Are you ready for a hidden gem?
There was a time when I had a fondness for disaster movies. If I had to pick out a favourite from the major studios, it would probably have to be ‘Deep Impact (1998)’. I was fascinated with anything involving comets. For anyone whose interested, I would also highly recommend ‘You, Me and the Apocalypse’. It’s a little bit quirky, involves the apocalypse via comet and also has Rob Lowe which can only be a bonus.
But I’m not here to talk about ‘You, Me and the Apocalypse’, I’m here to talk about a charming and by ‘charming’ I mean ‘fucking terrifying’ series ‘Salvation’.
‘Salvation’ reminds me of a little series called ‘Ringer’, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ioan Gruffudd in the sense that both series experiment with several plot elements that all crossover and come together at the ends. Everything is intertwined and makes for terribly interesting watching.
I got involved with the series because Ian Anthony Dale is in it and I find him to be a very underrated actor. Granted, he spends most of his time on ‘Hawaii Five-0’ but he must not be judged for that. He was in another interesting series called ‘Daybreak’ which was good watching and look at me dancing around the issue. Fine, lets get into some plot. This is just a brief overview of the first episode and I’ll try and keep it as spoiler free as possible. I just want everyone to watch it and if anyone’s interested, this first season holds a big, fat gold star from me.
MIT student, Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe) has created a program that can scan the space around Earth and uncover any potential risks. His program discovers an asteroid that will collide with Earth in 186 days. Of course shit hits the fan really quickly as burly blokes start watching his professor’s house and so he goes to the one man that he thinks can help, Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera). Daruis Tanz has his own company, ‘Tanz Industries’ and also has connections in the Government. Tanz pays a visit to Deputy Secretary of Defense, Harris Edwards (Ian Anthony Dale) who was already aware of the asteroid and has been formulating a plan via a secret task force to stop it. Liam is recruited along with Darius and Pentagon Press Secretary, Grace Barrows (Jennifer Finnigan) who is also Harris’ secret girlfriend.
Let’s have a deeper look into these main characters.
Liam is the youngest of the team and a very bright bunny indeed. We know very little about his backstory until he decides to get married to his girlfriend, Jillian Hayes (Jacqueline Byers) just in case the asteroid strikes. He visits his mother who isn’t his biological mother but his mother none the less. As his mother is a nurse, Liam was left on the doorstep of the hospital when he was a newborn baby and she found him. Since that day, she raised him as her own. Since joining MIT, Liam has one other friend whose name I can’t remember and he’s only in 2 episodes anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Liam is the classic skinny, scrawny nerd but curiously lacks the glasses and also has managed to grow some stubble.
With Liam, there seems to be a direct personality clash with his idol and ultimately mentor, Darius Tanz. Darius is confident and charismatic but throughout the series, Liam gains a lot of confidence and skills in running a team which will come in handy for the series finale and onwards. But lets explore Darius a little bit more.
Darius Tanz is a self-made billionaire who specialises in technology. We see him in the pilot episode giving a lecture to MIT students where he basically says that Earth is fucked and if the human race is going to survive, then we should pour all of our effort into getting to Mars. He’s basically a combination of Bill Gates and Elon Musk in the body of a ‘Calvin Klein’ underwear model. I say that with the utmost respect because Darius Tanz is drop dead gorgeous. It’s a shame he’s such an insufferable tosser. Yes that’s right, Darius is smart and sexy and he knows it. His ego hangs around on the surface for the first half of the season but by the end, he’s much more humbled. He gives Liam the opportunity to work with him and assist him with the small problem of complete world annihilation but it’s never insinuated that Darius thinks that Liam is beneath him. He always treats Liam with respect and a revelation is made at the end that I will talk about in a little while.
But it’s not a proper television show unless there’s a love interest. Enter, Grace Barrows.
Grace is a single parent with a teenage daughter, Zoe (Rachel Drance). Grace is also the press secretary for the Pentagon. She brings forward the press releases for the Government and answers questions from the press but she is entangled in a secret love affair with Harris Edwards which no doubt brings a little bit of spice into her life. When she meets Darius Tanz, of course she’s repulsed by his massive ego and pretty much finds him reprehensible for the first half of the season but circumstances bring them together once certain plot elements make her question the actions of her own Government and ultimately, her boyfriend. Speaking of.
