Sunday, August 02, 2020

Coroner (Pilot)

In the days of Burke and Hare, anatomists were not held in high regard by the popular press. Times have changed. These days, some of our favorite TV crime fighters are pathologists. The CSI franchises and Da Vinci’s Inquest (also Canadian) are the best examples, but the tradition goes back to Quincy M.E. Dr. Jenny Cooper, Toronto’s freshly appointed coroner, now joins their ranks. The protagonist of M.R. Hall’s mystery novels comes to American television, when the Canadian series Coroner premieres this Wednesday on the CW.

As a former ER doctor, Cooper thought she knew the sort of things people did to each other, but now she sees the patients who do not make it to the hospital. Frankly, she is maybe not in the best mindset for her new gig, since her husband recently died from an aneurism right in front of her eyes. However, she will need the job, when she discovers the mountain of debt her late spouse left her holding.

Det. Donovan “Mac” McAvoy and his partner Det. Taylor Kim are a bit surprised to see her offer what looks like a quick prayer over her first pick-up, but he warms to her relatively quickly. Her dogged pursuit of the truth rather matches his own working methods. He also shares her empathy for the kids incarcerated at the juvy facility where two supposed suicides were found.

The actual mystery Dr. Cooper investigates in the pilot is not particularly complicated and resolves itself surprisingly easily, but the first episode also has to carry a lot of exposition. However, the chemistry developing between her and Det. McAvoy is already quite promising. Plus, Cooper’s foreboding visions of a sinister black dog are quite a distinctive motif. Still, the general level of writing seems pretty conventional, largely on par with shows like
Profiler and Crossing Jordan, from about twenty years ago.

If you are looking for hair-and-fiber stuff, stick with the
CSIs, but if you enjoy conflicted crime-fighters in the Wallander mold, Serinda Swan’s performance is probably worth checking out. She is already quite compelling portraying Cooper’s grief and anger. She also has several engaging scenes with Roger Cross and Ehren Kassam, playing Det. Cross and her son, respectively. However, the introduction of her potential love (or at least lust) interest is so silly and awkward, it badly clashes with the tone of the rest of the episode.

Based on the first episode,
Coroner presents itself to be a competent, but not particularly adventurous crime drama. So far, what distinguishes it is the performances of its primary crime fighters (and the big dog). Of course, the greatest advantage for fans of forensic investigation series is that it is something new (if you live in the U.S.), while most productions are still shut down. In that context, it looks like it will be good enough to be a shrewd pick-up for the CW, when it premieres this Wednesday (8/5), appearing on their app the next day.