BWW Recap: INTRUDERS Premiere Erupts with Mystery and Murder

The verdict is in: BBC America has a hit on its hands with "Intruders." The new paranormal sci-fi thriller, based on the Michael Marshall Smith novel of the same name, wastes no time launching viewers into the action. While many genre shows (and at it's heart, "Intruders" is very much a genre show) overload audiences with difficult to follow plots and Science references that fly over the heads of even the most educated viewers. Glen Morgan and his team manage to walk that fine line between over-complicated and painfully bland; creating an intelligently intricate show that encourages viewer participation...and that is also just plain fun to watch.

"Intruders" lets you know right from the opening scene that things are quite unconventional in this world. Opening titles place us in small town Barstow, California in 1990. We enter mid-birthday party, and although the typical cake-and-candles celebration sits center stage, any singing that might be happening is completely muted. This is not your typical shindig. The night gets even stranger when two imposing men in long, black trench coats break into the birthday girl's house, put something over her mouth, and prepare to "shepherd" her - whatever that means. Before you know it, the girl experiences what seems like a rough exorcism, complete with rocking back and forth in a corner and speaking in tongues, all while her shepherds stand by, observing idly. Before they depart, the men leave behind a bus ticket and a black business card with a gold "9" emblazoned on the front. Their job is done. The next time we see Donna, as we learn she is called, her pupils widen to the point of taking over her eyes, and something in her changes. She's not Donna anymore. She writes a cryptic note, which simply states, "Because in the beginning, there was death." She glides to the bathroom, fills a bathtub, and climbs in. The water turns blood red and drips onto the floor - and onto the note addressed to a Gary Fischer.

Poor Donna. We'll miss you. Unless you're not gone...

Who are these shepherds? Why does Donna (or whoever she is) kill herself? Why is Fischer so important to her?

I already have a million questions before the opening credits - and I love that. Glen Morgan trusts that his viewers are smart, inquisitive, and genuinely interested; he clearly has faith in his show, and I have faith in him. Another confidence boost for the creative team? The author of the show's source material, Michael Marshall Smith, tweeted his stamp of approval. That, to me, says a lot. We all know how badly a page-to-screen adaptation can butcher the original story (I can think of more than a few).

The show's next setting is as bleak as they come: present-day Seattle. At nighttime. Turns out, one of the shepherds (appropriately named Richard Shepherd) from Donna's transition (is there a better word for what happened to her?) moonlights as an assassin! The mysterious man gains entry into a suburban home with fake FBI credentials, demanding to speak to a Bill Anderson. Anderson's wife insists he is not home, and before she can scream for help, Shepherd shoots her and her son in cold blood. To add some flair to the murders, he sets the basement on fire and strolls out of the house as police sirens wail in the distance. Clearly, murder is nothing but part of the job for Shepherd.

This man may be terrible, but boy, is he intriguing. Kudos to James Frain for creating such a multi-layered murderer.

A change of scene brings us to Birch Crossing, Washington. You'd be hard pressed to find a more idyllic, seaside village. It even comes complete with a mom and pop bookshop called Ennead. For those of you not fluent in the Ancient Greek language (quit slacking, guys!), I did some research for you. "Ennead" is Greek for "a collection of nine things." There's that magic number again. It must be important.

Surely it's significant for Jack Whelan, whose book, "Afterlife," is featured in the store's main window display. Whelan and his business-savvy wife, Amy, are well-liked and respected figures in the town, garnering birthday wishes from neighbors and Ennead store owners Brud and Bobbi Zimmerman. Amy is a self proclaimed birthday-hater, and after seeing how the last birthday we saw turned out (RIP Donna), I can't blame her.

Donna's and Amy's birthdays do actually share one, very important event. Remember that freaky pupil-dilating thing that happened to Donna right before she hopped into the bathtub? It's Amy's turn. Only Amy's transformation takes place while she has sex with her husband on their kitchen counter. Could this be a foreshadowing of an impending change in their marital relationship, perhaps? I think so. It's also just creepy.

