26
Sep
2011
Pan Am: Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot
Becky & Rachel
Pan Am seems promising at the outset, but it needs some work before it really lifts off. The show starts well, lots of good imagery and the same sharp and interesting scenes I enjoy in Mad Men. The characters also have potential; they seem to have interesting relationships to each other and I'm excited by where I see the show potentially going.

Pan Am focuses on the crew of the new Clipper Jet engine operated by the eponymous, iconic airline. Mike Vogel plays Dean, the young, golden boy pilot at the head of a crew made up primarily of four beautiful stewardesses: the senior stewardess Maggie (Christina Ricci), the secret-agent Kate (Kelli Garner), Kate's runaway sister turned Life magazine cover-stewardess Laura (Margot Robbie), and the French free spirit Colette (Karine Vanasse). We are immediately taught that being a Pan Am stewardess is a dream come true. But the only women who can reach that dream are beautiful, unmarried, under 32, and carefully monitored for weight and girdle wearing. I think there is a lot to talk about in just these qualifications, but the show has yet to do much to comment on them. I know that that was "˜the norm' of the time, but I hope the show someday tries to push those boundaries and show how we got from then to now, especially considering the generally revolutionary time period in which it is set. Luckily the stewardesses themselves are fairly modern and spunky, rubbing up against the Pan Am rules.

Colette seems like she will be the heartbroken one of the show. In the pilot she is forced to act as stewardess for a man she slept with three months earlier, in Rome, and his family as they make the cross-Atlantic flight. Hiding her anger and sadness she does her job and is a good stewardess, and is relatable in the role even if it isn't very deep. But no matter how securely she plasters on her Pan Am standard issue smile, she can't fool the wife, who calls her out for the affair when the plane lands.

Christina Ricci plays an interesting "˜wild girl' stewardess who seems to want to save the world. But she insists on seeing it first, by being a Pan Am stewardess. We meet Maggie in the New York apartment she apparently shares with two men who she discusses Hegel with. I like her character and I am excited to see what her plot will really be. She didn't get too much in the pilot other than a few interesting lines and a hint there might be more there.

Margot Robbie plays the beautiful new naive stewardess who the audience is supposed to commiserate with. She became a stewardess by following her sister and to escape a marriage and a predictable life. Her struggles with that impromptu decision I think will continue to be a theme, as well as her reluctant beauty. It opens with her being on the cover of Life Magazine and her struggles with this overnight fame and how to live in her sister's shadow, a challenge I think most sisters can relate to.

Especially when that elder sister is a glamorous, experienced stewardess turned spy. I think this spy element will end up being an overarching plot of the series, especially seeing that the enigmatic missing stewardess, Dean's fiancé Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), is also somehow entangled in espionage, and her absence is a large element in the pilot.

Bridget appears almost exclusively in flashback, including an interlude in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion, which turns out to be the setting of Dean's proposal. Stunningly beautiful, with a British accent and an aloof charm, Bridget is supposed to be the head stewardess of the Clipper, but never shows up. Through flashbacks we learn that she shares Kate's intelligence contact, and when she appears momentarily at the end of the pilot, distantly watching the crew, we're left wondering how this pretty little girl got caught up in something big, and what it's going to mean for her.

Overall, Pan Am, even with its kitsch, is a pretty strong pilot. Hopefully the seeds of intrigue and uniqueness shown in these characters get the chance to really flourish. I hope Pan Am is more than a Mad Men-esque show with women, and that we get to learn more about these ladies and the dreams that made them take to the air.

Grade: B+

The Little Things:

-Mike Vogel is one of those really adorable actors who I've always liked despite his major lack of work. I hope he takes off with Pan Am

-Christina Ricci joins the ranks of the many movie stars making the jump to TV. She pulls it off here. But damn, this economic recession everyone's talking about must be something serious

-In case you also find Annabelle Wallis strangely familiar: she played the saintly Jane Seymour in The Tudors

-The music selection is pitch perfect. Points for authenticity there. This also happens to be one of my favorite things about Mad Men

-I love the sisterly resentment Kate seems to have for Laura. Spy trumps cover girl, in my mind.
Tags: Pan Am
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