On Wednesday, CBS decided that they wanted to do The Following, CBS-style and brought on the challenge of getting its newbie Stalker off the ground running.
Stalker follows Detective Beth Davis (Maggie Q) as she runs her division of stalker investigations, with new transfer Det. Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott) shadowing Davis and learning the ropes before he handles his own cases. I’ll cut to the character-chase here too: Davis is being stalked (and apparently for a long time) and Larsen is a stalker (well, of his own family).
This show has gotten a lot of hate from critics for two main reasons, the first being completely silly. Critics have said the show is exploitative and misogynist. I’m going to silence those critics with one sentence: If you’re okay with Law & Order: SVU, then you’ve lost all power to say that. How can this show be exploitative and misogynist, yet a show about sex crimes involving rape victims, child pornography, and worse is completely fine by everyone? Sorry. Your reasoning is invalid.
The second reason is that the show is just ridiculous. Well, okay. I’m not going to disagree on that point too much. But I think critics hated on the show a bit too much due to its content. I think the show, while there are some plot holes, was entertaining. Could a show like this continue for a long time? That is up in the air.
Maggie Q pretty much perfected her role as Detective Davis, playing a character who had been doing this a long time (perhaps too long), understanding what the victims were going through, so she connected very well (perhaps too well) with the cases. You could say that her personal issues (with someone stalking her) motivated her to solve cases more aggressively than anyone else, which sums up the reason she runs the division with a down-to-business attitude. However, I really liked Detective Larsen’s methods. He knew the psychology of the victims, presented well when he broke down how scared the victim was just by seeing the placement of her furniture (that was a little cool). Larsen was incredible observant, even of Davis. I’m usually not a fan of Dylan McDormott, but he was actually pretty watchable in this pilot. Plus, both character’s outside lives got me curious and asking questions about who Davis was afraid of and who Larsen could become.
Now, there were some plot issues. The deaths in the show felt exaggerated. I mean, the opening scene ended with a car exploding because some guy dumped gasoline on a car. Second, the idea that a stalker would be so evil to pour gasoline on the victims and light them on fire is just too far. The show should be showing an honest portrayal of what a stalker would do upon certain situations; but instead became more about scaring viewers. For that to be accomplished, believability had to be sacrificed. While I liked the eerie way they presented the show (watching the victim from above, the reveal that there were two guys stalking instead of just one, the tunnel on the floor; I mean, it was pure genius on creator Kevin Williamson’s part), it was all just too far from believability. Do people stalk others: absolutely! Do they create a crawl space above your bed? Most likely not. Do they create an underground tunnel into your home? That’s where the believability went away for me.
On a slightly serious note, critics have said Stalker could spark many people to start stalking. I don’t think it’s a silly thought, but if a show had that much power, then we should cancel Game of Thrones, Revenge, and Law & Order: SVU with Criminal Intent, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. Of course, these are serious crimes. But we don’t take entertainment shows seriously. That’s all it is. Now, that aside…
Could this show retain an audience for more than one season? There was a quote I really liked where Davis explains how the high-achieving victim wouldn’t complain about a stalker because it would be a sign of weakness and how she would just try to ignore him, “it’s very human to dismiss a stalker; or worse, to accept it as part of your daily life”. And you could tell that Det. Davis was talking about herself. The entire episode is laced with those types of moments, and you know she has just accepts her stalker now. You feel bad for her. But is that really enough to get people to return to a show like this? I think it won’t. I don’t think people are too curious to figure out who’s stalking Davis or if Larsen will become an evil stalker.
After watching the pilot, I can understand how people wouldn’t want to watch the show. With American Horror Story or The Following, you know it’s not really happening to people. Stalker hits a little too close to home. But it’s unfair to dismiss it because of that. Its content is solid and the acting (well, everyone but the two supporting detectives) is very exceptional. Scene editing could use some work, and the Davis-Larsen banter should improve over episodes. But overall, Stalker ain’t so bad. It just, understandably, rubs you the wrong way. And I’m sure that’s what Kevin Williamson wanted all along.