Warning: Spoiler Alert
Many times one walks away from watching a pilot episode of a series, one walks away intrigued. One likes the premise, the acting and writing and see possibilities for the series down the road. Very few times, has this viewer walked away from a pilot, enjoying every aspect of it, and counting the days to the next episode. ABC, has at least one confirmed fan of their new Tuesday night series “Forever,” as it maybe the most satisfying opening story that I’ve witnessed in quite a while. Although the series will not make its television debut, until September 23, the network is streaming the pilot, so you can get a sneak-peak.
Managing Editor Jason Jones and I, have seen lots of ads for shows over the last couple of years, that we’ve come to label as “Great Concept, Lousy Execution.” The major networks, as well as their cable competitors, come up with this tremendous premise, then they just drop the ball. Sometimes that initial concept, has created hits for their creators, even with falling short of the potential. I’m pleased to say, that “Forever,” may have surpassed my highest expectations.
The series stars Ioan Gruffudd, who played Reed Richards in the “Fantastic Four” movies, but without the gray temples, or stretching ability. Apparently Gruffudd, has a pretty huge fan-base, here in the States and they will get ecstatic about his performance in this series, as he comes off as gallant and a charmer in the role.
We meet Gruffudd’s character walking on a crowded Manhattan street as he heads for the subway. He introduces himself in a voice-over; “My name is Henry Morgan. My story is a long one. It might sound a bit implausible. In fact you probably won’t believe me. But I’ll tell you anyway, because beyond all else, I have lots and lots of time.”
He climbs aboard the subway car and takes a seat next to an attractive, blonde, young woman and greets her in Russian. Looking puzzled, she responds in her native tongue and asks Morgan, how he realized she was Russian. He replies that she had a dab of a certain brand of Russian chocolate near her mouth, which she rubs off. He then wishes her good luck in her performance and now she’s truly shocked. Once again she questions his powers of deduction and he explains, that the indentations on her fingers suggest she play a stringed instrument. They’re two wide apart for a violin to have made them, so she plays the cello. He then says the moisture on her collar, told him that she recently showered, meaning she was going to work, or out on a date. He tells her she’s far too beautiful to take the subway for a date.
So exactly who is Henry Morgan? Is he a NYPD Detective, a private-eye, or possibly a member of the FBI or CIA? The woman’s impressed and possibly smitten, as she invites Morgan to the concert and for drinks after the show. He replies that’s perfect, which were the last words the woman heard as the subway crashed, killing all the passengers in their car, except for Morgan. He’s conscious and trying to reach his pocket-watch, on the floor nearby, when we go back in time via a flashback from Morgan.
We travel back 200-years and find ourselves on a slave-boat, traveling from Africa to the USA, Morgan’s the ship’s doctor and he’s examining one of the captives. He tells the crew members, that the man has a fever but’s without infectious disease and will soon be well. The leader of the group, possibly the vessel’s captain says the captive has Cholera and they will throw him from the ship to a watery grave. The doctor tells the man he can’t allow that to happen and the man responds with a bullet killing Morgan, or so it seems. As his body got thrown into the ocean, he came back to life and has died many times over the last 200 years, but always revives in a body of water and nude. Which occurs after this accident and Morgan tries being discreet as possible until arrested by two of New York’s Finest.
He’s released from jail the following morning and waiting for him in his car’s his longtime companion Abe, (Judd Hirsch) who Morgan tells us in a voiceover is the only one who knows his secret and that fate brought them together. The elderly man tells his companion, even considering he died the night before and spent the rest of the night behind bars, he looked terrible. Morgan responds he looks the same as always, whether it’s terrible or not.
Abe owns what looks like an antique store and both men live above the shop. He asks Henry to join him at the opera that evening, to commemorate his first death in a subway accident, but Morgan refuses. The old man tells him that he’s avoided death, but he really hasn’t lived for a long time. He motions to a 5×7 black and white picture of a beautiful blonde woman and says that his companion hasn’t allowed anyone to get close to him since Abigail, the name of the woman in the photograph.
