this week just weren't all that interesting. Sean goes into a storage unit with creepy things in it. Sean takes a shower in the doctor's house. Minx uncovers a map that leads to...something. Sean takes the doctor hostage, but we have no idea why. There's a scene in which Claire chases and then comes face-to-face with her supposedly dead husband, and yet it still doesn't feel very suspenseful or high-stakes.

Where's Drill? -10
I enjoyed the pilot much more, as it focused on Drill's interaction with the children. That elegant premise was the show's saving grace, and it deviated from that premise significantly this week. Just as I wrote in my review of the pilot episode, the show is much stronger when it takes advantage of the "imaginary friend" conceit, and much weaker when it relies on tried-and-true sci-fi tropes. It's no coincidence that most of the scenes that fell in the "pro" column this week included Drill, so hopefully he will make more of an appearance (or lack thereof) in future episodes.


Total: -9

I'm still cutting this show some slack, as it's early on and Barry Sloane promised that the show finds its footing by its fifth episode, but this episode was fairly weak. The characters are engaging enough, but they're not being developed as they should be. The dialogue is passable at best, cheesy at worst. And the mystery that started off with so much potential is getting too far away from the initial creepy premise. 

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