That scene only heightens the tension that John Simm and Mira Sorvino create between their characters upon arriving home earlier that night. Photos around the house suggest that this couple was once very much in love, but the Jack and Amy that we see here do their best to hide the distance that creeps in between them. As he prepares to celebrate Amy's birthday in the meager way he can without getting scolded by her, Jack hears jazz music playing in his living room. He investigates, and finds Amy, draped in a sheer black shawl, dancing absent mindedly to the song. The look on Jack's face says it all: this is weird for her. He calls her out on this odd behavior, and she hides her head in her hands. She's embarrassed. "It was private," she explains. What could possibly be so private about dancing to jazz that it would make her anxious about being her loving husband? Amy's newly beloved jazz music reappears a bit later, when she leaves for a business trip in Seattle. Jack calls out to Amy as she pulls away, but Amy ignores him. Clearly, the divide between husband and wife runs deep beneath the surface, and Simm and Sorvino do a magnificent job portraying the couple's nuanced relationship.

If Amy's behavior isn't strange enough for you, meet Oz Turner, aka Professor Perdue. Oz is your typical conspiracy theorist who runs a podcast about the mysterious group Qui Reverti. His broadcast is pretty cryptic, but it's caught the attention of everyone's favorite murderer, Richard Shepherd. Shepherd convinces Oz to meet with him at a small casino/diner in Reno in order to talk about Bill Anderson, and the veil is (finally!) lifted off of Anderson's identity. Anderson is an acoustics engineering professor, and he has discovered a sound, too low for the human ear to hear, that can make people experience other frequencies. He and Oz believe that by accessing these frequencies, humans can learn how to achieve immortality. It's all shrouded in delicious sci-fi mystery.

Anderson's popularity extends beyond the conspiracy theorists of America, however. While Amy is on her business trip, Gary Fischer (of Donna's suicide note fame) pays a visit to Jack, an old high school friend. Fischer demands that he speak to Jack in private, so he takes Jack to a dense forest where the mist hangs thick over the trees, creating a beautiful air of mystery. Fischer asks for Jack's help investigating the murder case of Anderson's family, explaining that it's related to a case he's working on in Chicago. We leave this scene with more questions than we do answers, which is exactly what I want during a premiere episode. Keep me hooked, Morgan!

Madison, or Marcus?

All in all, the show up to this point has been quite paranormal and mysterious. The catch (and it's an awesome one) is that we haven't even been introduced to the show's most creepy character yet. We first meet Madison at he kitchen table, where she sits staring at - you guessed it! - a birthday cake, preparing to celebrate - yep! - her 9th birthday. I really understand Amy's birthday resentment now. Her mother bickers on the phone with her father, and a fed up Madison runs out of the house to the nearby beach, where she is greeted by the one and only Richard Shepherd, who seems to have the ability to be in ten places at once. She's genuinely freaked out, but later that night her transformation begins. For some reason, the freaky eye change is even more disturbing when it happens to a little kid. She's not your average victim of the soul swap, though. Madison stands her ground. During her transformation, she heads to the bathroom (oh, no...) and fills up the bathtub (don't do it!), but gets distracted by her cat (...don't you dare!!). Out of nowhere, Madison becomes Marcus, the soul attempting to enter her body, and shoves the cat under water until it dies. What?! My jaw dropped. She's so innocent! How could she?! When Madison regains control over Marcus, she's equally as devastated and she sobs. This scene absolutely amazed me. It was perfect. Millie Brown may only be ten years old, but this girl can act leagues better than some adults. I have a feeling she'll be around for a while, and deservedly so.

After this, everything happens rather quickly. Shepherd heads to Oz's house and reveals that his and Anderson's theories about the frequencies and Qui Reverti were indeed correct...and then he shoots Oz in the head. Poor Oz. At least now we know why everyone's hunting Anderson! Meanwhile, Madison has been overcome by Marcus, and calls Shepherd (at the phone number she found on the back of her "9" business card), threatening that "what goes around, comes around." With that, she runs out of the house into the night.

At the same time, Jack realizes Amy's missing when a Seattle cab driver finds her phone in his car. Jack arranges to pick up the phone at Le Soleil, the hotel at which Amy was supposedly staying, and discovers an abundance of texts from an unknown caller. Curious, he dials the number, and hears the very same jazz music...and now the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together. The jazz music must contain Anderson's legendary frequencies - and that's how Qui Reverti members communicate! Unless we're wrong, and none of that turns out to be true at all. We'll have to wait and see.

The tagline for "Intruders" is " Don't let them in." But I say let them in. Let them in and greet these Intruders with open arms. Throw them a party. They may have cold-blooded killers on their side and a checkered past shrouded with immortality and mystery, but after tonight's premiere, I want -nay, need - to know what happens next.

Did you let the "Inruders" in? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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From This Author Courtney Henley


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