CBS' latest summer disaster series Salvation follows in the footsteps of the network's previous efforts in domes, bloodthirsty animals, and alien ghosts, but this time uses a space rock hurtling through space as our inevitable end.
Tonight's premiere episode spent most of its hour setting up the show's premise -- rock, Earth, scientists try to stop said rock -- but for a show about something as simple as stopping a outer space pebble from wiping out the human race, we sure do have some important (and some not so important) questions. Let's see if we can figure out the answers together, shall we?
How much time will the first season cover? Because there's a pretty obvious end to the show.
There's a massive ticking clock in the show: 186 days! That's the time scientists figured out it will take the massive asteroid to hit the Earth, killing us all in a fiery explosion that will crack our planet open like an egg. There's no indication that Salvation is a limited series that will wrap up its story in one season, so how long -- in show time -- will it take for the asteroid to smash into Earth? Will it happen at the end of this season? It has to happen by the end of the season, right? But what would that leave for a second season?
If Salvation doesn't smash a rock into Earth at the end of Season 1 and the asteroid is still months out, then what? Perhaps a lesser problem becomes the focus -- which... NO THANKS, if a celestial boulder is threatening to turn us into space dust, then that's the problem -- and Season 1 ends wondering if there's enough congressional votes to pass a budget to make escape pods or something while the asteroid continues to head toward Earth for four more seasons, but that doesn't sound like much fun. Maybe the meteor is stopped and Season 2 is Salvation: Even More Asteroids and we venture into Sharknado territory as hundreds of meteors head to Earth next summer. Get Tara Reid on the phone!
Is the show about stopping the rock or going to Mars?
Early on, Salvation presents a solution to the asteroid problem: push the rock out of its path using a gravity tractor, courtesy of the eggheads in the government. But tech genius/Elon Musk wannabe Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera) has an alternative solution: let the Earth be crushed like a soda can and the human race will hightail it to Mars in special spaceships to restart society!
Those are two very different options not just for the preservation of human life, but more importantly, for the show! Are we going to band together as humans and fight this dumb meteor or are we going to run away like scaredy cats? Will the show follow both efforts, one conducted by the untrustworthy government and the other by our ragtag group of heroes, or will one quickly fail so we can concentrate on the other? If Tanz's plan is the way to go, is Season 2 about colonizing Mars, changing the show entirely? Maybe Salvation is only on the surface about stopping the asteroid, but is actually about interplanetary colonization! CBS better open up its wallet for Season 2 if that's the case, or make sure those Star Trek: Discovery sets are reusable.
Who is the real enemy here?
Look, huge chunks of stone don't make for good antagonists. The only arc the asteroid is getting is gravitational. Instead, Salvation has positioned the government as the big bad, continuing TV's belief that you just can't trust those fat cats in Washington.
In the premiere episode, we saw that the government knew about the meteor and decided to not tell anyone, allowing the show to use the old cliché, "If the public were to find out..." However, the government's initial test to launch a rocket that could bump the asteroid off its trajectory was a total failure, meaning they'll have to come up with nefarious plans to screw over the layperson and get their own butts off the planet while the rest of us brace for impact.
But I hope not. Where's the fun in watching a dysfunctional government mess up human progress and survival? We see enough of that in our news feeds. Besides, this government has already shown itself to be inept by not getting a rocket off the ground. Salvation needs someone other than the government to be the bad guy. I don't think the show will find that person, though. What are the options? A doomsday cult? Aliens? A Save the Meteor organization?
Is going to Africa really safer than driving a car, as Zoe insists?
One eyebrow raiser from the premiere episode was when Zoe (Rachel Drance), the daughter of Pentagon Press Secretary Grace (Jennifer Finnigan), tells her mom she's going to Africa for her gap year -- much to mom's chagrin -- and claims that it's safer to go to Africa than it is to drive a car. Is she right? Maybe! Let's dig up some stats!
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, 3,287 people die per day globally in automobile accidents, with another 20-50 million injured! That's a lot! But according to a Global Burden of Disease study in 2015, 1,800 people die in Africa every day... just from malaria. And since Zoe uses the word "safer," more than 250 incredibly unsafe cases of malaria were reported in Africa in 2015. And I haven't even started on hippo-related deaths, so let's say Africa is less safe than hopping into a Hyundai. But then again, Zoe is talking about her safety, and a rich white girl going to Africa probably isn't going to get malaria. We may never know the answer to this question, and we probably shouldn't have bothered to care in the first place. My bad!
Which love stories will survive?
The show's young hero Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe) gets the insta-hots for an amateur science-fiction/fantasy writer named Jillian (Jacqueline Byers), setting up the show's major love story early on (and one reminiscent of the young love between Joe and Norrie in Under the Dome). Astrophysicist Liam even spills the panty dropper "When two celestial bodies cross paths, it can change their trajectories forever" and they immediately knock boots.
Meanwhile at the Pentagon, Grace is having an office affair with Deputy Secretary of Defense Harris Edwards (Ian Anthony Dale, who knows a thing or two about network disaster shows from The Event) and things seem to be on the up and up thanks to Grace getting a transfer to another site, allowing them to be open with their fling. But by the end, Harris is telling Grace lies and Grace decides to join up with Darius to save the world, and there ain't no way that Grace doesn't swoon over over Darius.
We're guessing the Darius-Grace-Harris triangle keeps the soapy drama going, while Liam uses Jillian as his reason for wanting to save the world.
What questions do you have after the first episode of Salvation?
Salvation airs Wednesday nights at 9/8c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)