666 Park Avenue Review: "Pilot" (Episode 1.01)
“Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints, as heads is tails, just call me Lucifer, cause I’m in need of some restraint.”
-The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”
Placed after Once Upon a Time and Revenge on ABC’s Sunday schedule, 666 Park Avenue has a soap-like cheesiness inherently attached to it. It’s no surprise that the commercials have touted 666 as late-night network TV’s answer for sexual proclivities, satanic temptation and some good old-fashioned sinnin’. While 666 Park Avenue does have all this, and there is a certain level of ridiculousness to get over, the show comes off more like a combination of The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby and that one Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” episode where Homer sells his soul to the devil for a doughnut, and it succeeds in all the best ways.
What gives 666 Park Avenue a level of credibility is Terry O’Quinn, as the owner of The Drake, Gavin Doran, who is also probably Satan. O’Quinn has a power to make evil and darkness look effortless, as he showed in the final season of Lost where he also became evil incarnate. So much of his performance can be shown in his eyes, as he can switch from welcoming hotel manager to a man who clearly wants to own your soul. The show needs a performance like his to make it work, and O’Quinn pulls it off beautifully.
The newest residents of The Drake are Jane and Henry, a couple who quickly become the building’s newest resident managers. They are quickly drawn in by Gavin and his wife Olivia, played by Vanessa Williams, who invite them to dinner, send them gifts and take them to the symphony. What Jane and Henry don’t see is what goes on behind the other doors of The Drake. 666 Park Avenue shows the beginning of Gavin’s conquests, with Jane and Henry, but also the middle and the end game. At the middle is Brian, a playwright, and his wife Louise. Brian likes to watch a woman outside his window as she undresses, and Louise unknowingly hires her to be her photography assistant. As Brian and Louise leave the elevator to go out, the doors continuously smash into Louise, sending her to the hospital.
But we also see what Gavin ultimately wants. The episode starts with a violin player who gave everything to Gavin for just 10 years of being able to be the best but can’t get out of his contract. We also see John Barlow, a man whose wife recently died and who has killed a judge at Gavin’s request to bring her back. Mary Barlow returns from the dead, but John must kill more of Gavin’s enemies to keep her alive. When John can’t continue, he loses Mary, and Gavin visits him in the night, as he is sucked into his bedroom wall, which has claimed many souls before him.
As the pilot goes on, Jane feels a darkness growing. For one, as an architecture major, she does some research on The Drake, after finding a mosaic of a dragon in the laundry room. Turns out, it was home to the Order of the Dragon back in 1927. She also finds out there is a secret door down there that was cemented over long ago. While at the symphony, she also gets a weird vibe from Gavin, and may or may not have seen the ghost of Mary Barlow recreate her suicide. As Gavin tells Olivia earlier in the episode, Jane will be the way that they get to Henry. But Nona, the Drake’s quirky small-time thief, has a vision of Jane being attacked in a red dress bought for her by Olivia.
666 Park Avenue gets off to a strong start and gives many angles as to what the experiences in The Drake are like. The pilot does have way too much going on it and many characters, such as Nona, are just thrown in because they will be of importance in the future. But 666 Park Avenue does seem to have a good start—able to further the narrative of what exactly The Drake is, while filled with enough residents to continue having new stories each week. If you can get over the sometimes silly nature of 666 Park Avenue, you’ll find one of the strongest and most enjoyable dramas of the fall season.