Departure marks the final role for Christopher Plummer.
If ever there was a time to watch a show about a plane disappearing with 255 souls on board during a global pandemic that has stopped most air travel, this is it.
New York City. Madelyn Strong (Rebecca Liddiard, Alias Grace), a young doctor, boards Flight 716 to London. She calls her fiancé, London DJ Ali (Shazad Latif, Star Trek: Discovery) and makes small talk with her fellow passengers. In a few hours, she will be floating in the Atlantic Ocean in a half-swamped life raft, the only survivor of Flight 716.
Archie Panjabi (Kalinda from The Good Wife) is Kendra, a lead transport investigator working under Christopher Plummer. She heads up a team that includes a policeman, an MI5 agent and some technical boffins that don’t seem to leave the office. Her job is to find out where the plane is, if there are survivors, and what happened.
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London. Kendra Malley (Archie Panjabi, Run), a legendary aviation investigator, is pulled out of early retirement by her mentor and former boss Howard Lawson (Christopher Plummer, Inside Man). Flight 716 is missing. The families of its passengers want answers about the fate of their loved ones. The British firm that built the aircraft wants its clients not to cancel their massive pending orders. The Prime Minister wants things handled. And so Howard turns to Kendra.
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He’s already assembled a team for her to lead. Former cop Dom (Kris Holden-Ried, The Umbrella Academy), empathetic analyst Levi (Peter Mensah, Spartacus), dive expert Nadia (Tamara Duarte, Wynona Earp), tech whiz Theo (Mark Rendall, The Berenstain Bears) and MI:5 agent Janet (Claire Forlani, The Rock).
Departure’s depiction of what’s being done and how it’s being done is never less than compelling.
The clock is set. Kendra and her crew need to find Flight 716 before any survivors succumb to hypothermia. When Madelyn is rescued, the stakes change. Kendra and company now need to figure out what happened, why it happened and how it happened before the tabloids sink their grubby claws into the disappearance and whip the world into a frenzy. This would be a mighty challenge even for an investigator of Kendra’s skills under the calmest of circumstances.
Flight 716’s vanishing is far from the calmest of circumstances. Captain Donovan (Allan Hawco, Jack Ryan) was behaving erratically before and during the flight. One of the passengers (Emilio Doorgasingh, Kingdom of Heaven) was a member of the Iranian military traveling under an assumed name. A slimily amiable oligarch (Sasha Roiz, Suits) seems terribly amused by the whole thing. As Kendra and her team investigate Flight 716, the questions become a ever-more-complicated spiral. And the answers grow ever more complicated and ever more alarming.
Obviously, a lot of research was done into how and what is investigated when a plane goes down, when and by whom, and the technical aspects of aeronautical engineering.
Departure, created by Vince Shiao (Aftermath), written by him along with Stephanie Tracey, John Krizanc, Malcolm MacRury and Ellen Vanstone and directed by T.J. Scott (Star Trek: Discovery) is a solid mystery/thriller miniseries with a few significant issues that keep it from greatness. One of the key subplots is wildly out of sync with the rest of the series, and the personal lives of Kendra and her team are awkwardly integrated into the storytelling.
The initial stages of the conspiracy investigation are closer to “shaggy” than “vast,” there’s some seriously questionable design work (a conspiracy website that looks like it was designed by a veteran of pop-punk album artwork and a bizarre fake video game), and at times the writing hews far too close to hoary, fearmongering cliches from mid-2000s thrillers in places. Even when it zags away from them, the result is close enough to leave a sour aftertaste.
With that said, there is ultimately more to praise than there is to criticize. Most of Departure’s key players deliver strong performances, its depiction of the investigative process is consistently interesting, there are a number of quiet moments that play quite well, and the later stages of its conspiracy storyline are tense and exciting.
Departure is strongest when it focuses on process.
Obviously, a lot of research was done into how and what is investigated when a plane goes down, when and by whom, and the technical aspects of aeronautical engineering. Plane buffs will be in heaven, but if you’re not, that’s ok; anything that really matters is red-flagged very clearly. This is handy, as there are many twists and turns and possible reasons why the plane went down posited over the first five episodes.
Don’t be put off by the initial, “It’s terrorism! The pilot’s Irish! There’s Muslims onboard!”, it does get a lot better. (Apart from the son. He’s so bad you wish he had been on the plane.)
Departure is strongest when it focuses on process. Whether that’s Kendra and Dom running down a lead or Ali and Madelyn’s father Derek (Evan Buliung, Copper) trying to figure out how to best do right by her, Departure’s depiction of what’s being done and how it’s being done is never less than compelling.
Source: IMDB, Stuff, The Spool
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