'Eli Stone' Pilot: Not Just Another Lawyer Show
Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller) has a pretty nice life. He is an intelligent, sophisticated graduate of Stanford Law who is one of the top associates at a very successful law firm in San Francisco. He has a beautiful fiancée (Natasha Henstridge) who also happens to be the boss' daughter. He believes in owning a great wardrobe, having fine accessories and working hard. Only one problem - that's not who he wanted to be.
When he was younger, Eli had visions of changing the world. Instead of working for noble causes, however, he finds himself working for clients who, in his own words, "own a huge company that has screwed over a little guy." But George Michael (yes that George Michael) changes all of that.
Visions: always a fun plot device
Eli suddenly finds himself having visions of George Michael performing "Faith." These musical interludes are not jarring or out of place like in "Viva Laughlin," and they thankfully do not involve the entire cast inexplicably breaking into song. Instead, they are contained solely in Eli's head and are actually quite humorous.
These visions of Georgie Porgie coincide with the doubts that Eli begins to have about the path he has chosen in life. His crisis of faith continues as he decides to take up a case for an old college flame named Beth (Laura Benanti), who is suing a drug company that produces a vaccine she claims made her son autistic. There's only one little problem - the drug company is already being represented by Eli's firm.
In addition to taking on the new case and having to explain his actions to senior partner and future father-in-law Jordan Wethersby (played by the always excellent Victor Garber), Eli decides to seek help for his visions. He takes the advice of his stereotypically sassy assistant Patti (Loretta Devine) and goes to see a Chinese acupuncturist named Dr. Chen (James Saito). The acupuncture sessions allow Eli to look into his past and recapture the idealism of his youth. They also allow Tom Cavanagh to appear as Eli's troubled, alcoholic and now deceased father. Oh Tom Cavanaugh, the world still weeps for "Ed."
Science vs. Faith (just like on "Lost!")
Eli's brother (Matt Letscher), who is a doctor, begins to worry about Eli's erratic behavior and sends his MRI results to a specialist. It turns out that Eli has a big fat aneurysm in his brain, which scientifically explains the visions. And the kicker is that his Dad suffered from the same thing! Eli realizes that he has wrongly hated his father for years. Poor Tom Cavanagh can't catch a break.
So, he returns to his spiritual guide, the acupuncturist Dr. Chen. In a moment of honesty and exposition, the good doctor admits that "Dr. Chen" is actually just a persona used to drum up business. His real name is Frank and he is 100% American. Frank/Dr. Chen is quite the philosophical fellow, and he offers Eli some hearty spiritual guidance. Who wants to bet that he will be doing that on a weekly basis?
In the end Eli wins the case because of his "faith." He keeps his job, although surely this isn't the last time that he will be up against his own firm. At the end, Beth insinuates that they will see each other again, which makes sense since she is a series regular. We can take a wild stab and say that at some point Eli is going to end up torn between his rich lawyer fiancée and his down-to-earth college lover.
Overall, this was an above average pilot episode for a series that has potential. It promises to put a unique spin on the tired old legal drama genre, and it has a fairly solid cast (and of course George Michael!). In some ways, Eli's visions and status as a formerly apathetic individual who becomes a prophet parallels the short lived but nevertheless incredible "Wonderfalls." Not saying that "Eli Stone" is on that level yet, but it will be interesting to see how things progress. It's definitely worth sticking around after "Lost" each week to see how the story unfolds.
-Is it just me, or does Jonny Lee Miller look very different? Maybe it is because he hasn't done much in recent years, but compared to seven or eight years ago he looks like an entirely different person. It's not just aging, he looks radically changed.
-Not to pick on Jonny, because he does an excellent job, but his American accent can be shaky at times. It's better than Ray Winstone's, but that isn't saying a whole lot.
-Apparently, this episode caused a bit of controversy with the whole "flu vaccine causes autism" storyline. That explains the disclaimer saying that it is all complete fiction at the end.
"Did you possibly fall down a flight of stairs or start taking ecstasy? Maybe you fell down a flight of stairs because you were high on ecstasy." Patti to Eli regarding his erratic behavior.
"Everything has two explanations Eli, the scientific and the divine. It is up to us to choose which one we buy into." Frank/Dr. Chen giving Eli a spiritual pep talk. Something tells me that John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) would like ol' Frank.
What did you think about the premiere of "Eli Stone?" Will you be tuning in next week? Comment and let us know!
Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer
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