One of the things I like about Comic-Con is not only that I get to see television pilots before anyone else, but that I also get to see them before I have even heard anything about them. For example, I had no idea what Cult was going to be about, so watching it Friday afternoon in Room 6B was an entirely original experience for me.
I hate to rob you of the same experience, but it’s unlikely by the time it airs on the CW this fall you won’t already know more about it than I did.
The opening scene is dark and creepy. Oddly, the acting and dialogue seemed second rate; they didn’t match the quality of the story that was unfolding. A-ha, we learn that this is a show within a show, so it is actually perfect to make a distinction between it and the main show.
At the center of Cult is a hit TV show called Cult, on which a detective is searching for her sister and nephew who have disappeared as a result of their involvement with a cult headed by its charismatic leader played by Robert Knepper (Prison Break, Heroes). The larger story involves a disgraced reporter searching for his brother who has disappeared as a result of his involvement with an underground cult of diehard fans of the TV show. Got it?
The parallels between the fictional story of the TV show and the mystery of the missing brother are obvious. In the pilot, we follow both stories as clues are revealed for each of them. Adding a third dimension is the supposed aspect of Internet and social media driving the underground fans of the show. Confusing? It was to me at first, but at some point it makes sense and becomes quite fascinating to watch.
In the Comic-Con panel following the screening, producers admitted their plans of adding even another dimension to the show by offering a viral marketing campaign that ties-in to the show. Indeed, soon after the panel, I received an email telling me that if I checked-in with Get Glue, I would unlock a clue.
Such an ambitious, multi-layered project has a lot of potential… to be a success, or to be a train wreck. In the capable hands of Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape), though, I’m hoping it goes the success route.
The only problem I anticipate is that much of the time I was more interested in watching the show within the show. It unfolds as close to an episode of The X-Files as anything I’ve seen since it went off the air. It is truly dark and disturbing, with its own atmosphere of dread. It’s possible that it’s because it’s further along in the story than its real life counterpart. I’m hoping the main show catches up.
The stars of Cult are likable. Fan favorite Matt Davis (The Vampire Diaries) is appealing as the reporter. The obligatory female partner is Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield), who plays an assistant on the show who evidence of the underground cult and can’t get anyone to believe her. So far, the creator of the show seems to be involved in the conspiracy, but nobody can get access to him. We haven’t seen him yet, so he’s either the main villain, or a big red herring.
Knepper is perfect as the center of Cult, the show within a show. As part of the promotion for the show, the actor he portrays records messages to his fictional followers which are aired as commercials. He’s speaking to not only the fictional cast, but the characters of the primary show, and, brilliantly, us. If Cult maintains this overlapping connection, it will remain an intriguing series. I can’t wait to see where it goes.