WB’S TARZAN - PILOT EPISODE ~ No. 1
“He saved your life, it’s like, so romantic.”
“No, honey, it’s not romantic, it’s a case.”
There’s something fast paced and alluring about this opening. After some six years off our screens (at least on TV and probably the movies, too), Tarzan returns. He’s strapped to a table in a lab and he’s wearing pants. He’s shirtless, of course. He escapes the operating table as he’s about to be injected or experimented upon or both.
It’s a fast paced scene, dark, and Tarzan is barely in light. He’s a force of nature, breaking through glass windows and downing men, sometimes at the same time, taking out the techs and the military type guards, throwing another through a window (but not toward the outside), climbing up the outside of a large high rise building and taking on more men up there. He’s filmed without us getting a clear look at his face until the final shot of the sequence where he hears more armed men coming and then vanishes from the roof. It’s night so it is dark and it’s raining so there’s that blocking our view.
All of this is stylish, almost cinematic and definitely superior to most B grade movies and maybe even some A list movies. He also stands over fallen men for a moment in a Tarzan way.
This also makes him a force of nature, almost like the rain, only stronger and a menace, almost a Frankenstein like monster, wronged, put into a world he does not want to be in and misunderstood. Yet, we know nothing about THIS Tarzan or this situation. From our own schema, we can guess he was taken from the jungle and thrust into a lab of evil minded men or men looking to make a profit and being experimented on. He escapes. It’s a brilliant way to start the series. Now, let’s get to the jungle, right?
It does not appear he’s actually killed anyone but who can tell for sure?
We see his face briefly before his long hair covers it up and then he’s gone when the reinforcements arrive.
The camera pulls back and we see him hanging from a statue of a giant eagle (or hawk?) on a building that reads in big letters: GREYSTOKE. There’s a slight vibe of the awful 1989 BATMAN in evidence here, possibly one of the last repercussions of that well received but horridly written and acted movie. We had many, many others (the original 1991 THE FLASH tv show, DARK ANGEL, various BATMAN animated series that followed suit from the 1989 movie, the quickly cancelled BIRDS OF PREY, NIGHTMAN and trust me, a lot more).
There is also a strong X FILES vibe, which was a strong series and influence of TV shows (and movies) from 1994 to 2002 (and don’t let anyone fool you X FILES and its lesser known but better brother series MILLENNIUM influenced a whole range of shows, even shows that were on before them, including LAW AND ORDER, NCIS, CSI, COLD CASE, CRIMINAL MINDS, WITHOUT A TRACE, THE PRETENDER, THE PROFILER, DARK SKIES, STRANGE WORLD, PSI FACTOR, SPECIAL UNIT 2 (with Michael Landes), THRESHOLD, INVASION, PREY, POLTERGEIST THE LEGACY, FIRST WAVE, and a ton of others).
The first CSI show started in 2000 so that’s a strong influence, too.
Travis Fimmel is cut, muscular, handsome, young, and tall, with great skin and face and hair. He cuts a fine Tarzan as he hangs there and makes an impressive start as this is a clever way to open.
As is typical of this year and to the present day, we do not get a great theme song OR a great opening credits sequence (Ely, Wolf, Lara, the Filmation series) but the show just gives us a title card of TARZAN and then starts right into the “action” of Jane’s night stand (a picture of her and some guy) to her bed as she wakes up. Her alarm wakes her up at 6:30 AM. I remember those days. Gosh.
NOTE: while some shows such as those on Netflix (thinking of THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINAS, LOCKE AND KEY, and maybe a few others), most on network prime time (Disney and Nickelodeon shows still give us kick ass opening credits and theme songs!) follow suit to this day in 2023 and only give us a brief title sequence and if lucky a brief theme but nothing like TV had from 1950 to probably 1999.
