What I like about Second Chance is that it isn’t just They Fight Crime! tacked onto a scifi premise. The show actually uses its premise. Otto Goodwin is a genius who’s figured out how to bring people with a certain gene back from the dead. He goal is to use his first success’s blood to save his twin sister from a rare incurable form of cancer. Said first success is Jimmy Pritchard, a former King County, Washington sheriff who has family of his own to take care of. Not the consequence-less fluff I’ve come to expect from similarly billed shows in the past.
1—The Future May be Here but Family Still Comes First
Second Chance revolves around two families—The Pritchard clan & the Goodwin twins, Otto and Mary. Otto is a genuine genius in I don’t know how many fields. Besides the bio-engineering marvel of raising the dead, he’s the brains behind Lookinglass, a tech company to rival Apple and Microsoft—I don’t actually know if they’re actually business rivals as those companies aren’t mentioned in-show. Mary is the face of the company, brilliant in her own right, but her whole life is Otto. Since the deaths of their parents when the twins were children, Mary became mother to Otto. Mary has also taken on the role of wife in a sense—hostess and public face to Otto’s recluse. Needless to say, this leaves Mary’s personal life a little lacking.
Which brings us to Jimmy Pritchard, our reanimated man. Jimmy left his job under a cloud of moral corruption—Jimmy Pritchard embodies the I Did What I Had To Do trope—and has spent the remaining years of his old age increasingly estranged from his adult children. After being murdered—a plot I’m glad is wrapped up quickly as we’ve a lot more to get to—Jimmy Pritchard is…surprised…to wake up again a much younger man. Though not half as surprised as his children are to meet their “half brother”. Did I mention Jimmy’s son is a straight-laced FBI Agent?
This section isn’t about Otto and Mary—though I suppose they qualify—it’s about Pritchard and Mary. They spend part of each day hooked to each other via a blood transfusion machine, hoping Jimmy’s transgenic blood will save Mary’s life. Mary and Jimmy even have a conversation about the weird intimacy of it all. And though Jimmy draws parallels—about how he and Mary swap bodily fluids, for one thing—it’s not about sex. Neither does the rest of Mary’s and Jimmy’s relationship feel sexual to me. Intimate and possibly romantic, but not sexual. The few kisses have been on the forehead, on both their parts. And it’s not as if either of them are shy.
Mary has a friend with benefits and while I could see her holding back from something more personal—her whole life is her brother and the business—Jimmy is overt about his desires. So while there’s this feeling of a romantic arc in motion, instead what we get is something parallel to, but not, a typical romance. As a result of that atypicality, Mary’s and Jimmy’s growing relationship avoids many of the pitfalls of such well-worn tropes and I really enjoyed that.
3—Last But Not Least, the SciFi
As I said up top, there are consequences to Otto’s scientific breakthrough. The impacts of the new technology are extrapolated and explored. Mary wants to use Jimmy’s blood to develop a treatment for other cancer sufferers that doesn’t require a live-in Frankenstein (one of the sources of the show’s inspiration). And it turns out messing with someone’s genetic code can have unexpected effects on them. And of course, there’s the ruthless sociopath who’s been stalking Otto’s progress intending to manipulate Otto into finding a way to make anyone immortal, not just those with Jimmy’s extremely rare gene, which said sociopath doesn’t have.
Speaking of that rare gene, I like that this immortality and power isn’t just the province of the “hero”, that the technology doesn’t remain contained to just Jimmy. It leaks out into the world—like I said, it has consequences. Consequences like Otto’s prior test, failed test subjects.
Second Chance has a lot to recommend it—full-spectrum morality from black to white, with most of the show’s driving issues falling into the greys; a refreshing lack of slut-shaming and/or victim-blaming; and some main characters who aren’t white!
And of course, my only hard storytelling rule is fulfilled. The first season of Second Chance has a satisfying conclusion that completes the emotional arcs set up in the first episode. It completely shakes the characters’s worlds up, and still leaves plenty room for more stories without those “loose ends” seeming artificial. Well, maybe one is artificial, but only because it involves an artificial intelligence (couldn’t resist that pun). I enjoyed this show, will re-watch it, and can’t wait for the second season of Second Chance (and no, I couldn’t resist that pun either).