Off a pure glance at the premise, it would be hard to convince even the least erudite TV watcher that Deception wasn’t just simply masquerading as NBC’s answer to another soapy drama concerning the rich. But I am here to tell you that Deception is not just some carbon copy of another network’s ratings hit. Sure it’s messy and kind of ridiculous like all good soaps, but there are some interesting power dynamics and plotting, as well as an affected performance by Meagan Good at is center, that should help keep the show afloat.
The plot centers around Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good), who is a star cop in San Francisco who is asked by an FBI agent/former lover (Laz Alonzo) to go undercover and investigate the death of Vivian Bowers, a famous socialite and Joanna’s former best friend. In order to do so, she travels to the Hampton’s and reintegrates herself within the Bowers family, with whom she has a complicated history, and begins to unravel the mysteries of what the wealthy family has been hiding.
That plot synopsis doesn’t do the twisting, super dense writing that encompassed the pilot any justice but it will have to suffice. As many soaps are wont to do, there is a ton of information delivered via flashback and exposition, something that both helps and hinders the pilot. The present day story shown in the pilot is just your basic setup, which while informative, was just bland, though I’m sure as we get into the story it will pick up. The flashbacks play an interesting role in the pilot, helping to shine a light on the complex history between Joanna and the family, specifically her friend Vivian and Vivian’s brother (Wes Brown).
Meagan Good is an incredibly underrated actress, and its been a while since she’s had a lead role of great significance. The pilot doesn’t give her too many notes to play other than fish out of water/tough, interrogating cop, however the previews for the next episode hint at some interesting places they are taking the character, so I’ll reserve judgement after a few episodes. Wes Brown’s performance as Vivian’s brother provides an intriguing counterpoint to Joanna’s quest given the character’s relationship to him (highlighted in two of the best flashback sequences) and his standing with the audience by the end of the episode. I’m looking forward to all the drama they can wring out of that relationship. Victor Garber and Tate Donovan, always welcome presences, only get a few scenes each, but have me so intrigued I wouldn’t mind if they were the shows’ sole focus.
The one major thing that concerns me about the series is the lack of visual flair. For a series with numerous flashbacks and gorgeous Hamptons setting, the directors sure don’t do a lot with the visuals. There are a ton of flashbacks that are easily distinguishable by their hazy filters and bland color choices, and the wardrobe, especially of Good’s character leaves much to be desired. Hopefully moving forward the show runners will embrace the setting and go for a more interesting color pallet and visual identity.
Overall, the pilot will surely turn some viewers away but I’m willing to give this series a chance provided they discover some visual flair and mine all of the possible drama they can from the tangled web of conspiracy that the pilot has woven.