A word about Sarah Wayne Callies. I’m not a big fan. I don’t dislike her either but in THE WALKING DEAD as Carrrrrlllll’s mother she was irritating until she died and then I didn’t want her to. That show is another whole set of posts that I do not want to get into now. At best, she’s a functional actress who can handle difficult parts and scenes. I just don’t find her particularly likable but I haven’t seen her in much. From what I remember about THIS show, I found her miscast as Jane but we shall see. From what I can remember I didn’t find this show particularly interesting and I am not sure I saw every episode (all eight of them), nor do I think having Tarzan out of the jungle for eight episodes is a good thing. At all.
In any case, watching a show from 20 years ago or more, one tends to sometimes change their opinion about it or see something that wasn’t seen before or appreciate something when compared to what we’ve had since (I never saw the new LEGEND OF TARZAN movie and only glimpsed the Disney Animated Series but took my nieces to the Disney Movie and maybe the second Disney movie?). Maybe I will see something in this Jane and Callie that I didn’t before. Travis makes a good Tarzan at least physically but I don’t remember Tarzan saying much in this show or giving me/us a verbal presence and I remember lots of other characters played by good actors (Lucy Lawless of XENA, the filthy SPARTAGUS and MY LIFE IS MURDER and Mitch Pileggi of THE X FILES) standing around bitching at each other for hours on end.
Nicki, Jane’s sister, is quickly established as her room mate and in dialog we learn that Nicki is in college and doesn’t want to live in the dorms because she can’t afford it. Jane didn’t have to because she worked two jobs and worked her way through school. Jane is also a police woman of some kind: a detective is my guess.
On the New York Post (when most people still had physical newspapers delivered to their homes; see EARLY EDITION) is the man dating Jane: detective Michael Foster. He is working a case that is believed to be a copycat killer from Edward Creal who died in 1990 in prison. The headline says, INFERNO KILLER ON THE STREETS.
Lots of WB and CW names behind the scenes I recognize: Eric Kripke, PK Simonds, and David Nutter. I won’t speculate on why these three names keep popping up on either good short lived shows or bad long lived low quality shows or a mix of either type of show but maybe more on that later.
Victims are homeless and set on fire by the killer.
Sam, Jane’s partner, busted Creal. Sam brings up that this could be the same person but he died in prison. Why bring this up? The captain is played by an actor currently in RIVERDALE’s seventh season and…he looks the same.
Gene, an older co worker asks if Sam and Jane have a stray dog to catch. Sam asks, “I don’t know, Gene, is your wife missing?” This is pretty funny.
Sam’s been in the review board twice this year already and always pissing people off according to Jane.
“You wanna know the truth. The truth is I like pissing people off. And that is my deal.” Somehow I like this guy.
Sam wants to poke around the case but Jane doesn’t want to do that, it is her boyfriend’s case and the should just do their job. I detect Sam will die (probably because I like the character) and this will teach Jane real good to trust her gut.
Outside amid NYC, Michael asks Jane to get a place together.
Night over NYC.
Sam and Jane are on a case to find missing animals? Dogs trashed a market (it was probably Tarzan). They think a K9 unit might help them? They find a police man in the Animal Protection Unit who directs them to what’s happened. Which he knew about but left?
They see an EAST SIDE WASTE DISPOSAL metal crate.
I don’t get it: the other policeman saw this and left the scene to go back to his truck where he has other dogs caged? Maybe he called for back up and they were his back up?
Dogs are eating meat. Tarzan is under a hood or a tarp also eating. Jane chases him.
Again, continuing the FRANKENSTEIN feel, this reminds me of the 1997 mini series and how it treated the Frankenstein aspects:
Lots of alleys and fire escapes. And fast paced music and shots.
With the Empire State in the background, Tarzan jumps from a roof to roof. Stupidly, Jane follows him and finds herself eventually clinging to the side of a building. Tarzan saves her from falling. He has a necklace on with a locket hanging from it.
He has scratches on him and what looks like a bullet wound on his right pectoral.
