“Keep Re-Building”

From the creators of Battlestar Galactica, The Bionic Woman updates the high camp of the 70s series with a straight face. Jaime Sommers (East Enders‘ Michelle Ryan), girlfriend of a scientist, Will Anthros (Chris Bowers), gets side-swiped by a truck. Luckily for her 1) her boyfriend escapes from the accident unharmed and 2) he’s part of a secret government program that can rebuild her. At least the parts of her that need rebuilding: both legs, an arm, an ear, an eye — all replaced with military bionics. Hardwired for combat, as her boyfriend breaks her situation to her, her blood stream is also full of “anthracites” which allow for, among other things, faster healing. The downside is that she’s now government property and must participate in secret operations or be killed.

Okay, so not that straight of a face. The series uneven nature is hard to appreciate until you’ve seen a few consecutive episodes. The pilot was … functional. It got us to the super powers. After that, the series enters a state of constant flux. It was as if the creators were so excited about the concept (“we’re updating the Bionic Woman! I was so hot for her as a kid!!!”), they didn’t fully think out the backstory of the series or characters. And there are a lot of characters they have to choose from to bore us with (whose personalities tend to change with each episode also). It’s a television-familiar cast from Ruth Treadwell (Molly Price, Third Watch), Jonas Bledsoe (Miguel Ferrer, Crossing Jordan), to Antonio Pope (Isaiah Washington, recently fired from Grey’s Anatomy). Unfortunately, no one has much to work with.

“When is it okay to intervene on God’s work?” –Will Anthros
Jamie Wells Summer is stable, loyal, smart, all the things one would want in a girlfriend. She has her act seemingly together. Saddled with an angry, angst-ridden teen sister, Becca Summers (Lucy Hale), the bionics represent her entering her own personal matrix and being given true freedom as opposed to the illusion of it she enjoyed previously. Cutting away all of the parts of her that are weak, she begins to see the world in a new way, experiencing things anew.

“You have no idea what you can do now. It’s a gift. It’s not what you wanted, you didn’t ask for it, it’s not fair, but it’s where you are. And I’m not going to stand around and watch you flush your life down the toilet.” –Jonas

A life ends. A new life begins. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life … For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6 4-6).

We begin to question not only who we are, but what we are doing here. That is where the journey begins, that journey of discovery of what it means to be fully human, of learning what we are capable of doing. To figure out how to live as we were created to live, to resist empty ways of living, to find a larger purpose to your life. It may mean being a part of something larger, maybe even an organization out to save the world.

“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to make a choice … welcome to the game.” –Jonas
The Bionic Woman is wildly uneven, much like the protagonist’s acting or her chief nemesis’, Sarah Corvus (Katee Sackhoff having a ball playing the only truly fun character on the show), personality. The characters tend to spout exposition, not actual dialogue; they behave in sometimes bizarre (since we can’t say “out of character” since those characters haven’t been defined) ways. Ryan isn’t up to the task of conveying angst and gravitas via hurt looks and endless exposition (telling us she’s hurt is a lot different from us feeling her pain).

However, it does show signs of lightening up in recent episodes. The show itself is still in search of what it wants to be, retool as it goes until it finds its legs: a quasi-feminist/girl power sort of romp (a la, s, though it has that pesky “men in control of your life” underbelly); a popcorn thrill-ride romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously; a social commentary of a woman’s role in the military and society? Ryan lacks the dynamic sparkle needed to act opposite Sackhoff, much less be able to share the screen with Isaiah Washington. That’s how things stand as of now. Who knows what the show will be about by the time the next episode airs. And let’s hope that we care by then.

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