Just like Grace, Harris is a single parent with a teenage son, Dylan (Andre Dae Kim) who is part of a hacking group, ‘RE/SYST’. Let’s just use ‘Anonymous’ as an example because every TV show that have a hacking group use them as a basis anyway. There a group of people who hate the system, they’re activists and the Government treats them as terrorists. Harris loves his son and loves that he’s passionate about making a difference but his own Government is actively trying to seek them out and either imprison or kill them once the group do something that could fuck up the all important plans of saving the human race.
Harris is actually one of the most interesting characters and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased towards Ian Anthony Dale. His character suffers constant challenges in terms of morality. He is loyal towards his own country and his Government but when he is asked to make questionable choices and discovers that the people he is working for are up to some shady shit, he is initially reluctant to go against his beliefs in serving his country for the greater good of mankind. When I say he is loyal to his country, I should say he is loyal to the leader of the free world, President Pauline Mackenzie (Tovah Feldshuh). I want to talk about it but that would mean entering into ‘spoiler town’.
Fuck it, let’s go for it. Spoiler warning, folks.
First off, I’ll start with a negative point about the show. It’s obvious right from the get-go that Jillian is only Liam’s girlfriend is there for plot purposes. They made the same mistake that ‘Midnight, Texas’ made in that the two main characters get together in the first few episodes. That’s a mistake mainly because it doesn’t give enough time for the chemistry to build between the characters and for the audience to want them to get together. It’s more a case of the writers telling the audience that they will be together for plot purposes. And together, they are for plot purposes.
They consummate their relationship in the first episode, the morning after which Liam discovers the asteroid. Darius knows about Jillian and brings her to work at Tanz Industries for two reasons. One, to be close to Liam and give him some comfort. Two, Darius is setting up a ‘think tank’ full of people who have to think up a ‘hypothetical’ scenario in which the world is ending and they have to come up with 160 to live in space. Little do they know that they are actually deciding the fate of 160 lucky people to take a ride on Darius’ ‘Salvation’ rocket that is moments away from completion and can keep those 160 people safe and happy in space for up to 2 years if something goes wrong and Earth becomes uninhabitable. This is merely Darius’ fallback plan in case the main plan doesn’t go according to plan.
Let’s see if I can remember because there’s lots of science-y crap involved.
The original plan was to blow up the asteroid with nuclear weapons when it got in range but that would cause an even bigger problem. According to the statistics, instead of killing all 7 Billion people on Earth, the fragments would only kill 1 Billion people. That’s before another great idea comes forward that would kill no one. Darius offers to build an EM drive that would head for the asteroid and pull it off it’s trajectory so the asteroid would ride by Earth safely. A great idea in theory but the problem is that such a drive has never existed. But Darius likes a challenge so he, Liam and Liam’s professor, Professor Malcolm Croft (Dennis Boutsikaris) set out to create such a device. As soon as they find the answer, a betrayal occurs.
This is where the main problem in the plot kicks in. Professor Malcolm Croft is actually a mole for the Russians and kidnaps Liam along with the EM Drive. The reason why the Russians are so upset with the Americans is because of a secret US Government program called ‘Project Atlas’ which is where I think the morality on behalf of the writers gets a touch questionable.
Those with good memories will remember that in 2013, a meteorite impacted in a small town in Russia named Chelyabinsk. The event itself was considered a complete mystery as no one saw it coming. Mercifully, no one was killed but nearly 1,500 injuries were reported.
‘Salvation’ took on the bold task of taking this real life event that happened in real life and working it into the story. After a bit of probing, Darius learns that ‘Project Atlas’ was some kind of weapon that could use Near Earth Objects (meteors, comets and asteroids) as potential missiles, flinging them at their enemies. Initially, this was thought to have been deliberate but Harris tells Grace that the meteor was originally meant to come down to Earth in a safe location but it went wrong and the meteor landed in Russia.
Anyway, the Russians know about ‘Atlas’ and now they want ‘retribution’. This is where shit starts getting real scary, real fast.
