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Unforgettable is a CBS police procedural with a genre twist starring Without a Trace cast member Poppy Montgomery. She plays Carrie Wells, a woman with a medical condition giving her the ability to remember everything, literally. While the particular circumstances of the pilot episode didn’t allow for reliable first impressions of the series, the second episode had all the main players in place and showcased more accurately what seems to be the series specific brand of investigation.
In the pilot, we are introduced to Carrie Wells, a woman living in Queens, New York who spends her days volunteering at a nursing home and her nights in casinos. As the first person at the scene of her neighbor’s murder, she is called in as a witness and meets Al Burns (Dylan Walsh) the lead detective of Queens PD who also happens be to her former boyfriend and partner at the Syracuse PD.
Carrie’s life has not exactly been a pleasure cruise. Beside the fact that her medical condition makes relationships difficult and closure after a tragedy (directly touching her or not) almost impossible, there is the fact that the one event of her life she has trouble remembering is the abduction and murder of her sister she partially witnessed as a child. The tragedy is the reason why she became a cop in the first place, and also the reason why she stopped nine years earlier when Al closed her sister’s case in Syracuse. Also, one could almost laugh at the irony — if it weren’t so tragic — that the nursing home she volunteers at includes among its guests her mother, who is losing her memory. In spite of all that, by the end of the maiden episode, convinced by her obvious capacity to help Queens PD and something else more personal, she decides to face her demons (not being able to forget all those cases she will deal with) and accepts to join Al’s team.
Even with such difficult circumstances in life, the character is not really designed or portrayed to win the viewer over right away. That is because of what I would call an overconfidence, and also because of the way, in some scenes, Carrie almost seems to brag about her extraordinary memory. The reason why the pilot episode’s story couldn’t be used to provide a proper first impression is because Carrie was the closest thing to a witness of the murder and had even been in her neighbor’s apartment before. All that meant in this particular case, her extraordinary memory could provide details about the victim’s life and events preceding or following the murder in a way that would not be possible in subsequent investigations.
In the second episode, “Heroes,” the crucial details are gleaned only from the round of interviews and investigative facts gathered after the murder. This case was a much better rendition of what to expect from the series and the integration of the insights provided by her skills into the overall investigation was well done. The cases are ultimately closed because of what she remembers, but she often needs to know what to look for and that comes from regular investigative work. The second episode also introduced something I found interesting: errors in the interpretation of what she saw, which led the team on the wrong track at first. Something else that makes the show worthwhile is the fact that Al is not just there to follow her leads, but actually heads the team’s efforts, often refusing to follow her when there is not enough conclusive evidence. Created by Without a Trace veterans Ed Redlich and John Bellucci, Unforgettable is obviously benefiting from their experience in procedurals.
The one thing that hasn’t changed between the pilot and the second episode is how Carrie is shown going through a specific memory. She literally wanders into a memory and sees herself and everyone else that was part of the original moment. Because she remembers every detail, she can explore that moment, changing the focus as needed, which is really neat.
For now, there seems to be two series arcs: the relationship between Carrie and Al, and the murder case of Carrie’s sister, Rachel. We have been introduced to Al’s girlfriend who has shown all the expected signs of jealousy. Rachel’s murder case on the other hand is one of the reasons why Carrie found the courage to come back when she realized Al hadn’t given up and had continued investigating even after closing the case. In both episodes, on many occasions she’s been thrown back into the past and has even indirectly used the events of that day to solve one of the cases.
Unforgettable certainly has its flaws, mostly in the way Poppy Montgomery is portraying Carrie Wells, but the integration of the memory skills (both in terms of investigative tools and visual effects) have so far been so good that the show should be given a chance.