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Among their midseason offerings, NBC has Deception set to debut this week. The soapy drama offers one part murder mystery and one or two pars rich-family drama that paces itself nicely in its first few episodes, drawing the viewer into the history of this family and the mystery of their daughter's death without overwhelming with details and back-story. The short version of this review: As a fan of primetime soaps (Revenge, Scandal), Deception sets itself up to become another intriguing mystery/drama and after the first three episodes, I'm in enough to want more.
One of the concerns I had about Deception going into the pilot episode was whether or not the promoted murder mystery would be enough to carry the series for more than a few episodes or at longest, the first season. The series, which comes from Liz Heldens, stars Meagan Good as Detective Joanna Locastro, a woman who spent a lot of time during her youth at her best friend Vivian's house, and returns there years later when Vivian dies of an alleged drug overdose, which some believe to be a homicide. With murder as the catalyst for Joanna's return to the Bower household as she quietly (practically undercover) investigates the family in search of clues, the story is set up as a whodunnit. But as Joanna gets reacquainted with the Bower family, she's drawn into their drama bit by bit. And that's where I think Deception will work well long-term, if the writers can keep things organized and well paced.
Worrying about what might happen behind the big reveal might be thinking a bit far ahead, but considering how some shows fizzle after the big mystery is solved (Sorry, Veronica Mars, but you were never as good as your first season), I can't help but question whether a show like Deception will be worth getting into if I feel like I'm only going to get burned by the second season. In that sense, I'm optimistic about Deception, and some of that credit goes to the cast, which includes Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, Laz Olonso, Wes Brown, Katherine LaNasa and Ella Rae Peck.
As the viewers, we come into this show behind Joanna, both curious and wary about the Bowers. After all, one (or more) of them could be responsible for Vivian's death. Tate Donovan's Edward seems like a possible candidate, as he has a sticky past and kind of an unlikable attitude. But is he too obvious a candidate? Perhaps. The same could be said for Vivian's other brother Julian (Wes Brown), who also happens to be Vivian's first love. While he's much more easygoing than Edward, he has kind of a bad-boy reputation and there are other factors that suggest he might know something about what happened to his sister. And then there's Bower family patriarch Robert (Victor Garber), who seems set up as the grieving father, but who knows if that grief isn't really remorse?
And those are just a few of the more front-and-center candidates. It could be anyone, really, and it may not be as cut and dry as one person being responsible for Vivian's death. Understanding what happened to her is part of the overall mystery and as we see numerous flashbacks of Joanna's friendship with Vivian in their childhood and adolescence, it becomes clearer and clearer why she's as motivated as she is to get to the bottom of this, even if it means putting her own life and career on hold to do it. What also begins to unfold is how some of Joanna's memories of those earlier years tie into the things she's looking at now. Her memories of growing up at the Bower house not only aid her in her investigation, but they also play a factor in how she views the family now.
Deception isn't particularly original in what it's setting out to do - introducing us to a rich family with a lot of drama and now a murder on its hands - but the first few episodes suggest that the show will draw us in bit by bit. And that the appeal of the series will extend beyond Vivian's murder, as we come to get to know the family and see the line between investigation and personal history get increasingly blurry and complicated for Joanna as she continues to spend more time with the Bowers. In the end, I think that's what this show will really be about as we watch Joanna reacquaint herself with this family.
I consider it an investment to watch any new series before word of mouth confirms that it's great (and ratings confirm that it'll probably stick around). Dramas set around a central mystery are an even bigger gamble, and that's surely the case for Deception, when you consider that the build-up to the inevitable big reveal might not measure up to the expectations in the end. But when you factor in the likable lead in Good's Joanna, the intriguing and not entirely predicable ensemble of characters and all of the drama that's worked into the plot, Deception gives us a bit more to tune in for beyond the big mystery. In that sense, based on the first few episodes, I think NBC has a winner with this one. Deception is soapy, dramatic and intriguing in all the right ways - especially for those of us who love getting caught up in these types of shows - with a murder mystery to propel the story forward and a lot of family drama to keep it interesting from episode to episode. Be sure to check it out when it premieres Monday, January 7 at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.