Pilot Script Review of Maverick
At a time when Hollywood is laser focused on providing more opportunities for women and other under-represented groups, it's worth noting that The CW has put its money where its mouth is. Of the network's eight projects ordered to pilot or series this season, half have female-centered stories and five out of eight were either written or co-written by women. Maverick has both, with showrunner Warren Hsu Leonard (How To Get Away With Murder and Looking for Alaska) paired with writer Merigan Mulhern (Jane the Virgin and BH90210)
It's probably no coincidence that the show's primary character is also a woman — and a biracial woman, at that. Playing her will be Reina Hardesty (The Flash) who is Asian and White. While her character's ethnic background wasn't supposed to be biracial as she's referenced as "white" in the script, it's notable that it doesn't specify the race of any of its other characters.
WRITTEN BY: Merigan Mulhern
DRAFT DATE: 1/6/20 (Revised Network Draft)
PAGE COUNT: 60 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open on a bedroom at night. KATHERINE "KIT" PRICE (18) sits gently on the bed next to her terminally ill mother CAROL (40s). They laugh and tear up a little bit. Carol offers her daughter her delicate opal necklace. Now Kit is clearly fighting tears. She knows it's a final bequeathment. They hug for a long time, until Kit's father CHARLES (60s) enters, asking her to leave so her mother can get some rest. Before she goes, Carol whispers something in her hear, which we actually don't hear. Kit seems confused. In the hallway, her brother SEBASTIAN (20s) and her sister ADRIANA (30s) are somberly waiting. Charles closes the door and leads Kit down the hall. We spot two men in dark suits, standing silently, each wearing... earpieces. They're Secret Service. We are in the White House, and Charles is the President of the United Sates. The next morning, a female new anchor announces the death of the First Lady. She says President Price has decided to put his 2020 campaign on hold.
Five months later, we're on the campus of Georgetown; Kit is moving there for her freshman year of college, and she can't be missed. Two Secret Service agents are by her side everywhere she goes: AGENT TRAN (30s) and AGENT OLSON (also 30s). Kit's brother Sebastian accompanies her, and while she's not thrilled about that, it could have been worse: her father could have come. Apparently he wanted to, but Sebastian talked him out it. There are military-style cops roaming around but no one seems to notice them. It must be business as usual. As Kit arrives in front of the dormitory, now alone, she spots a fellow freshman SARAH, struggling to balance boxes and open the building door. She rushes to help. They chit-chat a little. Sarah of course recognizes her, but she acts naturally, as if it was nothing. There's an instant understanding between the two. When Kit arrives at her dorm room, someone's already inside. VANESSA is her new roommate and she's not exactly welcoming, instantly setting boundaries. Vanessa's MOM and DAD arrive and are excited to meet the President's daughter. They're big fans and it's awkward for Vanessa, a little less for Kit who's used to this.
Meanwhile, Kits gets a phone alert: Sarah has just followed her on Instagram. She scrolls through her profile, spotting a boy named AJ, who appears in several photos. They seem close. Sarah DMs her. She wants them to go to the welcome ceremony together. Once there, things take an unsettling turn when the whole arena pledges allegiance to the Flag of the United States with an unusual fervor, before pledging allegiance to the President himself, talking about foreign and domestic enemies, great prosperity and true moral strength... This is NOT our world.
COMMENTS: Although it shares its name with the 1957 James Garner TV western, Maverick is one of only two CW pilots this year not based on existing IP. It's also arguably the best script they have this pilot season — a promising start to a series with great long-haul potental, and something to say.
Perhaps best described as as college-set political thriller/drama, to use the parlance of network executives, Maverick is Scandal meets Alias with a dystopian sprinklingof The Handmaid's Tale.
It's not set in the United States as we know it, but rather a totalitarian version of it where the President has been in command for 16 years and is soon to be re-elected by 90% of the population. Charles Price commands the country with dignity and charm, but his plans for keeping his citizens safe are more nefarious than they seem. His last great idea? A National Security initiative called "The Good American Program." It includes facial recognition on every security camera and a cutting-edge app on every citizen's phone allowing them to report wrongdoing. The stated goal is to root out the most dangerous Americans, while rewarding the most patriotic, but the civil liberties Americans have come to expect are long gone. It's a near future that's not all that hard to imagine if the Democracies of the world don't pay more attention to what's happening right now. Another example: the country's principal source of information is called Patriot News, a cable news outlet that lies to Americans every day, complicit with the White House. Sound familiar? Clearly the set-up is not very subtle, and while it may seem to speak to those on one side of the political aisle more than the other, the truth is it's more dystopian in its portrayal of modern technology and information gathering than it is any particular political group.
The fun of Maverick resides in the many twists and turns of the script, even the most over-the-top ones that you rarely see coming. It plays a bit like Battlestar Galactica or Westworld, where by the end you're suspicious of everyone. Here, the Cylons or robots are the masked people who lead protests that can get violent inside the college where our heroine Kit is beginning her first year. There are traitors and allies, and Kit is in the middle of them, no longer knowing which side should be on. Living out in the real world, she starts to recognize how her father's policies impact real people and it doen't sit well with her. She starts to question everything: is it possible her mother didn't die from a terminal illness, but was instead killed at her father's command? She doesn't know her half-brother and sister as well as she'd like. Sebastian is a member of the administration and he may know more about their father's dark agenda than he lets on. Her sister is a big question mark. She doesn't show much love to Kit, but what if she was a secret ally, working undercover? There many secrets to uncover, many seeds planted.
Maverick also knows where it's bread is being buttered and includes some fundamental traits we've come to expect from shows that air on the younger-skewing CW.
It's a college drama, working like a teen show when it needs to. Kit is the President's daughter arriving on campus, so she's the the center of attention whether she likes it or not. She's the weird one. Everybody has an opinion about her, depending on how they feel about her Dad. She's threatened by some — there's even an attack against her in the pilot — while others just want to be friends with her. A group of outsiders quickly form around her, including her roommate, Vanessa, who's a smart and tough woman with no fear of speaking her mind. She constantly fights for the underdogs because she's one herself.
There's also the set up for a love triangle, with Kit quickly connecting with Chase, a handsome and effortlessly cool freshman who clearly has secrets of his own, even as the chemistry between them grows. Lucas, meanwhile, is a popular sophomore at Gorgetown, and an old family friend of Kit’s, as they grew up in similar elite circles. He’s sweeter than his frat bro façade, has been holding a torch for Kit for years and hopes the timing is now right.
Finally, there's Cara: a sophomore at the University who's been marginalized and is ready to fight back against the government using her fearless ability to hack any system. The pilot script does a good job at introducing each of these characters and making them essential to the bigger picture. And the picture is big. If this show gets a series order and lasts a while, mark my words: Kit will end up President.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Maverick is not your typical CW fare, and while that may very well spell its doom (we've been here before), it could also be just what the network needs to expand their audience. To be sure, it's still younger skewing, ticking many of the boxes we've come to expect from a CW show, but it's also like nothing we've seen before, with a timely premise and unexpected twists around every corner. It's my very favorite of The CW's pilot scripts this year.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
BEST FIT: Could be paired with All American, for a high-school/college night.