There was something about Departure season 1, now streaming on Peacock, that grabbed me and didn’t let me go. It might have been Archie Panjabi, who always plays characters who feel strong and vulnerable, real and unimaginably cool. It might have been the way they resisted taking the easy way out, even when it seemed like that’s exactly what they were heading towards. It might be that, even when the show wasn’t blowing me away, there was a certain comfort in these actors.
Either way, the show, which is only six episodes long, is one of the best offerings on Peacock, and if you ask me, absolutely worth your time.
It didn’t blow me away, no. But it didn’t bore me, and despite the fact that there wasn’t one thing I can pinpoint as the reason I continued to watch, the fact of the matter is that, from the moment I played the first episode, I was invested. And that’s much more than a lot of shows can say.
The show rests on Archie Panjabi’s shoulders and there are worse places for a show to rest on. Panjabi is always relatable, always the kind of presence that keeps you glued to the screen, and this is no exception. Kendra Malley is the reason we’re watching, and she’s not the confident, always-cool character we expect her to be at first, but she is, despite that, the character who finds a way, in the end.
But the things that make her less of a stereotype are the things that make her a more interesting character. I appreciate take-charge female characters as much as the next person, but it’s fun to see a character that isn’t always as sure, that doesn’t always have it all together, and yet still manages to get her job done.
Oh, yes, and a character who doesn’t compromise her feelings to get her job done.
Interestingly enough, Kendra’s most important relationship isn’t with a romantic partner, but with her step-son, and the show weaves a tale that makes you care about this relationship as much as another show would have expected us to care about a romance. This is the right choice, as there’s no time for a believable romance, but found families …well, that’s an easy way to bring in the feels.
Now, if this show gets a season 2, I wouldn’t mind exploring the dynamics between Kendra and Kris Holden-Ried’s Dom, the second most interesting character around. Dom is many, many things, but a knight in shining armor isn’t one of them, and a man trying to take over either. That makes him just, the partner, just someone with real emotions who’s trying to do his best at every point, for no reason other than …that’s who he is.
Of course, there’s more to the story than those two characters, more to the story than the competent and talented team investigation a disappearing plane, but the team does feel like where it all begins and ends, so it’s especially good that the team works, the people who end up doing things that would make us mad are exactly the ones who should be doing it for the balance to be maintained, and oh yes, though the show does throw a twist or five our way, it never feels like it’s trying to pull the rug from under us.
It’s surprising, but not so shocking as to be unbelievable.
This is always a tricky balance, because if you take the road less traveled, sometimes you will shock your audiences in ways that are truly rewarding, but more often than not you’ll just left them feeling like you’ve tried to con them. Twists no one can see coming, or twists that, afterwards, make sense, are one thing. Twists a la the Game of Thrones ending are another.
Perhaps this is the reason why Departure left a good taste in my mouth. There might be nothing about it – other than some spectacular performances – that truly stands out, but in the end, there’s also nothing that really and truly bothers me. This is just a solid show that entertained me, made me invest, and in the end, delivered a mostly satisfying ending.
I’m pretty happy about that.
Departure is available to stream on Peacock.