In the first scene of USA Network’s new show Falling Water, a woman dreams of being in labour and delivering a child that, she is told by the nursing staff, does not exist. Except this is not the first time she is having this dream, and the child she sees in it remains the same. The child also makes appearances in the dreams of two other people: a security officer for a Wall Street firm and a New York Police Department detective.
USA Network is the producer of the cult hit Mr Robot, and with Falling Water, the network is hoping for another success. Setting a sci-fi thriller in the land of dreams might just do the trick, its mix of intimacy and horror offering the kind of narrative tautness on which good television thrives.
Tess (Lizzie Brochere) is the woman who dreams of her unborn child. She has a history of mental illness, related to an episode that has given her keen powers of perception. She is hired by consumer goods companies to spot the latest ideas before they become trends, and her record shows she is very good at her job. However, the central misery of her life is the dreams of the child and what they point towards.
Burton (David Ajala) works on Wall Street and is deputed to clean the mess after one of the partners at his firm kills himself because of faulty trading. A mysterious organisation called Topeka is believed to be involved, and it is left to Burton to ensure that the fallout of the scandal does not spread to his firm. Meanwhile, he is an avid walker of dream land himself, conducting a torrid, if mostly silent, relationship with a woman who too does not seem to exist in the real world.
The third arc belongs to Taka (Will Yun Lee), the police officer who is called upon to investigate the death of a woman whose house turns out to be the site of a mass cult suicide. When he first chances upon the dead bodies, Taka reads “Topeka” scrawled in bold letters on the walls of the house, giving readers hope of an interconnected mesh of stories that have a common core and, in all probability, resolution. Like the others, Taka too suffers privately: he has a catatonic mother who peoples his dreams along with the child from Tess’ dreams.
If all this sounds too confusing, it is not. The first season is 10 episodes long, and the two episodes broadcast thus far are engaging. The three central characters are charismatic performers who bring a pleasing vulnerability to the surreal goings-on around them. The series features a billionaire who is keen to commercialise what he sees as the vast potential of the interconnected real estate of our dreams, in a nice play on how the most preciously mysterious things become beholden to the idiosyncrasies of their age.
Created by the team behind HBO’s The Walking Dead, Falling Water makes for promising television even when the narrative crawls to a speed that may tax the most patient viewer. It is the kind of show – Twin Peaks is another example that comes to mind – that throws a bunch of annoyingly tangled narratives at you and then goes about untangling every knot to fashion a satisfying denouement. If viewers find the perseverance to sit through this exercise, they are likely to be rewarded.