Freeform is entering a strange new world in 2017 with Beyond, a sci-fi series that is part of the way television is changing. The new drama will air Mondays at 9/8c, but after the initial two-hour premiere, the entire first season will be made available On Demand for viewers who just want to binge the whole thing.
That’s probably a smart idea given the show’s labyrinthine mythology. Beyond centers on Holden Matthews, a young boy who has a strange encounter that leaves him in a coma for 12 years. When he wakes up his family is relieved, but Holden now has mysterious powers (like telekinesis) and is being chased by a shadowy organization that needs him. Throw in magical compasses, ancient symbols and the possibility of other planes of existence for the subconscious and Beyond will leave your head spinning if you stop at the premiere.
The new show certainly seems to fit the mold of one of 2016’s biggest surprise hits, Netflix’s Stranger Things. Not only does it have telekinesis, but it opens with a young boy getting into a bike accident in the woods where he encounters something supernatural. If a Demogorgon shows up, I won’t be surprised.
There are some interesting ideas at play in Beyond, but the show suffers from a few flaws. First is the two major storylines. On the one hand, there’s a boy trying to readjust to life after spending 12 years in a coma. Even without the supernatural elements, that idea could sustain an entire TV show. How does Holden react to going from a 14-year-old about to enter high school to a 26-year-old who doesn’t know how to drive or talk to girls? And how does his family react as they’ve lived their lives without him for 12 years? Beyond only seems to scratch the surface of that potential in the two-hour pilot.
Then there’s the supernatural element with Holden’s powers, the mysterious organization chasing him and the woman who is trying to protect him at the behest of an old man in a coma who can send psychic text messages and who appears to Holden in his dreams. If that sounds confusing, wait until you get to the scene where Holden is in a dank dungeon being chased by some loud, snarling creature.
The two-hour premiere for Beyond sets up plenty of mysterious mythology without ever explaining what’s going on. Viewers will likely be left as confused as Holden himself wondering who’s after him, who the girl and the old man are and what happened to him during those 12 years in a coma. I don’t expect all of the answers in the premiere, but the first two episodes feels like you’re just going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, unsure of when or if it will end.
And it’s not very reassuring that one of the show’s executive producers is Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes who took a great idea and eventually ran it into the ground with convoluted twists and unsatisfying pay-offs. When a man identified solely based on an article of clothing (his yellow jacket) shows up, you’ll probably be instantly reminded of the man in the Horn-Rimmed Glasses.
All of this is why Freeform’s decision to make the entire series available to binge-watch right away is for the best. The premiere will leave you with more questions than answers and for those who get sucked into the mystery, being able to see the whole story unfold right away will be nice. The model certainly helps Netflix and is probably part of the reason that Stranger Things was so successful (imagine having to wait week to week for more Eleven).
The new delivery format for Freeform allows the network to take a chance on a complex mythology like the one in Beyond where answers and a coherent pilot aren’t necessary anymore. Beyond is part of a new wave of television, programs developed for cable or other traditional TV outlets, shows that are so serialized that they aren’t meant to be consumed on an episodic basis.
Beyond is like Pringles. Once you pop you can’t stop, nor should you want to because only watching the first hour or two might drive you crazy with all of your questions.
Beyond will have a special premiere Sunday, January 1 at 9/8c on Freeform with the full two-hour premiere airing Monday, January 2 at 9/8c. The show will continue to air Mondays at 9/8c, but the entire first season will be available On Demand following the Monday premiere.
(Image courtesy of Freeform)