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PILOT REVIEW: Reconstruction


Reconstruction

Reconstruction star Martin Henderson

“Pilot”
NBC
By Josh Brand (Northern Exposure, I’ll Fly Away)
Grade: B+

I had few expectations before reading Reconstruction; I was already sick of the “period” dramas that networks had greenlit for this season. Yet the pilot is a standout from page one, forsaking many of the conventions of “westerns” for a more subdued storytelling approach. It’s not nearly as inventive as REM and it’s not quite as well written as Ringer, but Reconstruction is easily the third best pilot script of the season. If anyone’s seen the criminally underrated I’ll Fly Away, they’ll know that Josh Brand is an extremely capable writer and showrunner who can write entertaining, yet meaningful stories concerning very serious and mature subject matters (he also created Network Exposure’s namesake, Northern Exposure).  I don’t doubt that, on film, the right actors could transform the script into a more engaging work than either REM or Ringer, too. Even with an extremely solid pilot script, my only real concern is the possibility of NBC passing on it because of Playboy.

The pilot stars Martin Henderson (Off the Map) as Jason Edding, a Northern soldier traveling through the border state Missouri after the South’s defeat in the Civil War. The Reconstruction period is intrinsically interesting because of the wealth of storytelling opportunities it presents: racism reached a peak, with the Klu Klux Klan emerging within the South to “protect” their White heritage. Jim Crow laws took effect in order to curb African-American voting. The economy of the South was ravished by the War, leaving many unemployed, poor, and desperately bitter. It’s the perfect subject matter for Brand, whose I’ll Fly Away centered on race relations in a small Southern town.

Early in his travels, he meets a young woman named IreneDora (one episode of Detroit 1-8-7. I’m serious), kneeling over her recently murdered father by the side of the road. Dora is clearly disturbed by the “ghost” who murdered her father, even if her father was “means as a snake.” This “gray ghost” is the mysterious Colonel (Bill Sage, American Psycho), a Confederate Colonel who wrecks havoc on the small town of Hastings, Missouri. With no Union soldiers to protect the townspeople, Jason’s role is the series will clearly be as a provisional sheriff of the town. This conflict already comes to fruition in the pilot, with Jason killing a few of the Colonel’s men in a town-center shootout.

There are similarities to Justified and even True Grit; Edding is a bit too similar to Raylan Givens and Dora appears to be analogous to True Grit‘s Mattie Ross. Yet the layer of post-Civil War tensions adds a new dimension to the typical “western,” and there’s enough promise with Brand as a scribe that these characters will evolve further. My only fear is that NBC currently has two “period” pieces on its pilot schedule: Reconstruction and Playboy. While Playboy isn’t terrible, it’s not nearly as well written or provocative as Reconstruction. The two series aren’t similar in the slightest beyond not taking place in the present, yet they will be undoubtedly linked together by the network. Playboy already has better name recognition and early buzz going into the final stretch of the development cycle. While there will certainly be plenty of room on NBC’s schedule, there might not be a place for both shows in the eyes of the Peacock.

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2 Responses

  1. […] 17th Precinct – B REM – A Metro Brave New World Alpha Mom Reconstruction – B+ […]

  2. I hear it looks terrific – the pilot was shot by Jeff Jur who did CARNIVALE.

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