Forever can easily be summed up as a Sherlock Holmes style of story, if Sherlock was an immortal doctor that had learned all his deduction from years and years of experience. That is of course the big twist of this otherwise procedural show, the main character Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is essentially cursed to live forever. Whenever he dies he wakes up naked and in the nearest body of water. We’re introduced to this fact very quickly in the pilot episode as a train explodes and he winds up in the river. There are two possible answers to this immortality that the show introduces, but never ultimately has the opportunity to answer. The first is the pocket watch that Henry has had or found off and on throughout his life. I personally believe that this is the source of his immortality, but the show offers a second option later in the form of the gun that originally killed Henry. His immortality began on a slave ship heading to America. The ship is actually his families ship and this repugnant fact is addressed later when he finds out and wants no part of the family business.
In the modern timeline, Henry is a medical examiner. He’s forged modest papers to get the position in New York where he’s lived a great deal of his immortality. He’s not alone though, he has a son (played by Judd Hirsch) … who is not immortal. His son is also adopted as he and his wife took the baby post World War II. You see, there’s the interesting part of all this. Henry, has for the most part lead a normal life since World War II. He’s had a family and only married once. We later learn that his wife disappeared and her disappearance drove Henry mad for a time.
At any rate, Henry is the head medical examiner and of course he’s kind of a genius having absorbed more knowledge than most can in one life-time. He attracts the attention of a detective whose assumes they have an open and shut case only to have Henry proclaim murder. That becomes a familiar element of the procedural part of the show.
For a great deal of the episodes Henry doesn’t die. He just helps Jo (Alana De La Garza); his detective partner solves crimes. You have to suspend your disbelief here because the only other detective to bring a medical examiner along is iZombie and so that should tell you how ridiculous it is. I’m sure there’s some pretty basic rules in place as an officer that you don’t let medical examiners question your witnesses, but it becomes a running element of the show.
The adversary of the show is a very Moriarty character. They enter into Henry’s life after discovering he’s immortal like they are. Though Adam, as he likes to be called, has lived so long that he’s lost a lot of interest in humanity especially after being experimented on by Nazi scientists all throughout World War II. There is a very Holmes/Moriarty relationship between them though as they both understand what the other has gone through for the most part. They’ve both lived so many fake lives, but they’ve chosen different paths. Adam, turns out to have a great origin. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it is a famous historical figure. It really set the stage for the possibility of other historical figures being introduced later in the series, but atlas… that won’t happen.
The final showdown with Adam had an outcome with great consequences. It wasn’t amazing because there was a lot of sloppy writing leading up to it, but the actual consequences of it made of an interesting predicament for later episodes in the show. Adam could potentially come back as an even crazier character and I really found that to be interesting and dangerous.
The show avoids the pitfall of making our two leads romantically involved or in this case interested, until nearly the end of the show. Then, almost as a desperate gasp for attention it begins developing a storyline between Henry and Jo. It’s unfortunate because they bonded over being without their spouses, Jo without her dead husband and Henry without his wife that disappeared and could be alive, but probably isn’t. That brings me to my next point in that the show never really finds itself.
From the beginning to the end it tries to figure out if it’s a procedural, if the leads will be romantically involved, if it’s going to rely on the flashbacks of Henry’s past, if it’s going to run his beginning timeline parallel with his present timeline. It never finds itself and it stops relying on Henry dying to allow him to have more interesting outcomes and instead opts for putting Jo in harm’s way to protect him. It was interesting one episode and then overkill any other time it was attempted thereafter.
The series also wastes a lot of time just being procedural. Here’s our murder of the week that doesn’t look like a murder, but Henry says it is and he’s never wrong. Henry’s story is slowly developed and we see a lot of flashbacks to his early immortal days that attempt to tie into the episode’s story or just peel back a layer of his personality. Personally, I grew to hate the flashbacks as they reminded me of Arrow and that wasn’t a good thing. They quickly became overused and forced feeling.
The mystery of the disappearing wife ends up being a great deal of the finale and it’s stretched far too thin. To the point that it kind of gets ridiculous. Especially when they tie it into another story element. At that point you really have to acknowledge the convenience of the writing to tie together two elements that really have no business being anywhere near each other.
The sad part is, I actually really enjoyed the show despite all my criticism. It’s my joy for it that made me so critical of it. I was disappointed when it was cancelled, but not entirely surprised. The show really needed to pick a path and stick to it, but instead opted to change at someone’s whim. I don’t know if it was the networks, the producers or the showrunner, but the first six episodes of the show are the tightest and most interesting. There’s several after that, that manage to be quite good, but after those first six is when the emphasis on just solving murders takes over and it began to look a bit like Bones which is not a compliment.
I would recommend the DVD set if you liked the show. It contains several deleted scenes for each episode and while I don’t know if they really add anything to the story, it’s at least an interesting add-on to give the one season solid replay value. I did in fact say DVD earlier because let’s be honest we don’t need every TV show on Blu-Ray. If you were a fan of the show, then it’s worth the purchase. If you never watched it, but you’re a fan of Elementary, Bones or hell even Highlander, then you might just enjoy this hidden gem you missed.
Score: 3/5 (Show), 4/5 (DVD)
Forever – The Complete Series Studio: Warner Brothers Price: $47.99 (Made To Order) Release Date: 1/19/16