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Mind Games Review: "Pilot"

Marissa Tandon ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Gregory Marcel, Wynn Everett, Christian Slater, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Cedric Sanders in the pilot of Mind Games. Photo Credit: Matt Dinerstein / ABC.
Gregory Marcel, Wynn Everett, Christian Slater, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Cedric Sanders in the pilot of Mind Games. Photo Credit: Matt Dinerstein / ABC.

Imagine there was something you desperately needed or desired (a life saving operation, maybe, or a college admissions decision) and the outcome of your situation depended on the say of another person—someone you’ve never met, who has no connection to you. What if you knew they were going to say no…and what if someone told you that, for a nominal fee, they could change that person’s answer without them ever knowing it wasn’t their own idea in the first place?

It sounds a bit like the 2010 hit film Inception, but the Edwards brothers do not require any sort of machine or dream space to pull off their “Jedi mind tricks.” In ABC’s upcoming new drama Mind Games, the Edwards brothers, Clark (Steve Zahn) and Ross (Christian Slater) run the consulting firm Edwards and Associates. Using tactics grounded in science and psychology, their firm aims to change the minds of influential decision makers by subtly altering the way they think.

Clark boasts in the pilot episode, “We change people’s minds without them knowing we did it.” As in many shows, each member of the Edwards and Associates team fits into their own role. The brains of the operation fall to Clark, the bipolar, erratic academic. He is the younger of the two brothers, and that shows greatly in his interactions with Ross.

Viewers will quickly learn, however, that Ross may not be exactly the calm and grounding older brother that Clark needs. With his criminal history in con-artistry and penchant for get-rich-quick schemes, Ross’ personal priorities are a bit more entrepreneurial than his younger brother’s. Ross’ way of operating in the gray area of morality may become a central issue throughout the series if the pilot is an indicator. Ross’ willingness to bend the rules for an end result he deems worthy enough will not only create tension with his brother and co-workers, but his choices will also leave viewers questioning their own moral compass. With sympathetic cases that easily pull at heartstrings, viewers will find that they may be comfortable suspending their sense of morality—and sometimes even legality—along with Ross if it means a favorable outcome for the clients.

Steve Zahn in the pilot of Mind Games. Photo Credit: Matt Dinerstein / ABC.
Steve Zahn in the pilot of Mind Games. Photo Credit: Matt Dinerstein / ABC.

The brains behind the operation fall to Clark, a borderline genius and bipolar academic professor with a terrible bedside manner. Clark approaches all situations—social and professional—from a calculated, scientific view. This quality is great from the professional standpoint; it allows Clark to carefully work his way through a presented case and find the best possible course of action for a favorable outcome, using his thorough knowledge of how the human brain and personality psychology to bend people to his will. Interestingly enough, Clark’s knowledge of what makes a person tick is strictly intellectual.

When it comes to interacting with people himself, Clark is almost endearingly incapable, treating his relationships with other people as more of a science experiment than a human interaction. Clark comes off almost Sherlockian in terms of his clear and calculated views of humanity and interactions, though his personality is much more extreme, and his heart undoubtedly larger. It is introduced early on that Clark does not like staying on his medication for his bipolar disorder, claiming that the drugs dull his brain and therefore his ability to do his work. It is safe to say that the gesticulating, manic demeanor will stay throughout the show.

ABC’s Mind Games isn’t a perfect television show; it does fall prey to the a-case-per-episode formulaic pattern of shows like Law & Order, Psych, and Bones. Mind Games’ gems come in the form of their characters and relationships, and how those characters break the mold of the generally overdone case-centric show formula. With two strong, interesting, and different lead characters backed by a diverse ensemble cast, Mind Games has the potential to make the case-by-case episode structure work in its favor. The formula has been successful for some shows, such as USA’s Suits. So far, Mind Games seems to be taking the approach of making the client’s cases secondary to the overarching plot and character development.

Mind Games premieres on February 25th, and the intriguing concept and unique characters definitely make it worth a watch.

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