Best Shots Advance Review: Freeform's BEYOND Pilot 'Confident & Compelling'

Still from "Beyond"
Credit: Freeform
Credit: Freeform

Beyond Episodes 1-2: “Pilot” and “Tempus Fugit”
Written by Adam Nussdorf
Directed by Lee Krieger (“Pilot”) and Steven Adelson (“Tempus Fugit”)
Series Created by Adam Nussdorf
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Freeform receives its own Stranger Things in the form of Beyond, a new science fiction series hitting the network on January 2. Created by Adam Nussdorf, a former writer for Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and executive produced by Heroes creator Tim Kring, Beyond tells the story of Holden (Burkely Duffield) who, after a motorcycle accident puts him in a twelve year coma, awakens to find his world drastically changed. Aside from the obvious adjusting to his new world, Holden is now manifesting strange powers and is unwittingly thrown in the middle of some sort of mysterious struggle to gain control of his budding powers.

Though driven by a central Mystery Box, readers will be pleased to hear that Nussdorf doesn’t allow himself to be bogged down by the teasing that usually comes along with a show of this nature. Instead both episodes move along at a brisk pace, introducing viewers quickly to each character and the overall hook of the series with almost breathless precision. Along with slick direction and a few genuinely impressive set pieces, episodes one and two of Beyond present a down-to-earth ensemble drama, anchored by the charming and often hilarious Holden. While we were only allowed two episodes to watch, Beyond has already proven itself to be a confident and compelling new addition to Freeform’s growing hour-long output.

Credit: Freeform

After a quick and tense opening flashback, given an E.T.-inspired septa tone by director Lee Krieger, the pilot of Beyond moves with a purpose. Writer Adam Nussdorf focuses mainly on Holden in the pilot and its a decision that pays dividends for both episodes. As he wakes and attempts to integrate himself back into normal life despite his miraculous recovery and unstable powers, Burkely Duffield’s performance draws kind comparisons to Chris Evans’ early turn as Steve Rogers.

Credit: Freeform

In both episodes Nussdorf’s mines easy and endearing humor from Holden’s acclimation, instantly making him an interesting leading man even before his visions start and his powers start to manifest. Even better Duffield, like Evans, never plays Holden like a rube or burden to his parents and now college age little brother. Instead he plays everything sincerely, even his confusion about the modernization of his town; “There’s an entire store that sells apples?”, he asks after hearing of his town’s new Apple Store. Its this almost child-like mindset of Holden that makes his plight all the more engaging and dramatic.

Credit: Freeform

But while the characterizations of Beyond are great throughout the cast, standouts being the icy detachment of the mysterious Man in the Yellow Jacket and the steely Willa (Da Vinci’s Demons actress Dilan Gwyn), both episode’s real strengths lie in its stylish, but restrained storytelling. In both episodes, Holden has strange visions and unexpected displays of his as of now unknown powers, but unlike most genre fare, Beyond plays these moments with relative restraint. That isn’t to say that they look flat or boring, in fact both directors Steven Adelson, who will be seen later in 2017 handling the CW’s Riverdale and Lee Krieger make Beyond one of the most polished looking premiers for Freeform in recent memory. But their low-key approach to the fantastical elements and grounded visuals make the shocks even more shocking and the sudden displays of power all the more impressive.

Credit: Freeform

Stocked with veteran character actors and armed with a clear narrative direction Beyond episodes one and two stand as a great start for Freeform’s newest drama; one that is sure to please both genre fans and the network’s general viewing audience. Creator Adam Nussdorf seems to have plenty of tricks up his sleeve, but also knows that mystery and telekinetic powers alone does not a good show make. Thankfully, his characters are just as impressive as his and his director’s showmanship, adding up to a solid pilot followed by an even better second episode. If you are looking for a new show to ring in the new year with, mark your calender for January 2 and see exactly what lies Beyond.

Random 'Rama Thoughts

  • For the binge watchers among you, after the show’s January premiere, Freeform will be making the entire ten-episode first season available on various digital platforms while still airing the episodes weekly on cable. If I am being totally honest, it was hard for me to stop with just two so this is pretty great news for me and my couch.
  • In addition to being executive produced by Heroes’ Tim Kring, Beyond also sports a production staff that includes David Eick from Battlestar Galactica and Insidious producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, which explains the few jumps scares lurking in both episodes.
  • "I’m not letting Oprah go to voicemail!”. Both episodes are filled with great lines exactly like this one.
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