- Jonny Lee Miller ... Eli Stone
- Victor Garber ... Jordan Wethersby
- Natasha Henstridge ... Taylor Wethersby
- Loretta Devine ... Patti Dellacroix
- Sam Jaeger ... Matt Dowd
- James Saito ... Dr. Chen
- Matt Letscher ... Nathan Stone
- Julie Gonzalo ... Maggie Dekker
- Jason George ... Keith Bennett
Directed by David Petrarca. Written by Leila Gerstein and Alex Taub Written. Premiered Oct 14, 2008 on ABC.
Lawyer Eli Stone (Jonny Lee Miller), after spending a year experiencing aneurysm-induced visions that seemed to mark him as some kind of prophet, decided he wanted to return to a normal life and insisted on a risky operation to remove the aneurysm.
Now he's trying to return to work, but first he must have a psychiatrist certifying him as mentally fit to practice law. After three months of sessions with a therapist (Sigourney Weaver), Eli still rebuffs her efforts to convince him something is missing in his life; reluctantly she signs the certification, but warns him that practicing law won't fill the void in his life.
Eli's return to work is complicated by an unexpected development: his brother Nate (Matt Letscher) has experienced a vision, involving a falling crane destroying a bank. Worse yet, the vision is proven true -- and Eli's boss Jordan (Victor Garber) is trapped inside.
Nate's vision suggests Jordan is trapped in a place the rescue workers are ignoring, and they refuse to listen to Eli's protestations. His only recourse seems to be an injunction to force them to search in the place the vision says he is. But Taylor (Natasha Henstridge), Eli's ex and Jordan's daughter, is furious that Eli is risking her father's life by interfering with the actions of rescue professions, and turns up in court to fight Eli's injunction. Jordan's life now depends on convincing a judge of the contents of a vision he didn't even experience first-hand, all while he worries about the fate of both his mentor and his own brother.
Shift in Tone
The first season of Eli Stone seemed to offer some ambiguity as to Eli's predicament. His visions, which accurately warned of upcoming disasters, seemed to be medically explicable hallucinations resulting from an aneurysm in his brain. The opinion that Eli was chosen by God to be a prophet is strongly put forward and increasingly underlies the progression of the season, but it's presented as the point of view of Eli's acupuncturist friend Dr. Chen (James Saito).
Season 1 pretended to leave the question open, but the premiere episode of Season 2 removes all doubt: Eli has explicitly been chosen by God to experience visions of the future so that he can help people, and God was delivering these messages directly into Eli's head through the aneurysm as if it were a shunt hooked up to a vision IV. Season 1 was about seducing viewers with stories for which faith was a subtext (when it wasn't a George Michael number); faith, in season 2, is now the text, and the show is weaker and less involving for it.
This revelation is accompanied by the further progression of Jordan Weathersby's redemption. He started out season 1 snarling at Eli and threatening to fire him (a role now performed, thanklessly, by Tom Amandes in Snidely Whiplash mode as the villainous partner Martin Posner). By the end of season 1, though, Jordan had become a wide-eyed believer in Eli, and that transformation from interesting foil to boring acolyte is continued aggressively in the new season.
The motif of people "coming around" to having faith in Eli's visions is most annoying in the character of Taylor, who is required by the plot to navigate a series of sudden, hair-pin emotional turns: she starts out concerned but cool toward Eli, reacts with inexplicable rage toward Eli at the news her father was trapped in the bank, contests his motion for an injunction with cold contempt, then turns on a dime again to embrace a sudden belief in him and even express contrition at her failure to listen to him. Natasha Henstridge makes each of these as heartfelt as she can, but I felt like she was playing three different people. I wanted to send her to Nate and have her checked out for multiple personality disorder. (One character says Taylor "doesn't always think clearly" around Eli. Bulletin to the writers' room: there's a difference between not thinking clearly and not being conceived clearly.)
The creators have also evidently decided that the big production numbers involving the regular cast singing and dancing, which happened occasionally last season, are part of the "draw" of the show. Consequently the premiere starts out, mere seconds in, with a lavish number set to "Dancing in the Streets" featuring the incomparable Loretta Devine, who plays Eli's assistant Patti. In its placement and execution this number feels completely gratuitous, especially when we find out it wasn't even a proper vision.
Eli Stone! The Musical
Eli Stone is not a variety show. The reason to tune in should be the problems Eli experiences, which include the visions that interrupt and hijack his life. The musical numbers last season at least had a semblance of integration into the storyline and some kind of reason for being; now they're a marketing tool. (Further evidence: next week's episode is being promoted with clips of an even more lavish song and dance number featuring a much-hyped guest appearance by Katie Holmes.)
Much remains to recommend Eli Stone, starting with the strong lead performance by Jonny Lee Miller and excellent, finely tuned work from Matt Letscher. The writing is solid (Nate, for example, has a funny line worrying about being visited by the other guy from Wham!). But the direction the show is taking this season is cause for concern, because by converting magic into dogma Eli's headspace becomes a less interesting place to be.