Want to see the entire first episode of ABC Family’s new sci-fi procedural series Stitchers before it’s June 2nd premiere? You could watch the entire episode on YouTube right now.
The question is: should you?
Honestly, I would say no. I was really unimpressed by this series, which was disappointing for me because I love science fiction, I love procedurals, and I feel like ABC Family tends to have some otherwise great shows. I had high expectations of this series. I never really had much faith in it’s longevity – look at what happened to poor Almost Human.
Still, I gave it a shot.
But while I have given the series a chance with the pilot I don’t think I will be watching any more episodes. And here’s why. Oh, and, yeah. Spoiler alert.
The Main Character is Unrelatable to the Show’s Detriment.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly okay for a main character to be unlikeable. In fact, some of our favorite characters are often the unlikeable ones. House was a hit for years despite the fact that Dr. Gregory House was an all around jerk. People flock to various versions of Sherlock Holmes – all of which tend to be douchebags to a certain degree.
But our main character Kirsten here takes it to an extreme degree. Due to a disorder she calls “temporal dysplasia,” she is incapable of essentially experiencing time. She has no perception of time passing at all and this somehow also makes her unable to experience emotion. This is, apparently, because she experiences moments instantly. She claims this is why she doesn’t react to the death of her adoptive father in the first ten minutes of the show.
That makes no sense, though. Even if you can’t judge time you should still have feelings. If someone were to tell a joke that became instantly familiar once the punchline was told there would still be some transition from not knowing the punchline to knowing it. The joke would still be funny; you would still react. The reaction just might not last very long.
Still, the show is going with this no emotions thing. This is apparently what makes her capable of being ‘stitched’ into the memories of the dead. She absorbs their feelings and emotions. Presumably, this will begin bleeding into her real life. In the meantime, though, she is just an awful person to basically everyone she’s ever met. She looks out for only herself. And that just makes her really, really uninteresting to me. Sorry. I have no interest in some long, drawn out journey to her developing emotions. I’m already not interested in her.
I’m Not Invested in Her Mysterious Backstory.
Since I’m already given no real reason to like Kirsten, it’s hard to get involved in the whole ‘mysterious backstory’ cliche they’re going with. Her adoptive father is murdered and we get some flashbacks of her biological father abandoning her. She seems somewhat interested in her adoptive father’s murder but – since she feels no emotions – it’s not really clear why she cares.
When it later comes to light that her adoptive father and biological father created the Stitcher technology I suppose we’re supposed to think, “Ooooooh, plot twist!” But, honestly, it’s an uninteresting turn of events. Okay, so, what? Her father created the Stitcher technology so she could have feelings maybe? Her adoptive father was likely murdered for some reason related to all this so she sort of starts to care about what’s up with her real dad?
If she had emotions or was even just a more likable character, maybe I would care. But she doesn’t and that makes it hard for me to want to know what happens next.
The Character Dynamics Could Get Old Fast.
Everyone that Kirsten meets basically seems to dislike her to some degree or tolerates her because they get that she has temporal dysplasia. For whatever reason, this condition basically makes her ruthelessly interrogate everyone she comes in contact with. Or, you know, she just blows them off.
It’s going to get old fast.
I like Cameron. He’s a nerdy guy with a good heart. I like that. I like that trope. She and Cameron sort of hit it off in a weird way where she asks a million questions without any regard to anyone else and he just sort of goes with it. But their back-and-forth is going to get old quick if she doesn’t learn some people skills and fast.
Granted, that’s probably where the show is going to go eventually. The Stitching process is going to let her experience emotions. But until then we’re going to have to suffer through these uncomfortable, antagonistic exchanges between Kirsten and pretty much everyone she meets. She’s just… rude for no reason. I can understand being rude for effect or doing it unintentionally but Kirsten is in her mid-to-late twenties. She shouldn’t have been nearly as rude or disrespectful when facing academic suspension as she was in the beginning of the episode at the very least. At that age I feel like she’d have learned to fake social courtesy if she’s capable of using mathematics and context clues to judge time changes.
At this point the only character interactions I enjoy are those between Kirsten and her roommate because her roommate’s reactions are basically my reactions. She’s the only one in this series that gets how awful Kirsten is as a person. And it makes me sad that as we go forward she’s likely going to be humoring her.
The Week-to-Week Cases Could Get Old Fast.
I was so uninvested in this episode’s case-of-the-week. Seriously. There’s bombs planted some place, some guy’s girlfriend was killed, and maybe it was all about revenge?
The whole story seemed to be nothing but a way to introduce us to the Stitcher technology so it was basic, formulaic, and uninteresting. I’m worried that if they handle all the other cases like this then the other episodes and stories will be equally boring. Considering the mandate of this agency is that they are supposed to operate only on the inside by looking into memories for clues and not barging in to defuse bombs and such… it’s probably going to stay boring.
The Effects Are Super Lame. Like, Seriously?
This sort of phasing in and out effect they’re using feels a lot like, I don’t know, Sliders or some other portal-based science fiction series from decades past. I was unimpressed. I’ve read a few other early reviews where people have said they like ‘the special effects’ and I just don’t see it. Everything else in the show looks fairly polished but this Stitching animation really does not wow me at all.
You Can Just Watch iZombie Instead Because That Series is 100% Better.
Basically what it all boils down to is that Stitchers is a poor attempt at a science fiction procedural. Fortunately, we have another alternative out there! The CW’s iZombie is basically doing everything Stitchers wants to do.
And they are doing it better.
Science fiction? Check. Procedural drama outside the vein of common cop dramas? Check. Unusual, afflicted female heroine? Check. Nerdy, brilliant sidekick dude? Check.
iZombie has all of these things and you know what? You actually like everyone in the show. Liv’s struggles come about largely because she’s an emotional, attached being. Her choices are made out of love, compassion, and anguish at a life ruined by her zombie infection. Every single character – especially Liv herself – is relatable and likable. The cases are interesting. The on-going character development for side characters like Major can be incredibly engaging and well crafted.
Stitchers is looking to compete with iZombie by bring in a hip, younger-focused procedural with an element of sci-fi to mix things up. That’s what’s in these days, right? It just… does it all horribly.
So there you have it.
That’s why I was completely and utterly unimpressed by Stitchers and continue to wonder why I bothered watching the show. I even watched it twice so that I could write this. Twice. Why? I don’t even know.
Could the show get better? Sure. Judging any show on the pilot can backfire on you because pilots are often awkward. The show is trying to be everything all at once to pull you in and it’s often very hit or miss. Shows take time to find their stride. Years ago, I wouldn’t even consider not watching this show. Genre series were few and far between. But that is simply not the case any more.
We live in exciting times for sci-fi fans. There are more than twenty other genre series airing this summer. I don’t have to keep watching Stitchers. I have other options. You have other options. This show would have been perfectly fine and watchable in the 1990s or early 2000s if I had nothing else. Now, though, it falls short of matching up to the innovation of other series.
I hope it gets better. I really do. I’m just probably not going to be watching to find out.