Will You Be Back to Play More Mind Games?

Mind Games Series Premiere Recap

Brothers Ross and Clark, the siblings at the heart of ABC’s newest drama Mind Games, are the kind of hot messes you’d never want screwing with your subconscious.

So naturally, that’s all they want to do.

Ross (played by Breaking In‘s Christian Slater) is an ex-con fond of get-rich-quick schemes. Clark (Treme‘s Steve Zahn) is a scattered, bi-polar genius who’s been fired from several academic posts and who can’t stop calling the woman who recently dumped him.

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Yet these two have a new business enterprise, which we see in action in Tuesday’s series premiere: They want to mine decades of human-behavior research, they tell a potential investor at the top of the episode, “to help people manipulate the most important moments of their lives.”

Or, as Clark later simplifies, “We change people’s minds without them knowing that we did it.” (Whether they should do it for the good of humanity or for a giant paycheck? That’s up in the air.)

But Clark’s enthusiasm, boosted by a manic high point, sabotages the brothers’ last chance for funding, and it looks like their business will fail before it even begins… that is, until a mother and her sick teenage son walk through the front door. The boy’s insurance company won’t pony up for an experimental stem-cell therapy, even though it will save the boy years of pain, suffering and exorbitant hospital bills.

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So Ross and Clark, along with a few staffers including Ross’ ex-wife Claire (Wynn Everett, The Newsroom), stage an elaborate ruse designed to make the stuffed suit in charge of the pivotal insurance decision feel like a hero… so he’s more inclined to approve the boy’s experimental treatment.

If the plan sounds like a stretch, it is – and so is the “science” employed by the merry band of manipulators. Still, it’s kind of fun to watch Clark’s machinations wind up in a happy ending for the boy and his mother – albeit not before Ross has to step in and, with a few deft lies and some whopping “moral ambiguity,” shame the insurance-company higher-ups into doing the right thing.

Along the way, we learn that Claire is the “magic feather” who can slow Clark’s manic spin, that Ross has a fear of being abandoned by his genius sibling and that Ross – unbeknownst to Clark – paid a grad student (the same woman Clark pines after, to painful and law-breaking effect, throughout the episode) a lot of money to lure him into a relationship and get him fired from a teaching gig.

When the woman shows up, returning the money because she’s actually fallen for the nutty former professor, she promises not to say anything about Ross’ arrangement. Hmm… what are the odds that an expert on human behavior won’t notice his girlfriend and his brother acting guilty?

With its socially-challenged-genius-and-his-more-adept-companion model, Mind Games is treading very familiar ground (see also: Elementary, House, Monk, The Bridge, etc.), and the way the gang’s scenarios play out give the show a light, Leverage­-ish feel.

If it can keep the science from getting too goofy, and if it plays on the strengths of ensemble members like Megalyn Echikunwoke (CSI: Miami), we’d be quite interested to see what Jedi mind tricks Mind Games has planned for the future. (Also, about those upcoming episodes: Can Zahn and Slater take the volume down a notch? We get that their characters have an intense relationship, but do they have to shout at each other all the time?)

That’s what we thought of the premiere; now it’s your turn. Grade Mind Games‘ first episode via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your selection.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Tran 2.0 says:

    I give Mind Games a C. Talk about a Mentalist rip-off.

  2. Ginger says:

    Finish Killer Women!!

  3. Emgee says:

    This show was excellent. Hilarious, quirky and already set up some great plot arcs.

    I’ll be back next week, for sure.

  4. fras says:

    LOVED IT! Even the shouting made sense – you can’t expect a dynamic like theirs to keep it all nice and quiet and whoever’s been mad without shouting

  5. Scott says:

    Unoriginal mish-mash of ideas copied from 4 or 5 other shows. As for the shouting..I can’t stand it..makes me want to hit the off switch. I don’t think I’ll be bothering with it again.

    • Nell on Wheels says:

      THIS! I lasted 20 minutes before I had to switch channels. The unoriginal concept x10 and the non-stop shouting made it totally unwatchable.

    • Sugar says:

      ITA. I think I only lasted 15 minutes, and darn it, I wanted to like it! But that over-the-top rant in the opening scene resulting in a crashing chaos was enough for me. Just silly. I’m hoping it is only the beginning and maybe it will take a few episodes to settle in? But, if it keeps starting out with scenes jarring enough to induce a seizure – well, no thanks.

    • Jax says:

      It’s not just that the concept was unoriginal, it’s that they executed it so poorly. There are plenty of shows that borrow heavily from other material that I still watch because they have characters I care about or a story I’m interested in. This show doesn’t. Plus, the concept is really unbelievable. I cannot suspend my disbelief for this one because, quite frankly, I don’t even want to try.

  6. Guest says:

    Zahn’s character is a bit too much to tolerate for 43 minutes a week. They really need to dial him down.

    Also, when Jaime Ray Newman joins the cast, is the ex-wife going to just disappear or has she been dropped to recurring status (she’s not in the cast promos)?

  7. KenL says:

    I was going to write a few lines about the show, but fell asleep thinking about how the Mentalist does all this much better. Hmm, kind of like exactly what happened during the show.

  8. GS says:

    I didn’t bother to watch because as much as I love Christian Slater, he just can’t seem to carry a tv show. I loved Breaking In and ABC cancelled it and since ABC is famous for pulling the plug on shows too quick, why get invested?

  9. GS says:

    Not that show but I was loving Killer Women and bam it’s gone without showing the rest of it. Why bother? I love Trophy Wife and The Goldbergs and it looks like at least one of those will get the ax along with Nashville (unless there is a miracle saving somewhere). ABC doesn’t give shows a chance to get legs.

  10. Aimee says:

    It was kind of like a mix between Lie to Me and The Mentalist only with none of the intelligence or heart that those two shows have.

  11. Susan says:

    I see lots of potential and we will tune in, again. I agree with having Steve Zahn’s character tone it down a little, but it is fun to watch him on TV – good actor.

  12. Stormy says:

    I wanted to like it because I love CS & SZ, but it was just too frenetic for me. It was Franklin and Bash on crack.

  13. bj says:

    I love Christian Slater but all the manic behavior and shouting was giving me a headache. I don’t think I’ll be watching again.

  14. chris says:

    I agree about Steve Zahn’s character-he got so annoying I would ff when he was on the screen…and TOTALLY AGREE with the Killer Women comments…

  15. gary a says:

    was dvr and watching at the same time after about 20 min with all the yelling and screaming i changed channels and canceled the dvr recording. never will tune in again!
    how does this slater guy pick his projects. a few years ago he had a stupid one can’t even remember the name but he needs a new agent.

  16. monieet says:

    Could be the mental version of Leverage if it is done correctly. The writing is a bit off, and could be more front handed with back handed flash backs to drop some of the scientific terms which are not memorable at all. Clean it up if you want a hit.

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  18. Kay says:

    I have always been a fan of zahn and slater. Both actors have always been quirky and I think that is fun. I would love to be at a party and watch them from across the room .later I would get closer to feel their energy. It makes me feel smarter. I have a relative with medium case of aspergers. He is so bright and spontaneous . I feel free of spirit with him. At this time . Now this show is first on my viewing schedule yes it reminds me of other shows by using mind games but zahn and slater truly already have quirks. Great vehicle for them

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