Stitchers: New ABC Family Scifi Procedural Premiers Early Online


By: Karen Valenzuela, @VictoriaNoir89

In Jeffrey Alan Sechter’s new ABC Family procedural drama Stitchers, the members of an underground government agency work against the clock, “stitching” a live person into the mind of a recently deceased person to collect their memories of the days before their death. Those memories are used to attempt to solve mysteries and crimes that would normally be unsolvable. Enter the show’s tagline: Memories never die.

Adding in that science fiction element makes what would be your typical procedural drama that much more interesting. This is also a new venture for ABC Family, an arguably more mature approach to television from a network that has never had its own procedural drama.

Entertainment Weekly digitally premiered the pilot episode of Stitchers on their website last week, a few weeks earlier than the June 2nd television premiere date. The entire pilot episode, titled “A Stitch in Time”, is up on EW’s website.

(Readers beware. Spoilers ahead!)

The show’s protagonist is in her first “stitching” assignment right at the beginning of the pilot in a dreamlike, startling scene. It’s meant to be a hook for the viewer, a quick preview of the sort of business we’ll be seeing more of as the series continues, even though we have no idea what’s happening at the time.

We’re taken back to 10 days earlier. We learn that the blonde in the cat suit we saw in the first scene is Kirsten Clark, a student at Cal Tech in Pasadena with a brilliant tech-savvy mind and an inability to feel or process emotions. Her emotional distance makes her relationship with her roommate Camille…frosty is a nice way to put it.

The pilot does well to introduce us to a bit of Kirsten’s backstory throughout the episode. For instance, we learn through flashbacks that her father left her to be raised by a friend when she was a child. And Kirsten’s emotional distance is as a result of some form of temporal dysplasia, which explains why she has no reaction to the death of the man who raised her. Convinced he was murdered, in spite of the LAPD having ruled it a suicide, she takes it upon herself to investigate.

It’s while she’s investigating that she is kidnapped and taken to a dimly lit, empty Chinese restaurant, which we soon learn is a front for an underground secret agency. (Are all Chinese restaurants fronts for either secret government agencies or crime ring headquarters? I wonder.) The agency is led by a no-nonsense, silver-tongued agent named Maggie. When Kirsten steps into the underground lab, a neon tech wonderland of intricate computer systems with people dressed in scrubs and lab coats fiddling with them, we learn about the “stitching program” from Cameron, a young neuroscientist who enjoys spouting sarcasm like it’s part of his job.

The crew wastes no time throwing Kirsten straight into the program, stitching her into the mind of Peter Brandt, a graduate student and explosives expert who had been planting bombs around the city until he accidentally set one off in his own apartment. Kirsten dives right into Brandt’s memories, helping the agents decipher not only his motive, but also where he might have planted the rest of the active bombs before his death.

Stitchers has an original plot, with the scifi edge of solving crimes by stitching into the memories of the deceased. It spices up the usual procedural drama schtick for sure, but while watching, I wondered if the characters were strong enough to pull it off. While the stitching element is original, the characters are perhaps less so.

Kirsten Clark is played by Emma Ishta (Manhattan Love Story), whose runway model physique and beautiful but frosty facial features add somewhat to the closed-off nature of Stitchers’ main protagonist. But while the show provides us with a reason for her sometimes blunt honesty and lack of emotion, it doesn’t change the fact that the pilot didn’t do much to endear Kirsten to viewers. Perhaps as the series continues, and we learn more about Kirsten, that will change. It seems as though emotions are connected with the memories when Kirsten stitches, so that should provide some interesting character development. The twist at the very end of the episode, in which we learn that her father and his friend who raised her created the stitchers program, should have an impact on Kirsten as the show continues.

The secondary characters seem a little “been there, done that” in some ways.

Cameron, played by Kyle Harris (The Carrie Diaries), is the smart, tousle-haired, witty, Tolkien-loving nerd we’ve seen before. He’s an attractive nerd, but next to Ishta, he looks like a regular guy. (Chuck’s Chuck Bartowski and The OC’s Seth Cohen both come to mind.) Although Cameron’s witty remarks are meant to make us chuckle, he comes off as less charming and more smarmy at times. The show is definitely setting the stage for viewers to ship Cameron with Kirsten. (“Camsten,” anyone?) But it will take more than the sarcastic banter between the two to reel me into the ship, so to speak.

Cameron and Kirsten, future Camsten

Cameron and Kirsten, future Camsten

Ritesh Rajan plays Linus, the agency’s token socially underdeveloped bioelectrical engineer who is also a horndog. By the third or fourth joke he made about Kirsten’s hotness, including making the pin code she used to get out of Brandt’s mind “iheartlinus”, I was done with the character. Salli Richardson-Whitfield is Maggie, the leader of the agency. She’s cool-headed and seems to be one of the only people who is unaffected by Kirsten’s sassy comebacks. Maggie also seems like she has the potential of being a bad ass if the show gives her a chance. I can see her standing up to the government bigwigs to protect her people.

Kirsten’s roommate Camille, portrayed by Warehouse-13’s Allison Scagliotti, cannot stand Kirsten. If she had the emotional capacity, Kirsten would definitely return her antipathy. But even their constant feuding became a little grating. Camille is a tech genius in her own right and she is brought into the mix when Kirsten and Cameron enlist her help to find Brandt’s bombs. This gave the relationship between Kristen and Camille a little more depth, which was enjoyable. But Camille’s one-note sarcasm started falling flat by the middle of the episode.

The concept has a lot of promise. It’s different enough than nearly every other typical procedural in which a person with a certain talent/oddity helps government agents or the police solve crimes. There are so many shows that follow that formula, which is fine if it’s executed well. For me, the execution lies in the characterization, and that’s where Stitchers fell flat for me. There is, however, a lot of potential going forward if they allow for character growth.

The lab has what they call a “fish tank”. Kristen submerges her body in the tank of water to stitch with the deceased person’s mind. This idea opens the creators up to some really cool symbolism with water/liquid that they already seem to be utilizing in the promos. And they’ve set themselves up for some great emotional development by giving Kirsten temporal dysplasia. Someone who has never felt real, human emotions will suddenly be experiencing another person’s emotions in the last days of their lives.

The Stitchers pilot missed the mark in some of its characters and dialogue. I found after my second viewing that I might need more convincing if I am going to continue watching the show after the June 2nd premiere. Here’s hoping Stitchers wins over enough fans to continue on ABC Family. I would love to see the show get the chance to reach its fullest potential.

Rating: 2.5/5


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