Article first published as MIND GAMES Review @Seat42F.
Clark Edwards (Steve Zahn, Treme) is a bipolar genius who studies human behavior. Recently fired from his job as a college professor after having an affair with a student named Beth (Katherine Cunningham, The Playboy Club), Clark has been recruited by his brother, Ross (Christian Slater, Breaking In), to apply his skills to the real world, hoping to build a business that will make them both rich. The problem is, Clark is highly unstable, given to flights of exuberance that can turn potential clients off or ruin Clark’s own carefully planned scenarios, exacerbated by his inability to let Beth go. Only Ross’s ex-wife, Claire (Wynn Everett, The Newsroom), can keep Clark calm.
Now, for those wondering if having his former spouse around will drive Ross crazy, the answer is a resounding yes. After all, Ross has just spent two years in jail for fraud, and Claire is the one who turned him in, so to say their breakup is amiable would be a gross misrepresentation. Unfortunately, since Clark needs Claire, Ross is going to have to put up with her.
The dynamic and interactions between Ross and Clark are a highlight of the series. Zahn and Slater have been perfectly cast. Through the “Pilot,” viewers will be kept guessing if Ross is a good guy and if he really cares about Clark, or if he’s using him for financial gain, since we’re shown he’s a known liar and cheat. There are clues that point in both directions, and the simple truth of the matter is, perhaps both mindsets apply, which makes for a complex, interesting sibling relationship.
Claire’s insertion into the middle of this is explosive and very entertaining. Checking out the press website for the show, though, Claire is not listed among the main cast, worrying me that she isn’t long for the series. I think that would be a grave mistake, as even if the love triangle set up is familiar, it’s done in such an effecting way that it really makes the characters. Maybe she’ll be recurring throughout season one and then promoted if the show is renewed?
And renewed, it deserves to be. I’ve only seen a single episode, and I can still say that with certainty. Everything I’ve mentioned above is absolutely fantastic, well written and superbly acted. And there are other elements to the show, too.
For one, there will be individual clients, and since this isn’t a cop or lawyer drama, these stories can be new and different, taking a fresh approach to the scenarios. The “Pilot” opens with Clark and Ross in a meeting with a potential investor (Ron Rifkin, Alias) that is extremely amusing. Then it segues into the firm trying to help a boy whose insurance is denying him much needed care. This is a compelling narrative that will tug at the emotions of the viewers, and through helping him, fans will come to care about the characters.
It seems the ensemble is good, too. The Edwards brothers are joined by Megan (Megalyn Echikunwoke, The 4400), a wannabe actress, Latreel (Cedric Sanders, The Social Network), who has business acumen, and Miles (Gregory Marcel, Infinity Strategists), whose contribution isn’t fully defined in the premiere. The first two have a skillset that will certainly serve the firm’s mission well, and the entire trio have wonderful, character-defining moments that tell us who they are, very different personalities.
MIND GAMES doesn’t just have the makings of a good show, it already is one. It’s sort of like Scandal on a smaller scale with a little less soapiness. It’s intelligent and well produced, and I look forward to watching more.
MIND GAMES premieres this Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.