Monday, July 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'People of Earth' - Ozzie and Gina Try to Reassemble StarCrossed in 'New Beginnings'

TBS' People of Earth - Episode 2.01 "New Beginnings"

After learning the members of StarCrossed were on the ship as kids, Ozzie tries to get the group back together. Disgraced FBI agent Alex Foster is sent to Beacon to investigate white-collar criminal Jonathan Walsh. A merger takes place on the ship and the aliens are under new management. Don and Kelly go to visit his "dying mother" in Iceland.

People of Earth had such a strong and confident first season. It knew exactly what it wanted to be and made sure it was funny and entertaining throughout all of it. It's a show with an overarching mythology that connects the characters together in an important way. But it's fun in the moment and does an amusing job imagining the aliens as a typical workplace environment. That's been so wonderful to watch. The aliens are just as human as the human characters are. They are capable of being really funny, vindictive and emotional. They may have more of the answers but they aren't frustrating characters to watch. All of this is for some grander purpose. The idea of the mothership coming to Earth was a huge cliffhanger at the end of the first season. And now, the show returns with a nice twist on that plot that ensures it won't change the fundamental nature of the show. The members of StarCrossed are still working together to get the truth about what's been happening to them for their entire lives. Meanwhile, the aliens will be fighting against a corporate structure to actually accomplish something. Something that may be beneficial to the main mission or not. They have to meet quotas just like everyone else. That's a fascinating place to pick up in the second season. Nothing has really changed. But the confidence is still there that makes the show so great to watch.

It seems like a daunting task for the show to introduce a new alien species after already creating so many wonderful characters in that corner of this world. And yet, Eric the Cube is immediately entertaining. There was no cause for concern because this creative team knows what's funny in this concept. It's a great idea that the mission has changed due to a corporate merger that Jeff, Don, Kurt and Walsh didn't know about at all. The mission has changed and is now emphasizing teamwork. That's a funny prospect especially as the various aliens have all gone separate ways with different agendas. Eric is immediately able to figure that out as well because he can simply scan someone in order to tell that they are lying. That's a powerful and important skill set that could prove to be quite meaningful this season. He's the new alien in charge on the spaceship. But it's also just great that he's new to dealing with the human race. As such, Gerry is a bit of a guinea pig of sorts. He believes he was finally taken after believing he was special for so long. All of that has now been confirmed. That's what makes the punchline of Jeff just hitting the quota for the month so awesome. Plus, Eric gets to be the alien to deliver the comforting line to the human during this chaotic time. It all works in a way that sets up for a great story this season.

Of course, the humans get a new character as well in the form of FBI Special Agent Alex Foster. Her introduction is a little more expositional. As such, she isn't as effective as Eric. But Nasim Pedrad is a very funny performer who is able to bring an energy to the role that fits in well with the rest of the show. Foster is a disgraced agent trying to come back after accidentally shooting herself in the foot. That's a surprising joke that goes against how tough and skilled she is. She can do this job but she's very eager to prove herself to her bosses as quickly as possible. She's willing to throw herself into this case. And yet, she thinks it's a joke meant to punish her. She doesn't take it seriously when she listens to the police tape of Officer Glimmer interviewing Richard and hearing him talk about aliens. She doesn't know that aliens exist. And so, she sees this as a joke case. Of course, the audience knows it is so much more than that. Jonathan Walsh is the target in her investigation. He's an alien who is willing to expose the existence of aliens to the human race. He wants to do that in order to protect Ozzie. But the premiere ends on a cliffhanger of Foster showing up at Glimmer's house wanting to look around and Walsh and Nancy inside only half put together. It's a tense moment to end on. But it seems doubtful that they will be exposed this early into the season.

The rest of the premiere is largely about getting the group back together. They were kicked out of the church near the end of last season. But now, that's easily fixed because of Chelsea's romantic dynamic with Father Doug. Kelly was traveling to Iceland with Don in order to visit his "sick mother." That's a major subplot in "New Beginnings." It's fascinating to see how long Don is able to keep this ruse going. It's not surprising that it all ends horribly for him. He didn't have a plan going into this trip. He just wanted to spend as much time with Kelly as possible. He's in love with her. It's amusing when he's practicing how to come out to her as an alien in the bathroom of the hospital. But it all ends disastrously while he's in there. So, she is able to return to Beacon and StarCrossed while he is beamed back up to the ship to face Jeff and Eric. It's a move to put them back into familiar positions for the season. And yet, they will be changed by their time together. Don has had his heart broken and won't be an effective employee for the mission. Meanwhile, Kelly will once again be coping with the fact that she was with a guy who didn't turn out to be good for her. That's been a pattern for her that has been very self-destructive. Will she change because of it? Or will she be fine once she's back with the group?

Right now, it's proven that the group needs each other and can really help each other through a crisis. The first season ended with the major bombshell that many of them have been abducted by aliens for many years. Ozzie and Gina are the only ones who truly know that. So they need to share it with the rest of the group in order to get them back to StarCrossed. Of course, that mission is wrapped up with trying to help Richard through his traumatized grieving process. His relationship with Nancy wasn't real. He just projected a lot onto it. But now, he's afraid that anyone in his life could explode at any moment. It's an unnerving time for him. He's having nightmares and only finds comfort sleeping next to Margaret's bed. He can't even find the motivation to get up and walk. He needs to snap out of this because he's always been one of the more passionate members of StarCrossed. He believes in the conspiracy. He believes that reptilians have infiltrated every major component of society. He knows that Walsh is an alien. His expertise is needed. It just takes the group coming to him with all their newfound information to motivate him into returning to his former self. Sure, Gina's rousing speech starts strong and quickly goes off the rails. But that's a lot of fun too. It's the show just bringing everything back together for the new season. But it's done in such a strong and funny way that it works really well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "New Beginnings" was written by David Jenkins and directed by Ian Fitzgibbon.
  • Yvonne is the only one who seems to be worried about Gerry's absence. That seems about right. Ozzie and Gina did try to bring him back to the group in the finale. But they aren't concerned about his whereabouts. He's simply going through a lot right now and will show up eventually. So, no one is concerned that he's actually been abducted.
  • Despite self-destructing, Nancy is still capable of being rebuilt. That's what Walsh is trying to do right now. He's focusing more on her than trying to fix his disguise so he can go out into the world again. Plus, Nancy is her own being again. She's no longer under Jeff's control and trying to kill Gina.
  • Of course, Walsh wasn't able to pick up all of the pieces of Nancy left behind in Gina's apartment. A finger was left on the floor. A finger that Gina quickly vacuums up without even noticing. So, that's a plot point that is just waiting to be revealed at some point this season to help the group confirm the existence of aliens to skeptics.
  • Ozzie keeps calling Walsh to ask him questions about being abducted as a kid. He still has his phone number and it still works too! That's surprising. The two of them haven't spoken yet. It will be interesting when they do too. The story could be pushed in a number of intriguing directions as a result. 
  • Richard's one condition on returning to StarCrossed is being able to collect blood samples from the other members and pull on their faces from time to time. Everyone is cool with the blood draws but wish to draw a line with the face pulling. That's an invasion of privacy they can't tolerate.