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Bionic Woman - Pilot episode reviewed

Michelle Ryan in The Bionic Woman

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from the latest television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the pilot episode of The Bionic Woman.

What’s the story? Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) is a normal, hard-working woman caring for her younger sister and managing a love relationship. Her life is complicated further after she is involved in a horrendous car accident, leaving her with injuries so severe she can only be saved using bionic body parts with amazing abilities beyond Jaime’s control.

What’s the verdict? The current trend for reviving past TV hits continues with this slick update of The Bionic Woman that finds former EastEnders star Michelle Ryan stepping into the bionic body parts once occupied by Lindsay Wagner [in the late 70s]. Trouble is, an incoherent plot, under-developed characters and some dodgy camera-work meant that this has a lot of work to do to convince UK viewers it was unfairly cancelled in America.

Digging a little deeper: Yep, you read that right. Bionic Woman has already been cancelled in the US, which makes the prospect of tuning in to ITV2’s flagship import something of a thankless prospect. Either we concur and switch off, or we become engrossed and are left wanting more of something we clearly can’t have.

On the strength of the pilot episode, it’ll probably be the former. Despite the best efforts of Michelle Ryan (who proved herself both physically capable and more than comfortable with an American accent), Bionic Woman failed to grip in the way that the very best shows should.

For the outset, the pilot placed spectacle before logic and was found wanting straight away. The opening scene involved a shady Japanese guy (Will Yun Lee) executing a bionic woman, Sarah Corvus (Katee Sackhoff) who had clearly gone out of control on a killing spree. The two had history because he declared his love for her before pulling the trigger for a second time.

Three years later and no sooner had Jaime (Ryan) declared to her older lover, Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), that she was pregnant, then the two found themselves in a disastrous car crash that cost Jaime an eye, an arm and both legs. Will saved her by taking her back to the secret organisation he worked for and attaching the bionic parts – but it quickly became clear that he was the target of the car crash and that the driver was the not-so-dead Sarah Corvus.

At which point the first plot anomaly became clear: having been seen in flashback checking her handiwork, why didn’t Sarah finish off her target and kill Jaime to boot? Answers on a postcard please…

Jaime, for her part, seemed unimpressed by the life-saving procedure, especially since she was then kept against her will to be part of a military experiment with Gulf War connections. But after being helped to escape by Will, she warmed to the idea of playing the game, especially after Sarah got back in touch.

The episode ended with yet another failed assassination attempt on Will’s life (again by Sarah) and a climactic face-off between the two bionic babes – one blonde, the other brunette. For added effect, this took place at night and in the rain. But once again, we were left to ponder why Sarah proved such an inept assassin, or how she would allow Jaime to gain the upper hand with fewer physical attributes (she only had one bionic arm to Sarah’s two).

By the time the two girls had finished bitch-slapping each other around the rooftop and gone their separate ways, Jaime had decided to take part in the programme and told her new boss, Jonas Bledsoe (Miguel Ferrer), that she was ready to comply – on her terms. To which, Jonas looked incredulous – as did we.

Where Bionic Woman goes from this point is anyone’s guess but the omens don’t appear good. It’s a little too self-important to really have fun with and there’s an over-emphasis on action set pieces more than building strong characters. Logic appears to play no part either, in spite of the ridiculous nature of the premise. So, what should have been a guilty pleasure, proved a dull and frustrating experience that offered few rewards for the viewer.

As for Ryan, it’s clear that she has the potential to build a strong career, so long as she’s given the right material. This is a far cry from her EastEnders days and not really a stretch – although it should have got her noticed by American audiences. It remains to be seen whether she’s given a second opportunity (in film or TV) but finding out could well be the more interesting prospect than keeping up with this ill-fated show.

What did you think?