For most people, the scariest thing about their apartment is the rent. 666 Park Avenue aims to change that with its spooky apartment thriller, hoping that viewers might want to question the lease that they sign with their next landlord. The series at first seems like a Lost wannabe; it features a mysterious plot, Terry O’Quinn from that previous series in another strange and secretive role, and recurring themes about trust issues. Yet 666 Park Avenue‘s pilot shows that it’s not a series that’s looking to reach the lofty ideas of Lost, nor is it setting out to become another show in the vein of American Horror Story. It’s got a tone all of its own, although it takes obvious cues from other supernatural genre staples.
The show opens with a gruesome scene of a tenant at the Drake Hotel who finds himself unable to leave; it then picks up with a couple who wish to become the new general managers of this hotel, conveniently located at 999 Park Avenue, or 666 once the shadows reflect the numbers onto the wall. Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable) have lofty aspirations for this new job, and it pays off once the apartment’s owners Gavin (O’Quinn) and Olivia (Vanessa Williams) accept them for the position.
The problem is that Jane and Henry don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into, at least not yet. In this first episode, they encounter a couple of strange problems, including a tenant who has bloodied his hand in some way, a creepy basement with a strange dragon mural dating far back into the Drake’s past, and an elevator incident that seriously harms another tenant living in the building. Jane also finds that Gavin might have some sort of sensual secret that he’s keeping from her.
As a pilot, this first episode of 666 Park Avenue is surprisingly well done. It’s written by series creator David Wilcox, and the first 45 minutes of the series do a good job of introducing the main characters while also making sure to give some secondary characters a chance to shine. All of the main actors (Annable, Taylor, O’Quinn, and Williams) are extremely competent in their roles, and O’Quinn easily falls back into the same suspicious character he played with John Locke.
There are a couple of scares in this episode, but for the most part Wilcox plays it relatively safe, simply sticking to introductions and letting the characters build bits of development for themselves. There are already a couple of subplots being worked on here, like a bit with a man who wants to bring his wife back from the dead, but they’re killed off instead of brought along for the next episode.
Still, 666 Park Avenue works in a few long-term conflicts, including a relationship between married playwright Brian (Robert Buckley) and his seductive neighbor. It seems like the sexual aspect of the series will be working right alongside the violence, and despite the cable network airing, it works rather well. And Jane already experiences a few problems of her own, both with Gavin and the secrets housed in the building’s basement, which seem like they will become recurring themes later in the plot. It’s refreshing to see 666 Park Avenue already creating these little avenues for the story.
That’s because the scares in this pilot aren’t too original, and frankly they’re easy to see coming. If the show wants to scare its viewers, it’s going to have to work a little harder to be original in that aspect, rather than stealing cues from generic paranormal films. It’s when the show steps out of the box for the surprising elevator accident scene or the bloody violin opening that 666 Park Avenue generates tension; the show will need more fresh ideas like these in the coming episodes, or despite the story, it might start to feel a little stale.
Even though I enjoyed this first episode, I believe that the pilot might have let on a bit too much to 666 Park Avenue‘s secrets. It’s kind of easy to guess just what role Gavin and Olivia play as the apartment owners, especially Gavin, who is shown giving direction to a murderer in a couple of different scenes. It’s up to the show to surprise the viewers even more with a few twists and turns, and while I can understand that the show would like to give the audience at least some immediate answers, giving us too much can be just as fatal. Hopefully the show can fall into a healthy medium, where some answers are solved each week while others are created; otherwise, 666 Park Avenue could start to feel procedural.
Ultimately, though, this pilot is a surprisingly good opening to a series I thought might turn out lackluster. It’s not shying away from violence or sex despite it’s network slotting, and Wilcox has even managed to create some immediate mysteries while introducing some pretty likable characters. Whether the rent’s too high for most viewers will remain to be seen, but for now, I think I could find myself settling into a long stay at 666 Park Avenue.