I was in Austin when Amazon was filming some extras scenes for this pilot. Filming in Austin is a frequent enough occurrence that most locals just ignore it and move on. I was interested and managed to find out the pilot was for a new show starring Mena Suvari called Hysteria.
I made a mental note. Then completely forgot. That is until tonight when I saw the pilot show up in Amazon Prime – ah, ha!
I wanted to like this show more than I did – its a little better than OK. The premise is interesting – a small population of high school kids in Austin are afflicted with some sort of hysteria, a possible neurological disorder causing convulsive behaviour and landing them in hospital. The main protagonist, an infectious disease specialist, Suvari, is recruited away from her Houston digs to investigate. Ironically, Austin is her hometown and there are some back stories involved with her family.
At the end of the pilot there is conjecture that the hysteria is being spread by social media. That people are somehow so connected to the stream of events pushed through devices they become ‘infected’ by the content. A new and literal spin on ‘going viral’. This is the first problem I had with the show. Almost all evidence points to the opposite – as a society we are gradually becoming desensitized to specific events due to an ongoing saturation of information. Its the same adage since the internet was born – if you keep repeating the same thing, people will ignore you since there isn’t any new information and they aren’t capable processing the deluge of information they already have.
The other problem I had was the injection of vague subplots. One involving a high school girl having a sordid affair with a middle aged policeman was too staged. Another involving the protagonist’s brother on death row for murder was ambiguously defined but constantly referenced. Dialogue between brother and sister seemed poorly constructed since it gave no clues to nature of their relationship other than the obvious – strained.
Acting from Suvari is quite good; she takes on a very serious, almost tortured persona in keeping with her character’s past and current career. Suvari defines the tone and pace of this show since most of the other actors are just OK and the direction, while good, swings between styles too frequently – moody and mysterious to chaotic in one frame.
If I happen to see this turn into a series, I might check out one more episode to see if they can weave the elements together into a cohesive story. Otherwise, I’ll pass.