666 Park Avenue Pilot Review: The Devil in the Details
The title 666 Park Avenue does not beat around the bush. It is blunt, like Gavin Doran (Lost’s Terry O’Quinn), the owner of the haunted apartment building, The Drake. O’Quinn appears to enjoy – and excel at – playing somewhat cryptic and enigmatic characters. He and the rest of the cast are in their element in this seductively dark pilot episode. It is not a terribly scary introduction to the show, but it is a very impressive tease to get us hooked.
The Drake, operated by the married Gavin and Olivia Doran (Vanessa Williams), is an unusual apartment complex. The elevators are temperamental, the guests range from friendly to very suspicious, and the history of the building refuses to be silenced. When the resident manager is no longer able to do his job (“He moved someplace warmer”), a charming young couple interviews for the position.
Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable) arrive in New York City in the same fashion as many others – adorably optimistic with big dreams. They drive a beater car and know that if Jane doesn’t land the manager position, they will probably be unable to afford living at The Drake. Initially the interview seems unsuccessful, with Gavin reminding them that this is New York and that “not everyone gets to make it.” Fortunately, Jane’s multiple degrees and vast architectural knowledge impress Gavin enough to land them the job.
As the (naively?) cheerful couple are shown around their new home, we get to meet some of the other residents. There’s Brian (Robert Buckley), the resident Shakespeare, who seems to suffer from a wandering eye. Brian’s assiduous wife, Louise (Mercedes Masöhn), wonders why he is so nice to her when she doesn’t always treat him the same way. We have to wonder how quickly she’d change her tune if she caught him peering in their attractive neighbour’s window. Their relationship seems strained and the power struggle between them is evident.
There’s also Nona Clark (Samantha Logan), who we do not learn much about right away. She does let Jane know about a washing machine leak and warns her that there is a thief in the building. Her mention that the building will “keep you on your toes” seems to carry a double meaning, like many other lines uttered in the episode.
Most openly unsettling of the tenants is John Barlow (James Waterston), who has a bloody hand when Jane first bumps into him. John is feeling guilty about something, and his disturbing situation is clearly tied to Gavin in some way.
The various oddities of The Drake and its tenants are introduced and hinted at as the episode progresses. It is easily noticeable that the residents of the building are all very ambitious, but what lengths would they go to in order to achieve their goals? The phrase ‘making a deal with the devil’ comes to mind. So far the show has done a very nice job of baiting without giving too much away. Many TV shows need a few episodes to hit their stride, but 666 Park Avenue is ahead of the curve.
Much of that strength is thanks to O’Quinn, who is spectacular as Gavin. He and Williams make a superbly creepy power-couple. While it is glaringly obvious that Gavin has a very strong evil element to him, it is not as clear how aware or involved his wife is. The show hints at some generosity in her character, which is more than can be said for her very calculating husband (so far, anyway).
Of course, there is one key plot problem that will undoubtedly soon arise. If the building is as haunted and troubling as it appears, the happy couple should come to their senses and leave as soon as possible. The writing will need to be strong to overcome that obstacle, because viewers will lose interest if the lead characters ignore that blatantly obvious option. Will they be supernaturally forced to stay, or is it a better story if they choose to stay for some realistic reason?
Rachael Taylor plays Jane with a certain innocent curiosity that is quite appealing. She is clever and capable without being pretentious. Sometimes it can be irritating when the female lead in a scary show walks boldly alone, unarmed, into danger. We’ve probably all wanted to throw things at the screen when the guileless heroine wanders outside to check for an axe murderer in the middle of the night. Jane’s character is close to being too unsuspecting right now, but will likely mature quickly as she faces the inevitable challenges ahead of her.
The 666 Park Avenue pilot is, overall, extremely promising. The leads are strong and charismatic. Intrigue surrounds all of the building’s secrets. There are no dull story lines or characters, and the show is already generous with plot twists. It can be challenging to pull off a suspenseful story without becoming tiresomely secretive, but this show has the potential to do just that. Check it out for yourself September 30 on ABC.