Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pilot Script Review - Nomads

Network: CW
Written By: Ken Sanzel
Draft Date: February 8, 2010
Pages: 56

Well, at least this is beginning with an adrenaline rush! Two All-American brothers run through a jungle, chased by disembodied shouting and machine gun fire. And one of them TOTALLY BITES IT (or at the very least disappears... since we aren't shown him being shot I am assuming a twist wherein our lead character, John, finds out that his brother, Kirk, is actually alive... but either being held as a hostage or Evil!now). Once again, though, I state my distaste for all CW leads being OMGorgeous. It's like every writer is told the descriptor "All-American" is required in the script otherwise Dawn Ostroff won't buy it.

Six months later, John has a scraggly travelers beard, because otherwise how would we know that he's been through some heavy emotional turmoil? John is now living at a hostel in Bangkok and searching for Kirk who, I gather, John does not believe is dead (not sure if others do) and he gets an e-mail from someone who says they saw Kirk. He Skypes with his dad and the conversation is vague enough that I'm still not sure whether John is the only one who believes this, or whether there's some other thing about Kirk that we need to be caught up on for why Dad wants John to come home. Must be the latter because John meets with the contact who claims to have seen Kirk a month before, only he's getting scammed. But he's smart enough to know it. I'm actually pretty into this script and this character at this point!

John's ass gets saved in a barfight with a bouncer and doorman by some unassuming dude named Ryker. I'm caught between this been Aragorn-as-Strider saving Frodo and Sam at the Inn of the Prancing Pony or whatever happened in JJ Abrams' Star Trek movie when Kirk gets his ass handed to him, but Pike steps in (if I recall correctly)? John is much more of a Kirk-type, so I'll go with the latter. And I'm sure that his brother's name is entirely coincidental... anyway, John's been chasing down clues about Kirk for 6 months and he is now officially out of money. They have an odd conversation that ends enigmatically and takes us out of the 13 page teaser (really, just call it Act One at that point...) on confusion rather than some Big Moment that launches us into what the series is. But I'm cool with it, because I'm already along for John's ride.

John goes back to his other hostel friends and to a party, where a woman named Donna gives him some info about Kirk that is actually in sync with what the supposed scammer lured him to the bar with. She gives enough detail that wasn't in John's description of his brother that John knows this to be the real deal. Time to follow up on this lead, and hostel friends Zack (Australian) and Nadia (German) are along for the ride. A clandestine train station meet up with Ryker later, they're on their way. There's a little background conversation and we find out John was supposed to show up at MIT eight days ago for grad school, he's going to be a computer engineer (read: mad tech skills).

Nadia's bag, carrying some of Zack's stuff, is stolen and there's a chase sequence and confrontation with the thief, who threatens our characters with a knife and keeps menacing when offered money, is shot/killed by a Mysterious Person. Murder is okay, so long as the damsel gets her belongings back! Which gives us yet another "huh?" act out of intrigue. Again, I'm good with the story, but the act outs are head-scratchers. Neither, so far, seems to do much more than give the show an air of mystery... which it already has, in spades. I feel like there are bigger punches to act out on, ways to make John a more active protagonist in them. Shrug. Not my script.

Thankfully, we pick back up on the three characters having an ethical discussion of "he saved our lives" vs "he killed someone." I was already having a "this isn't a typical CW show" feeling (mostly because of the lack of emphasis on scantily-clad urban teenage girls drinking alcohol and being part of a giant love dodecahedron) and this seals the deal on that front.

No sooner do I type this than the love triangle rears it's ugly head as Zack heads off and Nadia invites John in for some fun... and Zack sees. SIGH. Still, this is certainly not the typical CW setting or the typical CW characters. Plus, John is leaving Zack and Nadia's company (for now) because something more than a love triangle is going on in this story. Equals good in my book.

Zack gives John his iPod (which was in Nadia's bag when it was stolen) to make sure they see each other again. John notices people following him and in what is described in a somewhat Psych-ish manner, puts puzzle pieces together through highlighted images and flashbacks. The iPod has no music on it. What's on it? Whatever it is... the police are now after John. And they get him. And there are serious problems for John because there have been pills planted in his backpack. And then he accuses the police of planting it, and then the head of the police of wanting ransom money that his family doesn't have. Yeah, John is not the brightest, is he?

Donna, the one who gave John the clue about Kirk, shows up and bails him out of jail. There is clearly something more going on here. Especially because Zack and Nadia are in the Jeep that Donna leads John to. And then Ryker is in a second Jeep they rendezvous with, and he says "right about now, you're really wondering what the hell is going on." Now THAT is an act out. Yes. Very much.

Suddenly, at page 37, the logline ("an action drama about a group of young backpackers who become part time CIA operatives to earn some quick cash, and prolong their endless summer") makes a lot more sense, as Ryker (actually CIA) explains to John what Zack, Nadia, and Donna are (his accurate term: subcontractors) and why he needs them (because young backpackers are the least suspicious thing ever in certain parts of the world, i.e. here). He does say he only gives them "low risk" jobs... which I have to assume will not really be the case. Because... stakes! Drama! There's an appropriate discussion about this with the other backpackers... "low risk" ≠ "no risk." We get a nice conversation between Donna and John, both of whom have reasons way beyond extending an "endless summer" for agreeing to be a CIA "subcontractor." Donna was offered an analyst job at the CIA, but didn't want to be behind a desk going over someone else's work. She's trying to prove herself. That's pretty good stuff. And now there's a love quadrangle (Donna is pissed that John didn't take advantage of her at a party, or something, but he did sleep with Nadia when she offered), but I'm cool with it because it's so ancillary.

Anyway. I've pretty much given about 3/4 of the pilot's plot and I don't want to give EVERYTHING away. Now that the preamble is done with, we get about 15 pages of twisty intrigue, action, adventure, life and death decisions... y'know, spy stuff.

Anyway. Damn. I'm hoping this gets picked up... though I have a feeling it might get "off brand" and "expensive" demerits (and who knows how the filmed product turns out), but, on the read, this is very much a new evolution of the spy story. Sexy. Young. Not based out of an office (anywhere, let alone in America). It's original in all the ways Human Target is derivative.

Final verdict: Fingers crossed!


Anonymous said...

hoping that the cw will pick up at least this or nikita which i hear the script (and the concept) is also 'not typical cw' because they're programming like a nieche cable network not a broadcasting network.

Anonymous said...

Now this one sounds like my cup of tea. I'd really like to see a spy-intrigue drama take off on The CW, where if more than two million tune in, they will likely nurture it along for a nice run.

And from your descriptions, this one sounds a little more original than 'Nikita', which is so far removed from the rivetting LA FEMME NIKITA that I feel every episode must begin with a screen-crawl apology to Monsieur Luc Besson for the desecration and conversion of his stylishly-petite-yet-murderous assassin into a all-American co-ed pining for her killed-off popsie, so coated in beige that it would make even POINT OF NO RETURN's Miss Bridgett Fonda snarl with disapproval at how they've ruined her Nina.

Anonymously, DuMont

Anonymous said...

But it's totally different from cw standards or it contains some parts like romances? It's the most intriguing script?