Episode Air Date: July 27th, August 3rd, 10th, 17th 2014
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
The Lottery (Rules of the Game, Greater Good, Genie, Crystal City)
Starring: Marley Shelton, Michael Graziadei, David Alpay, Anthena Karkanis, Yul Vazquez, Shelly Conn, Martin Donovan
Gee, how long has it been? A month and a half? Very long, considering that a review of these four episodes would’ve been timely a few weeks ago instead of it being currently written now. Nevertheless, here we are again, to discuss the new Lifetime show The Lottery. To be honest I hadn’t felt that inspired or even motivated to continue the series after the second episode- not that there was anything wrong with episodes 1 and 2 per se, but rather there were much more intriguing new series that had my attention- Legends, Extant, Finding Carter, Matador and the new USA Network show Rush. Despite my lateness in reviewing The Lottery, what I must say is this- the show has been increasingly enjoyable with every episode, and should be given another chance if viewers started to tune out (yes, could me as one of the viewers that sadly felt that this show wasn’t a priority for myself to be up to date with each week).
Episodes 2, 3, 4 and 5, though not perfect, continue to flesh out a story set in 2025, a world without any viable human pregnancy in over 6 years, and one that is combated by a nationwide lottery of 100 women to be the surrogate mothers of 100 embryos that happened to be fertilised by either a notion of chance, science or even a bit of both. Dr Allison Lennon, the main character, starts to discover that sinister motives and dubious motives by the government at hand reign over every decision, often stalling progress in finding a cure for a crisis even I reckon this world as it is now may not be equipped to handle.
Interwoven stories place each main character at the front and centre of their own plotlines- from Kyle Walker with his dilemma of trying to find a way not to be caught after stealing his own son from a hospital clinic after an after-school mix-up, to Vanessa Keller, Chief of Staff, and drafting a proposal of the lottery to the President (first episode), while uncovering on her own (further on) the true motives of staff members of the Presidency and understanding that cover-ups, deals and calculated moves mean more than pursuing viable options for each person involved within the lottery process.
Since we last discussed The Lottery on July 21st, a lot has happened. Allison has since discovered a large conspiracy involving government officials planning to control the 100 selected few to carry the 100 embryos, while also being pressured to continue to come up with a cure to this crisis, when in fact she and her scientist cohort are far from it. Kyle Walker, on the run after stealing his own child from a secure facility, comes to terms with the fact that his child could become a ward of the state (spoiler alert- at the end of episode 5, he does), while also trying to stay one step ahead of the government.
Informed by Allison that he fathered an embryo (one of the 100) with a woman that is dead- officially an overdose (but unofficially murdered), both she and Kyle continue to keep their wits about them, as they are indeed reminded that the world they live in isn’t necessarily the one they enjoy being in, or even a world they want to be in. From Chinese hostage negotiations gone wrong, to apparent suicides of government officials that show something more, to secret meetings and sinister phone calls, the conspiracy theories start to heat up, as we the observers of the show are shown a place where the truth is often suppressed for a quasi-state of the ‘greater good’.
If there is one thing that makes me hesitant to continue is the fact that Lifetime are playing out of their genre. While on a whole the show is good, it’s not unlike a channel to come up with an idea to try and stretch the channel’s ability to delve into other storylines and plotlines, what has eventuated has either been with huge success or failure upon failure. With The Lottery’s case, what has transpired is abysmal ratings and a storyline that seems awfully like Children of Men, a 2006 movie starring Clive Owen. Nevertheless, kudos for the TV channel for trying to do something new, but from the look of things, I’ll probably have to be saying goodbye to this show now, so that when it is in fact cancelled in a few weeks’ time, I’ll be better prepared.
With all its bad points, there are a few points to be celebrated. Marley Shelton portrays Allison to the tee, and is shown to be one of the more solid actors out of the main cast in this TV show. While at times the show suffers from cheesy dialogue (namely from Allison’s co-worker James Lynch), Allison, or should I say Marley, offers the show some stability with a convincing portrayal of a woman ready and willing to go above and beyond to find the truth- even if it means to uncover a lot of cover-ups in the process. Martin Donovan, who plays the sinister and secretive Darius Hayes, also acts well in a show that, because it is on Lifetime, is sadly dismissed despite the dark and maybe even necessary subject matter. Martin’s acting to portray a man who is obviously being deceptive and even manipulative is one that makes me invested in the character- and that even though I know that even if the character of Darius Hayes will be found out for his illegal manipulative activities, I still want to see and know how it all will play out.
Making the Chinese seem like ultimate bad men and a source of conflict in the TV show is a nice touch and different from many TV shows that often portray the U.S. having conflict with any country in the Middle East. While I’m sure no country wants to be portrayed as evil, for the progression of the plot, I am indeed happy to see the U.S. negotiate a hostage situation with a country that is not from the Middle East region, even if it does happen to be one of the fastest developing countries in the world (and a failed hostage negotiation too!).
With a cast overly unknown, it is nice to watch the show and see a few familiar faces, even if they are supporting. J. August Richards, who recently had a major recurring arc in ABC’s Agents of Shield, also had a brief role in this new drama, as one of the defence ministers and advisors to the president, who sadly had his life shortened because of the failed hostage negotiation with the Chinese in the inability to meet the demands of 5 embryos for men’s lives. While only a small role, J. August delivers his lines quite well, and is in fact one of the most underrated TV actors within the last few years. Shelly Conn, recently guest starring in 24: Live Another Day and a main character in FOX’s cancelled Terra Nova, lends her acting skills as the President’s wife in this new drama, yet speaking in an American accent instead of keeping her natural British one. Even though you know that Shelly is British, you can hardly tell on the show- kudos to her for her acting ability.
And with a the addition of Karissa Lee Staples (who starred as Paloma in Season 3 of Necessary Roughness– a show that unfortunately met its end in 2013) to the cast as one of the surrogate mothers being chosen to carry a baby, The Lottery is reminding us that actors can be unknown but still great, and shows like this can be the perfect platform for these types of actors- known but not that much- to gain the much needed publicity and popularity for them to be noticed within the movie and television industry. Well done to these 3 aforementioned actors above (as well as Martin and Marley) for keeping the show interesting and bringing a sense of uniqueness to a channel that would need an otherwise rebranding if it were to survive in the near future.
Did The Lottery wow you these last few weeks? Are you still going to be watching the show, even though it is all but certain it’ll be cancelled (and hopefully shopped to other networks) come the end of the season? How do you think you would survive in a world where human infertility is one of the biggest problems of the world? What do you think The Lottery can teach us about how to live and survive here in this time? Let us know in the comments.
Til next time.
RIYL: Almost Human, Terra Nova, Defiance, Eureka, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Rating: 4/5 (based on 5 episodes)
The Lottery airs every Sunday at 10/9c on Lifetime.