To show her appreciation, she pulls her gun on him and tries to put him under arrest. He looks either wounded from this betrayal or puzzled by the gun, which he shouldn’t be. She passes out and he gently lays her down and is beguiled by her. He has very blond hair.
There’s some touching going on and he seems to be imitating her touches. She pushes him off but then …doesn’t. A light hits them and the roof as a helicopter hovers and drops four armed men down. One, or all four, tranquilize him. Jane is barely conscious but sees one of the men who has infra red googles on, a large G on his uniform’s shoulder, and see the four men net and take the unconscious Tarzan away and up in a helicopter.
Earlier, when Jane pushed Tarzan, he dropped his locket and necklace which he seemed to be taking off to give to her. After the men leave with Tarzan, Jane finds it.
Sam defends Jane when the captain seems to not believe her but he intends to have it checked out. Sam also harps on about the inferno killer. Jane sees a photo of the captain shaking hands with (Mitch) someone from Greystoke Industries.
In an alley, in the morning (?) or at dusk or twilight (?), a creepy young man in an Dead Crawler exterminator van, a Ford truck, comes out and moves toward a homeless boy and his mother. The truck looks old and beaten up.
Jane’s high rise apartment, Nicki thinks it is romantic that this man saved Jane’s life and asks what he is on a scale of 1 to 10 (how about an 11?). Jane does not answer her on this.
Richard Clayton is the CEO of Greystoke had his older brother John, on April 24th, 1983 accompany his family on a photo safari. Their plane, a Cessena, crashed over the Democratic Republic of Congo. John, wife Alice and John Jr. Last August, Richard discovered the downed plane and the remains of his downed family.
Jane questions Richard at his building office, a huge affair with a basketball court for practice. She uses the story of stray dogs but introduces the collar, the necklace. He takes her to a window overlooking into a room where the nephew John Junior is. He tells her he survived and wants this to remain a private family matter.
Richard claims they found him less than a mile from the crash site, sick and thin. He tells Jane they tested him and he’s fine but won’t speak, no scientific reason. He just won’t.
Jane tells Richard that his passive nephew demolished four different stores. Richard thinks that in his mind he is still a kid. When he was a kid and a child, they couldn’t get him to shut up but now he is quiet.
Richard claims the DA knows and they made a deal, all charges dropped as long as John remains in his care under medical and psychiatric care.
NOTE: What’s really odd is that Joe Lara, sadly, transitioned to the afterlife (I don’t believe in saying died or passed) when his Cessna plane crashed.
Tarzan climbs the wall when he sees Jane and looks through the glass and says, “Hello.”
Richard closes a barrier over the window.
Men have drugged Tarzan again and put him in a bedroom behind bars…it’s a huge cage. He’s stolen one of their level one passes, intending to escape again.
Something swishes by as Jane and Michael are out dancing. A cell phone in Michael’s pocket rings and he answers it.
Unexpectedly (we expect Tarzan at the window watching Jane or Jane to run into him), Michael, outside on his cell, comes face to face with Tarzan on the street side. Michael gives him money, thinking he is homeless.
After Tarzan shows up in the restaurant, a manager protests about their strict dress code and that Tarzan is barefoot. Tarzan confronts the man in anger.
Outside, Sam arrives WITH Richard and his right hand man to ask Michael where Jane is.
Tarzan is wandering around Times Square. How did he get out of the restaurant without the men seeing him and where is Jane? One of the many signs of the times advertises SIX FEET UNDER on HBO. Another is THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE as Best Musical. Tarzan marvels at a sitting street band (drummer mostly). Jane is behind him, tracking him, slowly.
NOTE: It’s hard to tell is Jane’s hair is blond (at times, it is and in the right light) or brunette (it looks mostly like that).
Meanwhile, at night in the sewer (?) or underground under the city, the killer ignites a homeless old man.
