No one could accuse Gideon Raff (Homeland) and Tim Kring (Heroes), the creators of USA Network’s new series Dig, of trying to make a boring television series. Within the first three hours alone, we’re given a portrait of a broken man dealing with grief, a storyline involving what is believed to be the Biblical red heifer (and another involving the Ark of the Covenant), and a nation-spanning religious conspiracy. Unfortunately, though, while Dig is certainly interested in providing us with intriguing mysteries and countless characters (I almost couldn’t keep track of who everyone was and how they were involved in the central storyline), it fails to really engage with these characters, instead leaving us, for the most part, with a bunch of stereotypical, cardboard cutouts going through the motions.
The lead (and most compelling character) of Dig‘s bloated cast is Jason Isaacs’ Peter Connelly, an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem who sleeps with his boss (played by Anne Heche) while attempting to repair his broken marriage through a series of hopeless, depressing phone calls. These conversations between Peter and his wife are supposed to instill some type of emotion in us, but since we never see her on screen once (at least not in the screeners USA sent out to critics), she’s pretty much a nonentity, a disembodied voice that Peter attempts to connect with as the two of them deal with a tragic loss in their family. More effective are the scenes of Isaacs alone, pouring over evidence as he tries to drown out the sorrowful memories of his past, or when he’s completely unraveling, unsure of whether what’s happening to him is real life and or if it’s purely fantasy.
While dealing with his grief, Peter soon finds himself wrapped up in a religious conspiracy after meeting Emma Wilson (Alison Sudol), but he’s faced with more questions than answers. He and Ori Pfeffer’s Detective Cohen always seem to be at least one step behind the criminals involved with this great mystery, which would be okay if the two of them had more interesting things to do than bicker in cop clichÃ©s.
And really, that’s where the main problem with Dig lies. It’s perfectly understandable why the show’s creators would want to take their time peeling back the central mystery of the series piece by piece over the course of its 10-episode run. However, unlike more recent limited/event series, such as HBO’s True Detective or FX’s Fargo, Dig doesn’t give us anything to care about but its main religious conspiracy plot, and that makes the entire series become incredibly tedious, as we find ourselves not watching to see the journeys of these characters but instead in hopes that some new shred of information will help this overly complicated plot make sense. In order to be successful, Dig doesn’t need to give us answers: it just needs to give us a reason to care about all these people.
Despite my laundry list of negatives, there are some more promising elements to Dig that should be mentioned. Isaacs, as usual, does strong work and elevates the more generic material he’s given, and he and Pfeffer have a good rapport with one another. Similarly, Heche also gives a solid performance, but she’s on screen for maybe a total time of 10 minutes throughout these first three episodes, which doesn’t allow for her character, Lynn Monahan, the head of the FBI office in Jerusalem, to leave any sort of impression.
Also a plus for Dig is its look. The series was originally shot on location in Jerusalem before moving production to Croatia and then New Mexico amidst the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, and many of the outdoor scenes in these early episodes pop. When Peter is running through the streets of Jerusalem chasing after a suspect or exploring the dig site that gives the series its title with Emma in the show’s pilot, that’s when Dig differentiates itself from the rest of television and becomes a show worth watching.
Sadly, the visuals are pretty much the most exciting thing about Dig, which banks on its main conspiracy plot being gripping enough to disguise its many faults. However, that’s one truth that the series can’t cover up, as any semblance of character gets lost in the show’s drawn-out mystery, making for an intriguing but ultimately dull affair.
Dig premieres this Thursday, March 5, at 10 p.m. on USA Network. Three episodes were watched for this review.
[Photo via USA Network]