'Departure' Review: Peacock's thrilling ride about a plane crash drags more than the genre requires
A gripping tale made better by Christopher Plummer and Archie Panjabi's chemistry is sadly rendered a total drag when the story drifts from Flight 716's disappearance after a crash
Spoilers for 'Departure'
There's a reason the 'Final Destination' franchise became such a timeless cult classic. The bloodbath of gore and horror Flight 180's passengers are destined for a gruesome fate even if premonitions saved them from getting on the flight is too thrilling a ride to miss. Granted, they went on to make a six-part franchise out of the first story, but each one of them had its own story that was executed for core fans of the genre to perfection.
It was a story cut out to be a movie, and perforating it with multiple meandering subplots adding political conspiracy and family drama just doesn't make sense. Perhaps that's what doesn't allow Peacock's latest entry — UK thriller 'Departure', to soar the way it should. A gripping tale made better by Christopher Plummer and Archie Panjabi's chemistry is sadly rendered a total drag when the story meanders from Flight 716's shocking disappearance after a crash.
Madeline Strong is the lone survivor and suspicions around her connection to any Muslim person whatsoever is glaring and realistic, but in the end, 'Departure' should have stuck to being a film instead of stretching out meaningless family drama and forced political thriller over the span of 6, 45-minute episodes.
Panjabi plays seasoned investigator Kendra Malley, who is drawn into the job of figuring out what happened to the flight by her long time mentor, Plummer's Howard Lawson. It's obvious, he deems her his prodigy, and the moments between the two are wholesome and gripping enough to hint that Lawson is the mastermind behind the conspiracy to bring the flight down.
But we won't be spoiling the ending for you right here, no, we're kinder than that. Let's just focus on the build-up to the big reveal which, incidentally enough, is also the biggest problem with the series.
Right from the beginning, passengers of Flight 716 are portrayed with an air of mystery. A slice of life here and there, people projected as suspicious simply because they have a Muslim name and innocent little white girls and white older women that one would immediately feel sorry for as we realize all of them are going to die.
There's a troubled co-pilot who keeps getting distracted by text messages, which are revealed to be from his Irish husband whom he shares a newborn baby with, despite having an Asian wife and little daughter in London. Similarly, Madeline, the only woman to survive the crash can later be found floating on the Atlantic on a raft with someone else's bloodstains on it.
Madeline also has a Muslim fiance who had been arrested in the past for protesting with members of the Islamic State, so both are persons of interest. There's also Hassan, a Mossad agent onboard who gets mistaken for another prospective terrorist, because why not. Kendra herself is recovering from the traumatic death of her husband while her 18-year-old stepson AJ can't stop obsessing over an entrepreneur who he thinks is blowing up planes on purpose.
Everyone is a possible suspect in the long, overly drawn-out drama that initiates fire to layer out characters but then doesn't contain the fire and leaves one hanging for a rope out of that mess, that never comes.
Created by Vince Shao, the first episode is dynamic — it has everything to keep one captivated by the mystery of Flight 716 and its passengers. Second episode onwards things start to get a little tedious as relationships and drama float in, slowing things down so bad that even the grand, paced up finale can't help it recover in its entirety. One can't call them bad per se. It's definitely not as bad as the way 'Lost' or even 'Game of Thrones' ended.
However, they are sprinkled with fillers one wouldn't want to indulge in or even feel intrigued by. Compared to them the finale comes as a respite after the fillers have made us completely immune to the thrill of twists. Episode 6 is almost as gripping, in terms of its essence and energy, as the pilot. Viewers are urged towards the mystery finally getting solved as the fourth episode culminates, and in the end, it's not too shabby a job after all.
Predictable character arcs, and equally predictable twists later, what really dwells in the mind is the execution of the pilot and the finale. The fact that it doesn't have the sci-fi, supernatural, or even fantasy elements like its genre counterparts 'Lost' and 'Manifest' showcase is also a breath of fresh air. And while 'Departure' isn't something novel to ponder upon, the series never bores for sure.
Kendra's backstory is open to perception, but her character development is succinct and leaves one sated. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for other primary characters like her male counterpart at work — Dom, who is also a potential love interest, and even Kendra's troubled teen stepson AJ who is most one dimensional as the brooding blonde for the most part.
With so much potential, 'Departure' still tends to feel incomplete and rushed at times, all because of the many loose ends that are unnecessarily, initially, untied. It's lucky the series is coming to the US audience on a streamer because this is definitely not network television material. 'Departure' will be available for streaming with all six episodes from Thursday, September 17, on Peacock.