Deception: “Pilot” Review

The 3 Week Diet


Houdini’s Whodunnit.

The pilot for ABC’s Deception aired at Comic-Con on Wednesday, July 19th and this is our non-spoilery review of the episode.

And yes, there was a different, recent TV series called Deception back in 2013 on NBC starring Meagan Good. As well as many movies with the same title. This one’s about a crime-fighting magician though. Huzzah!

Mush up some MacGyver with a little Leverage and then throw in, well, just about every “Cocky Specialist teams with Perpetually Perturbed FBI Agent” series and you’ve got Deception – a breezy new case-of-the-weeker from Chuck writer/producer Chris Fedak featuring a famous young magician (the type with Vegas shows and TV specials) who volunteers to help the FBI solve the mysterious case of a seemingly dead Cartel member.

Well, homeslice is dead to the authorities, but master illusionist Cameron Black (Kingsman: The Secret Service’s Jack Cutmore-Scott) smells something rotten in Denmark, noticing telltale signs that an elaborate trick has been pulled on the law enforcement community. Because of this, the term “consulting illusionist” becomes a thing that people on the show somehow readily say.

Why is Black lending a (slight of) hand? Well, I don’t want to give that part away. Needless to say, the brash entertainer has fallen on some hard times and is actively seeking a way up and out of his troubles. Following clues left by whomever helped this notorious villain vanish becomes all encompassing for Black, giving his character that extra annoying layer of “won’t take ‘Get Out of Here!” for an answer.

Truth be told, Deception isn’t meant to be anything more than fun, disposable calories. It’ll be a procedural with a seasonal spine involving Black’s running background story. Eventually, there’ll be a will they/won’t they spark between Black and Ilfenesh Hadera’s Agent Kay Daniels. This isn’t meant to be water cooler TV. So, on its own merits and premise, does it get the job done?


Jack Cutmore-Scott and Ilfenesh Hadera in Deception.

Well, sure. Aside from feeling painfully derivative, and the pilot here feeling rather textbook, Deception could be an enjoyable show if it weren’t for its reliance on magic as a fix-it super power capable of being elaborately executed as planned. Cameron Black should be dead ten times over, but he simply isn’t because the show spares him. Which thus allows him to be excessively reckless whenever he deems necessary because there are no true consequences.

Touching back on TNT’s (underrated) Leverage for a second here; Leverage worked because the flimflammers involved weren’t stars to anyone except in their own secret world. Plus, they were boozy and bickering and – okay – not every ploy Timothy Hutton’s Nate Ford cooked up was believable. The best Leverage episodes were the most grounded ones. With Deception, right out of the gate, we’re expected to believe that people will be readily duped by easy-to-spot disguises and a slew of other heightened performance gimmicks that would never really pass anyone’s natural BS detector.

Prison Break’s Amaury Nolasco rounds out the FBI side of things as a slightly giddy fan of Cameron’s while Vinnie Jones, Lenora Crichlow, and Justin Chon make up Cameron’s own personal production team of magical engineers and designers that help make the impossible possible. It’s a decent start for a mostly candy-coated adventure show even if the people in Cameron’s life seem to solely exist, at the outset, in a state of frustration and distress because of his rambunctious and juvenile idealism. Depending on which side of his life is speaking you’ll either get “We never see you anymore” or “What is he even doing here?” It’s a lot of parenting for an ensemble.

The Verdict

Deception, out of the gate, is playful but also precociously pompous. It’s kind of a cookie cutter “she’s no fun/he’s all fun” procedural that draws from many different (and familiar) sources to create a hodgepodge of cons, tricks, and overall buffoonery in the name of justice, in a world that where being a superstar magician is laughably lauded thing. It’s harmless though and won’t make or break your 2017-2018 midseason either way.

Editors’ Choice


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