Thursday, April 22, 2021

REVIEW: 'Rutherford Falls' - Nathan Demands That His Family History Remain Commemorated in His Hometown in 'Pilot'

Peacock's Rutherford Falls - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Town namesake Nathan Rutherford fights against the relocation of a historical statue depicting his ancestor, with help from his best friend Reagan.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Peacock's Rutherford Falls.

"Pilot" was written by Ed Helms, Michael Schur & Sierra Teller Ornelas and directed by Lawrence Sher

Nathan Rutherford is devoted to the preservation of his family's history. That history also happens to be deeply imbedded in the town of Rutherford Falls, New York. His ancestor founded this town. A statue was made to commemorate the exact place where he brokered the deal with the local Indigenous tribe. This family has long had influence in this town. The Rutherford name traditionally brings respect. However, this obsession of the history defines absolutely everything for Nathan. He cannot tolerate others trying to change the narrative or disrupt what has long been preserved in this place. It's a time for reckoning though. The mayor is on a mission to move the statue honoring Nathan's ancestor. It has become a public safety hazard. Cars keep driving right into it. The spot doesn't have to be solely commemorated through this statue either. The deal Nathan wants to preserve can find some new way to reflect the legacy of this town and his family's long history within it. This doesn't have to be blown into this epic fight. That's exactly what occurs though. Nathan has the potential to listen to reason. However, he is still mostly a selfish white guy who believes everyone should care more about his history than anything else in this town. He believes he can deflect any accusations of racism or being wrong simply because his best friend happens to be an Indigenous woman. He absolutely helps her from time to time. He encourages her dreams. He lifts up the idea of her cultural center. He champions it. More often than not though, Reagan serves as the person to co-sign on Nathan's actions. It's only after the fact that the friends realize just how crazy and offensive all of this can be. Now, Nathan and Reagan have been friends for a long time. Their dynamic is lived in. That is apparent right away in this premiere. It's also clear that the advice he gives her doesn't always apply because they have different lived experiences. He is accustomed to things working out simply because he states what he wants and it happens for him. With Reagan, she has to fight hard. She has to create a compelling presentation. Even then, the tribe only has so many resources. Terry may not be invested in the cultural center. He simply sees a spark within Reagan. That's enough to intrigue him. Moreover, he states the many productive things the casino is already providing for their community. Reagan sees the value in also honoring the past. It's something that this town needs. Right now, the cultural center is confused for a gift shop within the casino. It's not a place of honor and respect. Reagan wants her history to be told. It's a great story that has been covered up throughout history. Now is the time to recognize that. Other narratives continue to take the priority over that. Instead of fighting for this project, she has to talk some sense into Nathan. She has to convince him that the best idea is to move the statue so that he can become an active participant in the Rutherford family history. He will no longer be the curator of this story. He can leave his own mark on the town. Instead, he explodes during the Founder's Day celebration. He decides to double down in his stance out of spite. This isn't the most pressing issue in town. It's still emblematic of the longterm clashes amongst cultures throughout this country's history. It's a fascinating take on respecting the past while trying to remain in the present. It's also funny. Some of the big pieces are still moving into place. Terry's secret project remains mysterious. Meanwhile, Dustin Milligan's reporter is just learning about Rutherford Falls following Nathan's viral video. He doesn't even know where this town is or why any of this is potentially important. This is a solid debut though. One that isn't afraid to make its lead character unlikable and selfish. Those monstrous qualities aren't all that Nathan is. He simply has never been challenged in his views. People roll their eyes or dismiss his perspective because it's essentially harmless. He has no real power in this town. This story may force a reckoning though. He and Reagan will reflect on their friendship and what they want to achieve in this community. They want to make a difference. Of course, that means different things to different people as well. They may not always come together either. Again, those differences are clear. Hopefully, it can spark a meaningful conversation too while still offering more specificity to this world and its characters.