It’s night again (perhaps this ALL happened in ONE night? It really looks hard to tell!) and Tarzan takes to a tree. He drops and asks Jane what her name is. She asked him how he found her, “Are you some kind of bloodhound?” He says he hunted for her? Or something? Tarzan tells her his name after she tells him her name. She feels she has to take him back even though he is put in a cage. He tells her he is not going back and shows the gunshot wound on his left pec (actually closer to his upper shoulder). This shows that the uncle did not save him.
Tarzan tells Jane what happened. We see this in flashback. Richard has another man, an African man down on his back. This man seems to say that this is not a hunting expedition. Richard has his right hand man put a female gorilla out of her misery, killing her. Tarzan jumps down at them and the right hand man shoots him out of the trees. Richard finds the locket on the downed Tarzan.
Present: Tarzan says, “I am glad that I am here.”
“What? How can you say that?”
“Because I have found you.”
He begins to get romantic with her and she lightly resists. Then she leads him…where? A police car sirens up to them. The police take him.
In the station, Tarzan looks at Jane with almost hatred.
Jane argues with the captain about right and wrong, it is not about the law, she says. He caves in and tells her he will handle Clayton and get to the bottom of this. He wants her gone with Clayton arrives.
Sam is supposed to drive Jane home but he tells her he’s done more digging. He checked companies that went out of business, which the captain and Mike didn’t. He found Dead Crawl Exterminator; Dead Crawl being an anagram for Edward Creal. She asks him, “Just how much scrabble do you play?” They will go the last known address.
A cop eating a donut. Really?
Jane references Dr. Phil rather than tell Sam that he told her if you want to step up to the show, you have to trust your gut.
One of the cops in the station outside Tarzan’s cell mentions Soriano still being “with the Yankees.” In 2004, he wasn’t…
It seems within 15 seconds (!) Tarzan knocks the bars out, handcuffs two officers to the bars, and removes their shirts? One is shirtless, the other, thankfully is not.
Tarzan, now in a shirt (?), kicks down another door on top of three police officers, one a woman. He runs.
He scales a wall and uses more skills to climb a freight elevator that is out of service but Michael meets him at the top with a gun drawn. He makes Tarzan get down on his knees and goes to handcuff him. I think.
“You’re becoming a pain in the ass, you know that?”
He asks, “What is it that you want?” Why ask that?
Tarzan’s answer is, “Jane.”
Micheal knocks Tarzan onto his stomach but his hands are not yet cuffed. Tarzan back grabs him and they fight. Tarzan escapes to the roof.
Sam and Jane at the former address, find the van of the exterminator. For some reason they separate. Jane finds a TV running with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE playing. Sam gets hit on the head with a large horizontal door as he ascends steps. The killer grabs Jane, pulling the plug on the TV first. Her gun falls and goes off and she yells. Tarzan hears one of these or both. Jane fights for her life.
Jane and the killer go through a wall? And then he dumps a huge shelf on her.
As he tells her that he cannot go to jail, “My father died in jail,” she realizes this is Edward’s son. Tarzan smashes through a sky light and lands on him and beats him. Somehow Tarzan is thrown off him?
Tarzan looks smaller but he uses his feet to launch off a wall to knock the killer down again. They fight and Jane warns “John” that the killer has a pipe. Tarzan flips the killer upside down and knocks him down but not out. Tarzan helps Jane up, “Are you hurt?” She says, “I’ll survive.”
As Tarzan and Jane go to get Sam, the killer gets up and has a device to start a fire. Tarzan jumps at him but the killer is near some chemicals he’s targeted to cause an explosion. He does cause an explosion which launches Jane through some wood.
Explosions resonate outside through the windows. More follow. Jane helps Sam outside.
Mike tells Sam, later as the firemen put out the fire, that the guy’s name was Trevor Wheaton but the name on his birth certificate was Gregory Creal. Sam says, “Like father, like son.”
