La Brea Season 1 Episode 3 Review – “The Hunt” Is Flat and Uninspired

La Brea The Hunt

Ty’s advice to Eve at the end of “The Hunt” to “move forward” is a prescient message for La Brea, advice I only wish it had followed with its third episode. To say it is an hour that barely moves the needle is an understatement; its only real dramatic moment comes in the final two minutes, when Levi blows himself through the Time Gash. Outside of that (and a few more CGI animals in the first act), “The Hunt” is all filler – which is not exactly encouraging, to see a third episode laden with such thumb-twiddling material.

Perhaps a series rife with confidence would be able to pull off having its third episode barely move the narrative needle; however, La Brea does not deliver itself as a confident series – nor should it, given the parade of rote creative choices that comprise the entirety of “The Hunt”. At every turn, it feels like this show is embracing the most obvious, boring storytelling choice possible; and when those decisions come amidst an episode where literally nothing of significance happens (except revealing Eve as an adulterer, and Ty as dying of cancer), they stick out like sore thumbs.

La Brea The Hunt

On the 2021 side of the time gash, “The Hunt” remains laughably thin trying to rely on the furrowed brow of Gavin Harris, and the two lines an episode given to his daughter Izzy. Using Gavin as a cipher to open up the mythology of La Brea and the Time Gash is turning out to be a critical error; the combination of lazy writing and underwhelming performance from Eoin Macken make every scene his character is in a major time suck, void of any intriguing material except the obligatory bread crumbs dropped about the origins of the Time Gash. Gavin, as a father, husband, and general human being, is as milquetoast as they get; given him the powers to be The Chosen One feels like poorly-conceived compensation for a general lack of personality – and so far, it is really not working in helping build out the show’s emotional palette.

It doesn’t help that it takes the entire 42 minute running time for anything to happen in the ‘real’ world, forcing us to sit through scenes of stilted dialogue, as La Brea poorly hides the “reveal” that Eve was having an affair on her estranged husband. Of course, it was with his best friend and former co-pilot Levi Delgado (because when is it not the best friend, duh), so that leads to about two minutes of tension when Gavin finds out, and visibly swallows his pride because the “mission is the most important thing right now”. How fucking boring; if this show wants us to buy into Gavin, it has to be something beyond the victimhood he’s projected onto himself (that we get to see in the episode’s lone, joyless flashback); “The Hunt” doesn’t offer anything, and it continues to drag down every scene he’s featured in.

Not that the world on the other side of the Time Gash is any more interesting, where La Brea is already starting to repeat itself (when its not blatantly copying the storytelling progression of LOST‘s early episodes, which is becoming too obvious not to note), in ways that are unsurprising – and more importantly, wildly uninspiring. The inspirations are so obvious; Eve is our Kate, Scott is our Charlie (LOL), Ty as Locke, bearded stranger is Danielle… I mean, there’s even a pairing where one character is speaking for another one, and a doctor who coaches someone else through a surgery. To say the proceedings of “The Hunt” are uninspired would be wildly underselling just how empty this episode feels, devoid of any legitimate dramatic stakes (even Sam’s “surgery” was strangely docile; nobody was concerned about giving him a heroin addiction?) as the show struggles to find its footing to deliver some coherently paced drama.

La Brea The Hunt

Written by Jose Malina (who, along with his work on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, also wrote a few of my least favorite episodes of Dark Angel), “The Hunt” sees its characters scavenge for food, while itself scavenges for meaning, afraid to commit to focusing on developing one story, instead taking the easy way out and tossing in a bunch of “IOU” notes in as placeholders for actual material. We get it; Cop Mom Marybeth and Heroin Dealer Lucas have a strained relationship – did we have to rehash it for 30 minutes before we reveal that Marybeth killed her husband? Also – why do we care, when we know so little about these characters?

I spoke last week about La Brea putting the horse before cart, and “The Hunt” is the dramatic equivalent of the subsequent crash that would occur when equine met plywood; it’s a mess of undercooked stories and characters crashing together, all set to the pace of a languidly irregular-beating drum. It is discouraging to see La Brea failing to deliver on the basic tenants of plot and character only three episodes in – without the breakneck pacing of the pilot to cover up these shortcomings, La Brea‘s myriad of flaws are laid bare to the audience in “The Hunt”, and the results are not pretty.

Grade: D

Other thoughts/observations:

  • passing a gun around like a hot potato; another LOST plot line! I tried to avoid making too many comparisons in the first two episodes, but “The Hunt” just copies entire pieces of its predecessor’s first season whole cloth, without the intriguing set of characters and brilliantly crafted world building.
  • Why do we waste an entire episode finding a corpse, when the audience already knows there is another man here? There’s nothing revealed that justifies wasting our time in that cave.
  • I love how Izzy’s accident is Eve’s “fault” because she was having an affair that day. The narrative convenience is a necessary one, but it is still very LOL that Gavin can be a shithead asshole drunk, and Eve is still the one in the wrong.
  • Three episodes, three instances of a bad CGI animal being deployed in the first five minutes. Still my favorite part of the show, but we really need to switch up this formula.
  • Glad Eve’s son is up and moving around, so he can…. be the most boring person in the Time Gash.
  • Sam is some kind of doctor: “I’m hurt real bad!” “I’m fine.” “Wait no, I might be paralyzed for life!” “Whew, one needle and I’m fine.”
  • Riley gets mad at Eve for leaving Sam, but then says “I’d do the same thing”…. so what’s your fucking point?
  • Eve was a Montana tomboy who grew up on a farm… a bit of character background that feels more utilitarian, than revelatory. There needs to be one expert in the woods, and La Brea has literally found no other character traits for her other than “mother” and “woman who cheated on her husband during a really rough time, so it kind of seems morally ambiguous”.
  • If La Brea wants us to feel like the Time Gash survivors are, well, trying to SURVIVE, they shouldn’t look so clean and well-kept. Even if its only been a couple days, everybody just looks way, way too clean for it to feel believable. Like most of this show, the attention to detail is missing, and it undercuts its attempts at building a believable reality for its audience to share with it.

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