Pilot Script Review of Wreckage
Based on Emily Bleeker’s book of the same name, Wreckage has been adapted for TV by Jacquie Walters, who was a writer-producer on the NBC sitcom Abby’s. She started her career on another book adaptation, Amazon's Just Add Magic. She's currently working on David E. Kelley’s upcoming Disney+ series Big Shot, starring John Stamos.
The show is produced by Marc Webb, who will also direct the pilot. He was behind Netflix’s young adult series The Society (read my pilot script review), and his other TV directing-executive producing credits include Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Instinct, Limitless and Why Women Kill. On the feature side, he directed The Amazing Spider-Man, Gifted and 500 Days of Summer.
WRITTEN BY: Jacquie Walters
PAGE COUNT: 57 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open on the sound of crackling. Cut to: a torch dimly light in a jungle. More images come rapidly, overlapping: shovels digging in the ground, a knife glistening in firelight, a body falling from a great height... Cut to a hospital room, where NURSE SHEILA is arranging a large collection of bouquets. LILLIAN (39) lies in bed. Her eyes open, and her gaze is intense. She looks around the room. Every detail counts. There's a handmade poster that says "Welcome to Australia." The nurse is excited that she's finally awake. Lillian instantly asks about someone named Dave. He's in the next room, awake, she's told. Lillian says she's not ready to see him yet. She then asks about the flowers. They've come from thirteen different countries. There's something Lillian should know: she's a celebrity of sorts now. She's been in the news all over the world. Surviving four years on a deserted island, that's quite a story. As Sheila leaves the room, she bumps into DAVE (36). and he's coming in... whether Lillian is ready or not, .
Dave enters. They smile at each other, not sure what to say. Dave has short hair now, and he's clean shaven. It's not the look that Lillian is used to, but she likes it. Dave explains how they were rescued by a billionaire who was checking out the island with a real estate agent. On TV, footage of the rescue plays on repeat. They both look different. Lillian is barely able to walk. Dave looks like Tom Hanks in Castaway. A few more months and they probably would have died. Flash to: the beach on the island, from the POV of Lillian. She's lying on the sand, coughing water. Dave is at her side as rain beats down on them. A storm is raging. They can't see much around them. They don't know if they are the only ones who made it out the crash. Cut to the hospiral room again: Lillian cries, Dave crawls onto the bed and lies close, they're now face to face. What we suspected has now been made clear — they're in love. The next morning, they're awakened by Nurse Sheila. She has news: Lillian's husband has arrived...
COMMENTS: After last year's ambitious and expensive drama pilot Triangle (read my pilot script review) was ultimately passed over after months of uncertainty, ABC is back at it with another riff off Lost, a deserted island-set project with mysteries of its own. This one, however, is an entirely different beast: an interesting mix of a survival and relationship drama, with a redemption story at its heart. To be clear, there's is no mythology to be found here. No polar bears. No black smoke. No Manifest BS, either. But there is a plane crash to begin with, and there are many flashbacks. In the pilot, the flashbacks are mostly about how they ended up there — we're just given glimpses of how things went wrong, from rapid flashes of a torch lighting a forest, to a man-made knife being sharpened, to a woman bent over, screaming.
The questions raised by these flashes may be the pilot's weakest point. While the script effectively builds some tension, it may be withholding a bit too much at the get-go to fully hook viewers. Another worry for subsequent episodes is that the scenes set in the present may become less interesting than the flashblacks. It's not a problem in the pilot because we're discovering bit by bit the situation they're in now — namely a complicated love triangle — but the way it will develop can't possibly be as thrilling as the survival story on the island. Especially with these characters.
Lilian and Dave are perfectly fine. They have strong personalities with haunting pasts; their dialogue is nicely written and you can tell their experience has transformed them, for better or for worse. With the right actors and good chemistry, there's nothing here to worry about. The problems emerge with the secondary characters. The pilot instantly draws us to the romance between Lilian and Dave, making their respective husband and wife feel more like bumps on the road of their passion than actual characters with their own wounds and heartaches. It's a weakness in the setup, but with further character development, it may be salvageable.
More concerning are the other six people stuck on the island with Lilian and Dave. Only one is developed at this point, and it's Lilian's mother-in-law Margaret, with whom she was vacationing. In one of the pilot's more delectable flashbacks from before the crash, it's clear that there was no love lost between the two women, and as we come to understand, Margaret ultimately had to sacrificed in some way. The rest of the castaways are characters we only meet in a scene or two. There's Naomi, the flight attendant, Timoci the co-pilot and Kent, the pilot, as well as newlyweds Ridhi and Arjun. The two newlyweds recall Sun and Jin from Lost, who were not very interesting initially but became essential later on. The mystery of what happened to them is the most pressing as the pilot ends, especially since our two main protagonists are the only ones who know.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Wreckage wisely steers clear of the traps that have ensnarled so many of the more high-concept Lost wannabes before it. While it boasts the excitement of mysterious survival story, at its heart this is a character-driven relationship drama that totally fits ABC's DNA. Execution will be key, but there's a lot of potential here.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] RECOMMEND
BEST FIT: Summer 2021?