NYPD officers investigate the crash and Detective Jo Martinez, (Alana De La Garza) gets told they’ve tried to contact her for hours, but she says she overslept. Her superior Lieutenant Marcia Roarke, (Barbara Eve Harris) tells the detective that the initial investigation suggests that the subway conductor suffered a heart-attack at the controls, but if the autopsy shows the conductor was drinking, it’s a homicide investigation. Martinez tells the Lieutenant, that she’ll head to the medical examiner’s office, who we soon find out is Henry Morgan. Which does make sense, who’d be better at determining cause of death, than a man that’s died numerous ways?
Martinez meets Morgan and his associate Lucas, (Joel David Moore) kind of dorky, bearded guy in his mid-thirties, who asks the detective if she wants a Latte or a fruit smoothie, which she politely declines. Henry tells the detective he’s sorry for her loss and she responds she didn’t lose anybody in the crash. The medical examiner explains he was referring to her husband, as her ring finger’s discolored and she wears her wedding band on a chain around her neck. Morgan’s just about to examine the conductor as Martinez arrived, and shortly after splitting open the corpse’s chest, he determines the man died from poison, due to the froth on his lungs. The detective asks if the medical examiner’s saying that poison definitively caused the conductor’s death , but Morgan tells her that he can’t say for sure until they get the results from the lab, which could take three-weeks. Lucas, however explains that Morgan’s rarely wrong, sometimes he can determine cause of death just looking at a body.
The phone rings and Lucas answers it, telling Morgan it’s for him from a man who identified himself as a friend. As Henry goes into his office to take the call, the other medical examiner says that Morgan doesn’t have friends, they’ve worked together for three-years and he barely knows him. As Henry takes the call, he soon realizes the caller knows his secret. He fakes his way through the conversation, but the other man realizes he’s lying. When he arrives home he tells Abe, that they have to pack up and leave, wait until the man dies and then they can return, however Abe replies he’d never make it back to New York. He convinces Morgan to calm down and that they’ll get through this crisis.
Abe arrives the next evening to pickup Henry, but the pair get surprised to find squad-cars and police officers swarming the shop. Morgan’s taken down to the station by Martinez, who tells him that they found all sorts of creepy stuff in his secret hideaway, including human organs and bondage equipment. She tells him they’ve investigated his past, he went to medical school in Guam and had been a gravedigger before entering school. Martinez then tells him she knows he was on that train, as she saw him on surveillance footage. She then says she thinks he poisoned the conductor and then traveled to the back of the train before the crash.
The Lieutenant and other detectives are viewing the interrogation on monitors and everybody gasps a bit when Henry says okay he did it, Martinez asks if that’s a confession and he replies it’s not. However, she came into his office expecting the conductor died of a heart-attack and he told her the victim died of poisoning. She replies, that would either make him a sociopath that wanted to get caught, or he’s innocent. He then says there’s no reason for his detention and she releases him, but tells him to stay local.
Morgan goes back to his office and finds an un-stamped manila folder on his desk with a note attached saying it came from his fan. He opens the envelope and pulls out an 8×10 black and white photo of him and the woman Abigail, with a restaurant’s logo and dated 1955. We then travel back to that night via a flashback and we find out Abigail (Mackenzie Mauzy) was Henry’s wife and she knows about his secret. He tells her that he loves her more than anything he ever encountered and all his years rebounding from death had been to make him worthy of her. She tells her husband that she’ll grow old and die, but he’ll remain forever youthful and his purpose for escaping death doesn’t involve her. As we come back to the present, Morgan pulls a tabloid with a front page article of the subway crash.
When Henry returns home that evening, he tells Abe that he’s got a way to immediately find out the poison that killed the victim, and produces a vial of the corpse’s blood. Abe injects him with the blood and picks him up at the river with a fresh set of clothes, after he returns from death once again. He tells his companion that aconite was what killed the conductor, a quick acting poison derived from the monkshood plant.