Those of you who read my ‘The Divide (2011)’ review will know that nuclear war is one of my all time biggest fears. That and an asteroid impacting Earth. Pretty much anything that’s going to lead to a sudden and unavoidable death triggers a ‘brown alert’ with me. So you will be happy to know that ‘Salvation’ combines both of these things.
From about mid-season onwards, the threat of out in out nuclear war between Russia and the US begins hotting up once the Russians steal the EM drive. The Russians also threatens war if the US launches anything of their own for example, a gravity tractor that could potentially save the world. The US need to get this thing launched without the Russians knowing about it so Darius pays a lot of money to RE/SYST to cause a blackout in Russia so they won’t know about the launch. They are successful in this feat but at a cost.
Because Darius is a smart cookie, he has created his own AI which he has named TESS. The name is a reference to the first girl he ever fell in love with. TESS is instrumental in the running of Tanz Industries and once Darius hands over the money, RE/SYST flood TESS with a virus, forcing Darius to shut it down. RE/SYST then blackmail Darius into giving them control of TESS and in return, they will give back control of the gravity tractor that they acquired. Darius agrees and this leads to even bigger problems.
Of course, Government cover ups in TV shows lead to assassinations and ‘Salvation’ is no different. To cover up ‘Project Atlas’ and the presence of a world killing asteroid, numerous people were killed along with one of Grace’s friends. Grace herself almost becomes a victim but she is able to fight back. Someone else who is not immune to rogue factions in the Government is the President herself. Throughout the first half of the series, it’s hinted at that the President has not been in her right mind and that maybe she is responsible for the ‘odd’ decisions that the Government have been making. All up until she has a stroke on live television. The world has been told that she dies but in fact, she’s not dead. Rather, she’s been poisoned by Vice President Bennett who wanted to assume control and be a proper dick about everything, including almost starting nuclear war himself.
You’d think that a program about this kind of thing would entail the whole world knowing about the asteroid right from the start and about the characters living in this sort of environment. Well, you’d be wrong, just like I was. Nope, the public have no idea and despite the efforts of a savvy journalist, Amanda Neel (Shazi Raja) the world still doesn’t know as she is seemingly killed by being shot and her office set of fire.
I mentioned earlier that RE/SYST use TESS to do a very bad thing. Well now I will tell you what that bad thing was. RE/SYST use TESS to blow up a US submarine and make it look like the Russians did it, thus creating tension. Further ‘pant browning’ tension is made once RE/SYST again use TESS to blow up a Russian aircraft carrier and make it look like the Americans did it. This means war.
Despite Darius having concrete evidence that the attacks were coordinated by RE/SYST, the Russians won’t believe them. It’s time for the President to address the nation. Not only to address the growing tension with Russia and attempt to resolve it but also to tell the public about the asteroid.
However, right in the middle of the live transmission, it’s interrupted by the Emergency Broadcast System which tells a soon to be terrified nation that four intercontinental ballistic missiles are heading towards the United States. As Liam, Jillian, Grace and Harris make it down to the Salvation rocket, Darius stays behind. Earlier in the season, he sent all his friend’s medical files in to be processed so they would be part of the 160. Darius failed because Huntington’s disease runs in his family and despite his best efforts with some scientists, he’s not had any luck. This is the part that I object to. Who gives a shit if he failed the medical? It’s your rocket! Why even submit your own details anyway? You built the fucking thing!
Nevertheless, Darius stays behind so that he can deal with the asteroid problem. Oh yeh, there’s another asteroid problem. Turns out, the asteroid has a ‘dense, iron core’. I have no idea what that means but it does mean that the gravity tractor won’t do shit. Liam figures out the problem that I think involves magnets and so risks annihilation to stay behind with Darius. The last shot of the season is Darius and Liam getting in the lift at Tanz Industries.
I’ve left loads out so there should still be something left to watch. The only bad thing that I’ve found with this series is the boring relationship between Liam and Jillian that’s boring and clearly only there for plot purposes but I tell you what, any series that has the balls to end a season with nuclear war in this current climate has my respect. ‘Salvation’ has already been renewed for another season and if all goes to plan, it should be airing this summer. I cannot wait.