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Review: ‘Deception’ Season 1

deception meagan good

Murder, Betrayal, and… Deception

Bad ratings are par for the course on NBC, and they’re not always indicative of the quality of a show. In the case of freshman drama Deception, however, it might be.

Because there was a black female lead, a rarity on television, I was initially excited for the show. Kerry Washington was the first black woman to lead a network show since 1974 and Meagan Good would be the second. Unfortunately, as soon as I sat down to watch Deception, I noted several problems – none of which improved as of tonight’s season (series?) finale.

Meagan Good stars as Joanna Locasto, a San Francisco detective, who once lived with the notorious Bowers family up until her teenage years because her mother had worked there as a maid.

The main arc of the show surrounds the mysterious death of Joanna’s childhood best friend, Vivian Bowers (Bree Williamson). At first, Vivian is presumed to have overdosed on some drugs because of her history as an addict. FBI agent and Joanna’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Will Moreno (Laz Alonso), however, suspects Vivian was murdered and convinces Joanna to go undercover in order to infiltrate the family so they can unmask the killer.

While Joanna hasn’t spoken to or seen the family in seventeen years, Vivan’s father Robert (Victor Garber) – the seemingly warmhearted patriarch of the family – welcomes Joanna with open arms. The rest of the clan is a little more hostile, even distrustful. Robert’s wife Sophia (Katherine LaNasa), whom he married after Vivan’s mother died, is one of the hostile ones. But she was also one of the more interesting characters on the show. There was a particular scene in episode 2 involving a confrontation between Sophia and Robert’s secretary, which really showcases this.

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There’s also Vivian’s eldest brother Edward Bowers (Tate Donovan) who is suspicious of Joanna right away. Edward has got a few scandals up his sleeve – mainly a murder trial for which he was acquitted – and this makes him a suspect for Vivian’s murder right away. The general consensus among the plebs is that the Bowers get away with everything because of money, power, and prestige. Will seems to agree with that assessment and so he’s particularly gung-ho about bringing the family to justice for Vivian’s murder.

A burgeoning romance between Joanna and Vivian’s other brother Julian (Wes Brown) develops – or rather, it’s re-inflamed – as soon as Joanna steps into her new undercover identity. It immediately creates conflict between Joanna and Will, especially after he finds out that Joanna had been sleeping with Julian back when the two of them were teenagers.

Finally, there’s Mia Bowers (Ella Rae Peck), the smart-mouthed but also more sensible and ‘innocent’ member of the family, who – through the course of the series – finds out an earth-shattering secret that’s been kept from her for her entire life.

There are a few other supporting characters, like Edward’s estranged wife Samantha (Marin Hinkle) and a shady senator played by John Laroquette.

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The premise had potential. It’s a little bit like Twin Peaks meets ABC’s Revenge. However, the show was heavily bogged down by poorly developed characters, bad acting, and terrible writing.

The whole plan surrounding Joanna going undercover is poorly thought-out on the part of Will (who initially concocted it) and the other police officers, but Joanna herself is also a terrible undercover agent. It’s shocking that she’s able to keep up the facade so long – even till the last episode.

Will does not help matters. He’s an incredibly annoying character – perhaps the weakest character overall – and he definitely doesn’t have any legs to stand on in the Joanna/Julian/Will love triangle, either.

The last episode left us with a few cliffhangers, so if Deception isn’t renewed for a second season, I imagine some particularly loyal viewers will be pissed off. At the same time, I’ll be pretty surprised if it is renewed. While it’s not the worst show to ever come into existence, I’m not sure it’s worthy of another season – unless the show-runners make some dramatic improvements.

Rating: C