When Morgan arrives at his office the next day, he and Lucas search the corpse for a puncture wound, which Henry discovers behind one of the cadaver’s ears. He sprays the area with a chemical and tells Lucas to shine a black-light on it and they see a fingerprint left by the killer. He heads down to the police station just in time to hear Jo describe him as creepy, among other euphemisms, before realizing he was in front of her. She tries to get out of her faux pas, by explaining she meant he was creepy in the nicest possible way, he replies he’s been called much worst names. He then tells her his visit’s due to the fingerprint.
The police soon identify the fingerprint’s from a man named Hans Koehler, whose wife died in an accident a few years before on a subway operated by the conductor. Martinez and Morgan drive to Koehler’s home and Henry starts walking around the outside of the house looking for evidence. The detective screams at the medical examiner they don’t possess a warrant, but Henry discovers a greenhouse full of monkshood plants. They enter his garage and find a full-blown lab, with beakers of aconite. The garage door opens and the pair hide in the shadows as Koehler enters, Martinez waits until he reaches his bench then approaches him with her weapon drawn and tells him he’s under arrest. Koehler picks up the beaker and throw some of the aconite on Jo’s hand, then escapes. Morgan realizes time’s of the essence, pours alcohol on her hand and sets it aflame, before dousing it in the sink. Martinez would have died had the poison remained on her skin just a minute longer.
Other detectives arrive at the scene and they determine that Koehler had manufactured lots of aconite, but took it with him. They also find diagrams left by the killer, including drawings of an upside-down fish and crab. Henry’s flashback brings us back to the twenties, as he saw the symbols on the ceiling of Grand Central Station, they are Zodiac signs, Pisces and Cancer. He asks one of the detectives where Koehler’s wife died and gets informed that she passed at Grand Central. Morgan realizes, that Koehler’s produced enough of the poison to release it through the air in the station, killing all inside.
They race down to the subway station, but they can’t find their suspect, when Henry realizes the air conditioning unit’s running in the terminal, even though the weather’s cold. He tells Martinez that they’ve got to reach the roof, as that’s where the air conditioner unit is. They arrive on the roof just before Koehler does, but he’s drawn his gun and shoots Martinez, knocking her momentarily unconscious. He points the pistol at Morgan, telling him to help move the tanks of aconite. Henry begs him to reconsider, that his mass killing won’t bring him back his wife, but Koehler responds the Transit Authority will remember her. When Morgan tries to stop him, Koehler shoots him in the chest, then returns to set up his death-trap, but Henry summons his strength and pushes the two of them from the roof and get killed landing on the hood of a car below.
Jo wakes up in a hospital bed with Henry standing before her, greeting her with a smile. She asks what happened and the medical examiner tells her that Koehler shot her, then jumped to his death. She tells him she remembered both Morgan and Koehler falling from the roof, but Henry tells her it’s the morphine talking.
Morgan receives another call from his fan and the caller reveals that he’s just like Henry and he’s as clueless as the medical examiner, how he’s escaped death. Before hanging up, he sounds like he’ll introduce himself to Morgan, relatively soon, we can see that Henry’s shaken finding out he’s not as unique as he believed.
We get one final flashback; the year’s 1945 and Henry’s in Germany in a Red Cross jeep, as the war’s ending in Deutschland. A beautiful young blonde English woman asks Henry if he’s a doctor and we realize that this is the first time Morgan and Abigail met. He replies that he’s a doctor, and she presents him with an infant boy, imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, but except for the number tattooed on the baby’s arm, he’s in perfect health. We return to the present as Abe’s sitting in his shop and we see the same number tattooed on the old man’s arm, meaning Henry and Abigail raised him as their son. Henry kisses the old man on the top of his head, when there’s a knock at the door. Martinez released from the hospital stops by to return Henry’s pocket-watch and Abe yells at Morgan to invite the detective inside. She replies she’s on the job, investigating a homicide and requested that Henry be her medical examiner. The two leave for the crime scene, as Abe breaks out into a big grin.
Forever Premieres Tuesday Night, September 23, on ABC.