The captain asks, “What about the Clayton kid?”
The firemen told Mike no chance he survived.
NOTE: Jane was calling Tarzan John the whole time.
Mike tells Jane that Abel is going to drive her home or maybe Maibel?
Mike tells Jane that he almost lost her tonight but she denies this. He tells her that he was wrong to be sensible and not rush into things. He asks her to marry him. Stunned, she can’t respond so he apologizes that it’s been a long night and sends her home in a police car, telling her that he will be over as soon as he can and they will talk.
Richard is on the scene with his right hand man. “He can’t be dead. Keep looking.”
Jane gets out of the shower. It’s filmed like a horror movie now. She hears a noise and her bedroom window was open. Of course, it’s Tarzan. She gets her gun but then sees it is him.
She tells him he cannot stay in the city and that everyone thinks he is dead. She is going to get him back home (to Africa?). He tells her “NO.” When she asks what he means, he responds with, “I don’t belong there. I belong with you.” He smells her and gets romantic. A song plays. When Nicki comes in, Tarzan vanishes.
Tarzan stands high on a building top, the wind whipping through his hair. This shot is reminiscent of several over the years since BATMAN 1989 (and DARK ANGEL, SPIDERMAN) and will be used later in TORCHWOOD and also in HEMLOCK GROVE and probably others (maybe even that mini series HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN). Frankly, it’s visual and almost always works as a shot.
He’s looking over the city.
The words TO BE CONTINUED appear as this is a continuing series, like a soap opera.
A few things. This is almost like an X FILES with TARZAN. It’s played as being completely real despite some far fetched skills from Tarzan. Also: did the killer kill the mother and child? Do we ever find out? At one point, the captain tells Jane that they just found a fourth victim. Before we saw the mother and child, Michael told his team that they found a third victim SO that would indicate the mother and child were not killed (unless they were never found? How morbid?). The fourth was the old man we saw. If the mother and child were not victims (and I hope they are not), why include a scene like that? It ends with the killer seeing them in an alley, though it is day. And we don’t see them again. It’s odd.
So yes, this is like an X FILES with some shots resembling it almost shot for shot especially when Sam and Jane are hunting down clues and on a case or cases.
In other ways, it’s almost as BLUE BLOODS meets TARZAN. It’s not really a procedural, though it has elements of them but BLUE BLOODS is not a procedural either, not really.
This makes Tarzan almost a guest star in his own show and he’s rarely mentioned AS Tarzan but called John more often than anything else. He’s also presented as a force of nature. Michael so far comes off as a nice guy and yet here is this blond model stud daring to say he wants Jane, something an educated Tarzan would probably NOT do unless Mike was evil or something and even then. John seems to know English and be somewhat educated. Does he remember his childhood upbringing? We’re not told yet, if ever.
So is this Tarzan educated? Maybe partially? Is he a Me Tarzan, You Jane savage? Nope. Was he raised by apes? None of that info is here and maybe, to be fair, it will be in the seven episodes ahead of us but maybe they were not going to reveal that if the show moved on to a greater life or maybe they were going to reveal that in future episodes or seasons. It never got there. We’ll see what is revealed as we move through the next seven episodes.
I can’t say the episode is boring. The stunts and fights are probably the best ever seen on television and maybe in Tarzan movies and TV shows but to be fair to them, this plays dirty in a way because everything is SO DARKLY lit. Sure, we see a lot and again the stunts are not basic but rather grand and wonderful but in shadowy darkness. Most of the show is in dark shadows.
Is it good TV? Yes.
Is it good Tarzan? Not sure. There’s almost no jungle scenes and what there is happens to just be a flashback to tell Tarzan’s capture and the death of an ape. Was that his ape mom? Did she save John? Did she raise Tarzan? And the scene is violent. To a gorilla.
