by Bethany McHugh
Coming in as easily the most promoted show of ABC’s fall line-up, “Pan Am” premiered with high expectations. Now the third show on television to employ the style of the 1960′s prominently in its story, “Pan Am” is more than just a ploy by ABC to capitalize on the success of AMC’s “Mad Men”. While the new series falls a bit short of capturing the era’s mood as effortlessly as AMC’s critical darling, “Pan Am” does a good job of inviting the audience into a world that was once ours, and, for a pilot episode, has a relatively engaging storyline that hopefully will sustain itself throughout an intriguing season.
“Pan Am” follows the famed flight attendants of the titular airline, and the pilots they accompany as they make their way across the skies. New attendant Laura (Margot Robbie) has joined her sister Kate (Kelli Garner) on the job, after fleeing from her wedding. A picture of Laura in uniform while merely crossing the street is taken for the cover of “Life” magazine, establishing her as the cover girl for Pan Am. Kate’s friend Colette (Karine Vanasse) joins them on the journey as well, with Maggie (Christina Ricci) called in last minute to fill the role of lead stewardess, rounding out the jet set. Missing from the crew – much to the dismay of pilot Dean (Mike Vogel) – is Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), whom, as is gathered from flashbacks, is Dean’s intended fiancée. The pilot focuses on this crew as they navigate the premiere flight of the Clipper Majestic from New York to London.
The pilot utilizes flashbacks rather effectively to fill in the blanks of the many relationships among the characters. We discover Colette had a relationship with a passenger, who coincidentally boards the Clipper Majestic, accompanied by his son and wife, both of whom Colette was unaware existed. It is through the flashbacks as well that we learn of Laura becoming a runaway bride while simultaneously expressing her desire to join Kate in her highly revered profession. Through these jumps back in time the audience is also made aware of Dean and Bridget’s relationship, including how he proposed to her during the Bay of Pigs. As she did not immediately say “yes,” her disappearance from the flight is distressing for Dean as he waits for her response.
During the course of the present storyline – that is, the present of the main plot in the 1960′s – is where the most intriguing mysteries begin to take form. Kate is approached by the United States government to carry out tasks at their discretion against possible national threats, taking on her first mission in the episode. When she lands in London, an intelligence officer she meets reveals that Bridget “used to have an eye for this.” Deepening the confusion regarding Bridget’s disappearance, Dean goes to her room and finds her almost completely moved out. While the crew relaxes after the long flight at a restaurant during the pilot’s final scene, however, Bridget can be seen peering in through the window.
Though the first hour of this show tended to be a bit cheesy at times to reap the sentimental nostalgia factor for an earlier time that “Mad Men” naturally exudes, “Pan Am” is the textbook definition of a good pilot. Relatable characters, interesting story twists, and beautiful locations are all poised to be major, consistent factors of this show, which will only prove to be beneficial for a successful run, and will hopefully prove essential in distinguishing “Pan Am” from the glut of 1960′s Americana currently on TV.
Bethany McHugh is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com
Washington Square News will be covering Pan Am’s inaugural first season as part of our new web TV Special Feature. Check back on the blog every Monday at noon for recaps, analysis, and critiques of this new show.