Finding Carter Season 1 Review “Pilot”

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Just going off of the premise of MTV’s new teen drama, Finding Carter, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was on the wrong network. With shows like The Lying Game and Switched at Birth, ABC Family have cornered the market when it comes to high-stakes family dramas but, with the track record MTV have carved out with Teen Wolf and Awkward (ignoring some of the other, less successful British remakes), we might find we’re glad of its placement here.

Because MTV can do more than ABC Family, and the relatively innocent story of two girls switched in the hospital by accident can become Finding Carter’s darker kidnapping story. Right from the off, it feels daring and relevant, offering an edge to things that some of the myriad ‘edgy’ teen shows following the success of Pretty Little Liars have lacked. That’s in no small part down to the presence of Kathryn Prescott as the titular heroine, who has deserved a US breakout role since her time on Skins in the UK, as her performance is the best thing about the show so far.

She parties, she breaks into fairgrounds at night and she smokes weed. She even has a ‘friend with benefits’. She’s basically a normal teenager, and part of the fun of this pilot is seeing her unsuccessfully try to integrate into the apparently cookie-cutter TV family she finds she’s been stolen from. But where the show breaks down, at least in the first episode, is in offering any lasting weight to the situation at hand. This girl has been ripped away from everything she’s ever known and, aside from a few isolated moments, the episode seems more concerned with the teen antics than the trauma of it all.

I realize this is the pilot, so characters must be introduced, but the love triangle (or square) thread felt really unnecessary so early on. And was it just me or did the twin thing throw you off? Kathryn Prescott has an identical twin who also acts and, if the show was going to introduce this element, why is Taylor someone who barely resembles her? I guess it was a just a way to get two characters of the same age, but it feels a little clumsy. The wise, ignored little brother also has the potential to be very, very annoying, but he’s not there yet so I’ll keep an open mind.

As for the parents, Alexis Denisof was wasted in the first hour but, with enough to do outside of her clichéd affair with a co-worker, Elizabeth could be a great character. Mothers in these shows are so often used as blunt antagonists to their children but, in this case, the scenes between her and Carter are some of the best and most insightful. It’s with the family that the show should stay, then, though I realize the show being aired on MTV kind of dictates that there must be high school and there must be teen parties. Let’s hope they find a balance within a few episodes.

With things like Taylor resenting the life Carter has had versus the life she had because of Carter’s disappearance, and Elizabeth’s fixation on solving the kidnapping case in spite of having the thing she wanted – her child – back in the house, Finding Carter has the potential to be a great exploration of familial relationships, no matter how sensationalized the premise.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.