Songs in this episode:
"Everybody Got Their Something" by Nikka Costa
"I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne
"Phobic" by Plumb
"Go" by Plumb
Here is what I found on Wikipedia regarding this episode and show:
Kripke was critical of the show, calling it "a piece of crap" and saying: "I'll stand behind the pilot. It has a beginning, middle, and -- the problem -- it ends. I was hungry to have anything in production, so I wrote a 50-page story that ended. Then it got made and I had something in production, and it was all my dreams come true. They said to me, 'Let's do 12 more.' I said, 'Uh, wait! What's the story?' So, Tarzan was a hell ride in every way, and we only did eight before they wisely put us out of our misery."
Not sure I agree about the whole series but we’ll see. Not sure I agree about this episode either. It doesn’t end really. John is still alive and Richard wants him back for some reason unknown to us. Michael wants to marry Jane. Will she say yes? How will it play out if Jane says no to him and yes to Tarzan? Is Mike truly a good guy?
With all the past TARZAN shows we had individual episodic adventures and not a long running story arc or arcs. This is entirely a longer story with maybe a case here or there but again, we have to see and find out that. It is very soap opera like and IS a soap opera really. As are most shows from say 1985 or so (maybe earlier as the influence of shows like DALLAS, DYNASTY, KNOT’S LANDING, FALCON CREST and others took over) to this very day. Almost every series, even sitcoms have long running storylines that resemble soap operas. Not sure Tarzan fits into this format or that this format is a good fit for Tarzan. Which might be part of the problem.
Not sure about Fimmel either. He looks good. He looks like Tarzan might look with blond hair but he hardly has any words, though some. He is fit for the action scenes and the love scenes (though the love scenes are tame by comparison to today’s love scenes on TV and net service shows like DAYS OF OUR LIVES). They might get steamier. Jane clearly is into him more than she is into Michael.
Part of the problem is that they tried, here, and mostly succeeded, to make Tarzan a man of mystery, a monster in a way and almost a villain. If you watch monster movies, the put upon monster is sometimes sympathetic as he’s hunted, caged, locked away, denied love, hunted in shadowy corners of cities or jungles and misunderstood. That details this TARZAN almost entirely. AND yet he’s not all that sympathetic yet. Despite seeing a sequence where his ape friend or seeming friend is killed in front of him, there’s little emotion from him. After being blown up, he seems superhuman. Did he die and come back? Why not, most every other Tarzan returned from the grave. Certainly Ely’s Tarzan looked dead more than once on screen and Wolf’s Tarzan the same. Lara’s Tarzan in the last episode was seen dead TWICE.
All in all, this pilot is worth watching. It’s not boring, it’s not terrible, it’s not bad and at times, it’s not even predictable. It’s well shot, well acted, and well directed. And it works. As what, I’m not sure. It’s not really a police show, it’s not a horror, it’s not a mystery, it’s not really a jungle adventure, and yes, there is a lot of chat and talk in it. It’s not a serial killer show like MILLENNIUM and PROFILER or CRIMINAL MINDS. Yet, it has elements of all of them. It’s easy to say in hindsight but not sure a show like this can exist and exist using the name TARZAN without the jungle or animals or high flying day time action adventure.
BUT this was better, so far, than I expected. And faster paced, at least here in this first episode.
In another way, this is a response to both Lara’s whimsical at times dark but ha ha funny (not really) TARZAN IN MANHATTAN and the out of this world total fantasy schlock mystical supernatural science fiction out of the real world TARZAN: THE EPIC ADVENTURES. This goes the total opposite direction: little if any humor and what there is comes from the characters, mostly Sam so there’s no Tony Curtis camp character as TARZAN IN MANHATTAN. It also is firmly set in the real world unlike EPIC. There will be no monsters, no trips to other worlds like Mars, Venus or Amtor, no mind excursions or illusionary drug fueled type self exploration trips and what’s worse: no animals and no jungle! It’s almost culture shock after EPIC. Which was like culture shock after Wolf.
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