What I’m Watching: Chance

I pride myself on my ability, despite being on the computer all day, to avoid spoilers for TV shows that I’m watching after they’ve already aired. It took me around two years to watch all of Mad Men, between late 2015 and 2017, and I successfully avoided every possible spoiler, even though the show ended in early 2015. That said, I really enjoy reading criticism and reviews of the shows I am watching, so when I do finish a show after it’s ended I eagerly rush to the internet to see what people are saying about it and if they share my opinions or not. I started binging The Leftovers at the start of its third and final season last year with the goal of catching up to the episodes airing live before the show ended, and as such an incredibly dense show, it was helpful to be able to go online after each episode, unpack it, then move onto the next one.

Side note: This post isn’t about The Leftovers, but if you haven’t watched it, you absolutely should. Sure, it’s pretty depressing overall, but the show challenged me intellectually and emotionally more than any book or show has in years. If that’s something that sounds appealing to you, absolutely watch it. And check out the episode reviews from The AV Club, which I really liked.

But back to the point. When I finished the second season of Chance on Hulu, I was blown away. I had enjoyed the first season, but the second season kept me on the edge of my seat for virtually every minute of the ten 50-or-so minute long episodes. So like I usually do, I rushed online when we finished the finale to see what others were saying, and I found nothing. Instead, I found this article from The Hollywood Reporter about how literally no one watched the second season of the show, how it disappeared into the ether, crushed under the enormity of the TV library we currently have at our disposal. I found this disappointing, since I really enjoyed the show and thought it featured some fantastic performances. So in lieu of opinions from the pros, here are my thoughts.

I watched the first season of Chance, which aired on Hulu in 2016, because the show stars Hugh Laurie as the eponymous protagonist, a neuro-psychiatrist. As I’m sure it did for many others, this reminded me of House, one of my all-time favorite shows, so I jumped at the chance to watch it. But the similarities end in the name. In season one of Chance, we see Laurie as Dr. Chance working with victims of crimes that have disrupted their ability to function normally in the world. When he starts to fall in love with one of his patients, he begins to act beyond his means in hopes of setting her free from the physical and mental bonds imprisoning her. Dr. Chance is aided by D, who I think is far and away the most interesting character on the show. He’s played by Ethan Suplee, who I will always think of as Frankie the Enforcer from the high school years of Boy Meets World. But while Laurie pulled me into this show in the first place, I stayed for Suplee and the levels of his character that are revealed over the course of the two seasons.

I liked the first season of Chance, but I didn’t love it, mainly because despite being the protagonist, I felt like Dr. Chance didn’t have much agency. He was choosing to involve himself in things he had never done or experienced before, and for that reason was constantly second-guessing his actions and wavering in his decisions, which I find can slow down the pace of a show a bit. If D and Carl, played by Clarke Peters, hadn’t been there to support and guide him, I’m not sure much would have been achieved.

So I was thrilled when at the start of the second season, it was clear that there had been a shift in Chance’s personality—he knew what he believed was right and he knew what he needed to do to achieve it. He finally had the agency I was waiting for him to embrace in the first season. The second season starts with Chance working in a unit for victims of violent crimes, and while he is helping the victims recover mentally and emotionally, D is making sure that their attackers no longer pose a physical threat. The idea of vigilante justice and when and how it is justified is a recurring theme in the show, and they do a good job of using supporting characters, like Chance’s ex-wife and the head of the victims of violent crimes clinic, to express different viewpoints.

Like in the first season, there is a central plotline, this one involving a tech mogul suspected of killing multiple women, played with delicious creepyness by Paul Schneider. The reason this season kept me so enthralled, without too many spoilers, is that it appeared to show its cards around episode 4, and I wondered how it was going to fill out the remaining six shows. But just as quickly as these doubts crept in, the show got rid of them, moving the plot along at a good clip, leaving me constantly questioning whether justice would be served—and what justice even is, for that matter.

I thought that the side plots in the second season paired some of the characters in interesting ways and really filled out the central theme of trying to define right and wrong. I thought that Chance’s daughter Nicole, played by Stefania LaVie Owen, really came into her own this season as she dealt with issues a lot of teenagers struggle with, though maybe on a larger scale. The relationship that D develops with Lorena, played by Ginger Gonzaga, was really touching and added about a fourteenth layer to D’s character. I’m not going to try to explain D too much here because one of the best parts about watching the show is slowly learning more and more about him, and Suplee plays him so brilliantly. If you think it’s impossible to play bad-ass, mushy, protective and bloodthirsty all at the same time, I promise he will change your mind.

As I was writing this I learned that the show was canceled earlier this week, which isn’t terribly surprising considering it was initially picked up for two seasons and the lack of response to the second season. And while I’m sad there won’t be more, I think the writers may have known because they wrapped up the second season in a way in which I’m comfortable leaving that world, unlike another show I loved, Good Girls Revolt, which was just getting started. (Don’t worry, I won’t get into all of that now). But my final recommendation is go watch Chance from the beginning. It will make you think, it will make you gasp, and it will make you question a lot of what you believe about morality, the justice system and standing up for yourself and others. Combined with great acting, it’s a very well spent 20 hours. Let me know what you think!

 

 

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