TV Review - What/If
Jane Levy (Castle Rock and Suburgatory) stars as Lisa Donovan, a scientist in San Francisco who has started her own medical company called Emigen. It's a genetic targeting company that is trying to modify life-saving drugs for people who might not be able to use them. However, to get her company off the ground, she needs funding. She's gotten money from her family, specifically her adopted parents, but she needs more. She's been going around pitching her company to investors over and over, but she hasn't had any luck recently. She's running out of time because she's soon to go bankrupt. Her parents also have an issue where they need the money they gave to Lisa back or else they could face foreclosure. She's white but her adopted parents are Latino and they've been doing okay but now they're in financial straits.
In Kelley's previous series Revenge, his main character was a young woman named Emily Thorne and she was played by Emily VanCamp. If we're going to start with comparing the two protagonists from these two of Kelley's shows, it's no question that Emily Thorne is a much more interesting and quite frankly, smarter character than Lisa. Emily Thorne was no scientist or geneticist, but she had smarts to her that Lisa certainly doesn't display in the first few episodes of this series. This is actually a criticism that could be applied to all of the characters. Characters seemed smarter in Revenge than they do in this series. One of the reasons is probably so they can fall prey to the ridiculous plot that's been put into motion. It's not to say that Revenge didn't have a ridiculous plot too. Yet, there seemed to be an intelligence there that feels lacking here.
Lisa recognizes that Anne is doing the same thing as Indecent Proposal. Lisa even references that film, presuming that she's seen it. Except, it's a question of whether she has seen it because if she had, then one would think she would be smart enough not to go along with what Anne suggests. One would think that she would be smart enough not even to entertain the idea at all. Anne flirts with Lisa's husband and presumably Anne wants to have sex with him. Lisa and her husband think it's just sex and that their relationship could survive a one-night-stand. Again, if Lisa and her husband were smarter, which if they've seen the 1993 film, they would know it's not that simple.
It's not a big surprise why Sean would fall into the various traps into which he falls. His character though gets to be a little bit annoying and frustrating. One of the conditions of Anne's proposal is that no matter what, Sean can't talk about what he did with Anne during their one-night-stand. If he does, then Lisa loses ownership of her company, Anne can kick her out and do with the company whatever she wants. This would also include Sean not being able to tell his wife Lisa what he did or didn't do. Yet, Lisa asks and she does so in a private place where no one would know that he told her. She repeatedly asks him to do so and he doesn't do it. He does eventually tell her but he does so in front of Anne, so she can take the company from Lisa. Sean's stupidity reached a new level at that point. It's difficult to root for characters so dumb. He's very pretty and sexy but an idiot.
It's good to see a same-sex relationship that is interracial and loving, as well as open to various sexual experiences, including a threesome, although it's not as good as the same-sex couple in Six Feet Under. Yet, that HBO series had more time to develop that couple. The main issue is that Marcos is harboring a secret, which he holds for most of this first season. It seems like a monumental secret but how it's manifested in the show, it feels like it's of no consequence.
I imagine Kelley and his writers thought they were being provocative, but it's just gross. Angela's story line has nothing to do with the other story lines. If Angela and Ian's whole arc had been removed, the series wouldn't have missed or suffered for it. In fact, I wish it had been removed.
Running Time: 1 hr. / 10 eps.
Available on Netflix.