Like Jedi mind tricks.
Let’s not mince words: Mind Games: Season 1 was cancelled after only five episodes were shown. And unlike more recent ABC cancellations such as Selfie, the rest of the 13-episode run was not burned off anywhere else but rather replaced by reruns of other series. So my first challenge when given this assignment was to watch the first five episodes and see what the TPTB did (or didn’t) when making the decision to drop the axe.
And while my observations are just that, the first thing which became blatantly obvious to me during my viewing was the marketing for the series. Specifically, how discordant the ads I had seen actually were in relation to the show. The ads made Mind Games seem like an upbeat show fueled by the wacky adventures of two brothers whose unconventional approach to problem solving nonetheless brings real life-changing results to people.
To be fair only part of that statement is false. However that part is kind of crucial. That would be the “upbeat” part. Mind Games is way more drama heavy than the promos lead you to believe. That’s not a bad thing, in fact it makes the show that much more compelling, but expecting the audience to do a complete paradigm shift may have been what killed the show. And it’s a shame the show died because watching the remaining episodes revealed a new direction as well as resolutions to some of the main obstacles the characters were facing when the plug was pulled.
The premise of the show echoes The Mentalist and Psych with a bit of The A-Team and Leverage thrown into the mix. But there are only echoes because unlike those shows Mind Games is based on actual scientific theories like the universal Principles of Persuasion. Dr. Clark Edwards (Steve Zahn, Sahara) studies the science of persuasion. His brother Ross (Christian Slater, True Romance) is a con artist recently released after two years in a minimum security prison. When Clark is fired from his professorship it’s the perfect time for the two brothers to team up and use the science of persuasion to help change people’s minds without them knowing it. And that’s an interesting concept to me because of the moral gray area it opens up. Who’s to say when someone needs their mind changed? What gives you the right to manipulate me into agreeing with you? And to give the show credit, the cases they tackle aren’t cut and dry but rather they do go into a questionable area and acknowledge their journey. So while the show failed it did provide something interesting which echoes shows I’ve loved and lost before. I can say I ended my viewing with an appreciation for the show and far less disappointment than I had expected to feel.
Unfortunately there are some disappointments concerning technical issues to address with this release. The video is a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, typical of currently-airing shows but there are unbalanced levels. Whites can approach dangerously blown out while blacks are definitely too-dark at times, obscuring things in a move which I suspect is meant to promote an “atmosphere” to the scenes in question but instead denies the viewer access to half of the actors’ emotions. And sadly the Dolby 5.1 audio track isn’t much better, though there is a notable exception. There is clearly looped dialogue which is not mixed within the scenes as well as it could be. However the exception is in the quiet moments. I’ve never watched a show which handles characters whispering with as much success as Mind Games. So it’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of technical specs. Nothing will cause you to throw your player at the wall in anger but you might find yourself occasionally taken out of a scene.
There were no special features.
It’s tough to commit to a recommendation on this one. On the one hand Mind Games is cancelled so if you haven’t seen any episodes I don’t see why you need to invest. But on the other hand if you were invested in the show and frustrated at its cancellation then Mind Games: Season 1 will not leave you as unsatisfied as you might fear. Are you the kind of person who needs to know how things ended or are you already on to the next thing? Let your existing connection to the show guide you. Let your inner voice guide you…or that picture of a cat you just walked past.