I enjoy watching an entire television series from beginning to end. I’ve done it with lots of them down through the years, and recently my wife and I have started re-watching the series The Pretender. It originally aired on NBC from 1996 through 2000, and it was great. Sure, there were a few episodes that left you scratching your head, but every show has one or two of those.
The Pretender was a show about a man named Jarod. Jarod had been abducted as a boy and forced to use his great intellect to solve problems for an organization called the Centre. The Centre had apparently started out as a benevolent (or at the very least, neutral) organization, but their means and goals gradually grew worse over time.
Jarod realizes his ideas are being used for evil – to harm and kill people – and he escapes. The show focuses on three things: Jarod’s integration into an unfamiliar world, Jarod’s search for his long lost family, and the Centre’s search for Jarod.
The thing that makes this show so great is that it delves into the background and history of the searchers as often as it delves into Jarod’s history. The show morphs into a tale about Jarod’s attempts to save his pursuers from the Centre and its lies while eluding them.
The first pursuer is Sydney, the scientist who raised Jarod and who guided him in his simulations. Over the course of the series, it is revealed that Sydney has a twin brother who was permanently disabled after an “accident” which occurred shortly after he began questioning the ethics of the Centre’s practices. We later learn that the twin boys had subjected to experiments in a concentration camp during WWII, which leaves Sydney conflicted about his treatment of Jarod, and we discover that Sydney views Jarod as the son he never had. Jarod cherishes his relationship with Sydney and hopes to some day have a more “normal” friendship with him.
The second pursuer is Ms. Parker, whose first name is never revealed. She is a ruthless and brutal woman with a bad temper and a crazy back story. Over the course of the series, it is revealed that she was a sweet little girl until her mother’s death (was it suicide? murder? fake? all of the above?) in the Centre. Jarod always remembers her as the sweet little girl who gave him his first kiss, and he constantly points her to the truth about the Centre, which is run in large part by her father.
The third pursuer is Broots. Broots is technical support and comedy relief for the pursuers, and Jarod does several things to help him in his personal life.
The final pursuer Jarod works to redeem is Angelo. Angelo actually needs no redemption, as he is actually Jarod’s friend inside the Centre, feeding him necessary information and throwing his pursuers off. You later learn that Angelo was a young pretender named Timmy, but that the Centre performed horrific experiments that twisted his intellect and left him a shell of his former self.
Ultimately, The Pretender works because it involves a cast of complex characters and intriguing plots. Neither of those components works without the other, as the characters are what makes the plot intriguing and the plots serve to expose the characters. I sincerely hope that twenty years after I finish my current series of books, folks are still fascinated by them and talking about them.