The ABC series Zero Hour had its finale on Saturday. I'd watched the pilot episode and thought it was absolutely wonderful. (I was in the vast minority, alas, it turned out...) I thought it was extremely well done -- a great production and well-acted, with smart writing. The premise was sort of fun, too, though hugely silly and convoluted. But it was handled intelligently. So, I turned in for the second week -- and enjoyed that, as well. However, I'm not big on series where I have to watch each week, or I'd fall behind, meaning you almost have to watch every episode, like it or not, or you risk getting too lost. So, I stopped watching.
It turns out that most of America stopped watching even before me, but that's largely because they didn't like it. I, at least, did. But then, ABC to its credit (or perhaps because they had a lot of money invested in it -- it was an ABC Films production and clearly extremely expensive with great production values and shot all over the world) brought it back over the summer for the last 10 episodes.
I decided to take a look again, starting with the final seven, and was glad I did. It took me a while to catch up, but I figured it out eventually. I missed some of the plot -- including a subplot that involved a Secret Service agent played by Grace Gummer, Meryl Streep's daughter, a talented actress who's appeared on Broadway -- but reasonably soon I got a good enough handle on things, even with some holes in my knowledge of what was going on.
It really was terrific, and I'm glad I watched it this way. (I think I'd have gotten frustrated waiting for the end during a whole season.) But as silly as the premise was, the writing was sharp and handled it well. The acting was solid -- most especially star Anthony Edwards and the cryptic heavy Michael Nyqvist, who starred in the original Danish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels -- and the production was first-class.
Except for the last episode. Which was insane. (The second to the last episode should have given me a hint: in a fortress, full of armed guards everywhere, THE most important person being held there as a captive -- a man with a key to the resurrection of Christ -- is able to escape because the one place they decided not to have a guard is outside his room. Or anywhere on the hall.)
But that was a mere pittance. You could almost accept that if you try hard. Let's get to the last episode. And let's even forget for a moment all the issues there that made little sense. Illogical, random and overly convenient occurrences. (For example, a character has been kidnapped into the middle of literally nowhere, and they find her because someone has a dream. No, really.) But let's forget about all that and just focus on one thing only --
Here's a show about the End of Days. The clock ticking down to Zero Hour. Two religious sides, the mysterious Shepherds and the zealot Pirates, battling each other. Resurrecting Jesus Christ. Biblical predictions. The fate of Mankind. And as the story builds to its sturm-und-drang culmination, and all our concerns after an entire season center on God Almighty, the Afterlife, the monster beast, the past overlapping with the present, religion colliding with science, billions of people earth at risk, and all of time, the big plot point -- as the monastery is crumbling, the earth and sky are in turmoil, life as we know it is in balance -- is whether they can get 12 virgins (who we've never seen before this episode) out to safety.
I'm not kidding. That's what it was. Even down to the line, "I've got to go back in there and get them."
Now, mind you, I'm all for saving virgins, but the attention paid to this, after everything else at stake for an entire season was bizarre. In fact, I'm not sure if they were even officially virgins, since they're sort of introduced to another character as "orphans." But they did have the official virgin gear of white diaphanous robes, they were described as having the right sort of makeup pleasing to God for carrying His child, indeed the very reason they all were there was as potential mothers for the resurrected seed of Jesus -- of which being an orphan never struck me as a qualification, and honestly I've never heard of the Orphan Mary. Or the Blessed Orphan.
I think that was because they threw in a twist in the second-to-last episode where one of the main characters is kidnapped at the last moment to join them, and they didn't probably think the audience would buy her as a virgin, though it turns out she was an orphan, too! Though, considering that the bad guys had been planning this End of Days plot for 2,000 years, and had already gotten all of their virg...sorry, orphans ready in a room with their robes and everything, raising them since they were children, it seems like really horrible planning to grab one more "orphan" at the very last minute, just in case.
It gets worse. The whole premise of the show is that they had to stop one, specific thing from happening, or else the world and time would end. But the thing is...that very thing actually happens. And not only does the world not end, but because of it everything is all very beatific and peaceful.
It was all just sort of idiotic, if you didn't grasp that point by now. Mind you, I know it's hard to wrap up such an epic of, literally, biblical proportions in a truly satisfying way, when you've thrown in so many grand issues. But the thing is, these writers had shown they were up to it. Everything leading to the last episode was smart, clever, thoughtful and interesting, and intricately plotted. But when it came to the last episode -- and believe me, there were a lot more things amiss in the plotting there than the virg... orphans -- God only knows what they were doing.
Too bad, because the rest of the series was quite good. It was set up at the end in a clever way to continue the show, had it been renewed, but alas that won't be. It's probably not for everyone (no "probably" about it, since it was cancelled after about three episodes), but if you ever get around to renting the series on DVD, much of it is great fun -- just be prepared to roll your eyes and sigh a lot in the last episode...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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