And now we have Falling Water, a bizarre new drama about supernatural lucid dreaming. USA has called it a “statement show,” which means it’s probably meant to bring the kind of cultish following that Mr. Robot did for the onetime formula-driven network. Promising a web of Jungian symbolism, Lynchian surrealism, and Abrams-y subterfuge, but nearly no compelling characters, little narrative cohesion, and blah cinematographic vision, it represents the preposterous pinnacle for the if-you-confuse-them-they-will-come trend.
The series opens on a not-entirely-inviting note with an extended shot of Lizzie Brocheré’s character Tess screaming in agony. She’s giving birth, but then the attending nurse tells her there’s no baby. This idea of a disappeared kid is mystery No. 1 for viewers and dream-obsession No. 1 for Tess, a trend-spotter who spends part of her waking hours asking doctors if they, one more time, would mind checking whether she’s ever given birth. Her storyline gives first entree into the larger mythos of the series when the billionaire Bill Boerg (Zak Orth) offers to help her find her maybe-imaginary child if she’ll take part in sleep experiments that prove people can walk in and out of one anothers’ dreams. Brocheré’s quiet, repressedly jittery performance is one of the few intrinsically memorable things about the show, and her character is an appealing superhero of sorts, perceptive and reserved.
The other two principals are David Ajala as Burton, a perceptive and reserved security expert at a Wall Street firm, and Will Yun Lee as Taka, a—yes—perceptive and reserved cop. Maybe it’s the lead trio’s shared personality traits that have somehow brought them into contact with their world’s weirder side, or maybe their similarity is just a result of the same tropeish writing that dictates most of the series’ scenes take place in austere rooms echoing with humorless dialogue. For now, it’s a meta-mystery: The three episodes I’ve seen have barely unraveled these characters significance beyond their confused interactions with what appears to be an interdimensional conspiracy involving a dead rock singer’s forgotten album, a Belgian ambassador, and a cult that wears green sneakers.
The story is told in dream logic, slipping between scenes in the waking world and the unconscious one with apparent disregard for classic storytelling norms about suspense or narrative cause-and-effect. In this age of flowering television creativity, perhaps USA expects the experimental technique to be applauded. But something’s obviously gone awry when you have an unintroduced character giving unprompted voiceovers throughout the pilot spelling out the concept of the show (dreams are real, connected, and the site of some sort of conflict upon which the fate of humanity may or may not depend).