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Monday, September 26, 2011

Pan Am: Come Fly the Friendly (and Espionage Ridden) Skies

Pan Am
Episode 101
The opening scenes of Pan Am make it very clear that we are in the 1960s and that Jackie Onassis has influenced the style sense of every American woman (the title card that tells us its 1963 helps).  Say whatever you want about this show, its effing beautiful.  The set directors and cinematographers deserve Emmys based on the Pilot episode alone.  Moving on.  The premise of the show is pretty straightforward. We will be following the professional (and personal, duh?) lives of 4 stewardesses employed by the eponymous Pan American Airways Incorporated in the golden age of intercontinental jet travel; when flying was fun and luxurious and no one though putting bombs in their underwear for Christmas funsies.  The historical accuracy of the show is not necessarily something to get hung up on since its a good story they are telling in any case, but I will brush up on my Pan Am lore and its place in history as the show progresses. Their mission today will take them on the inaugural flight of Pan Am's latest Clipper Jet, the Clipper Majestic, from NYC to London.  There is also a newly promoted Captain, a fratboy-esque first officer and a mysteriously missing stewardess named Bridget.  Let's figure out we are ... after the jump.
This show isn't so big on last names so I will forgo them unless the show indicates we should care.
Collete (played by Karine Vanasse):  An experienced stewardess who inadvertently sleeps with married men during layovers in romantic European cities like Rome.  She is entirely professional even when confronted by one such married man's family and directly confronted by the wife said married man at the conclusion of the flight.  Stay French Colette!
Kate (played by Kelli Garner): An experienced stewardess; the kick ass older sister to new stewardess Laura (she helped Laura escape her wedding in an awesome red convertible, while causing property damage in the process); AND the newest spy/courier for the CIA and MI-6 intelligence services. While having to deal with being on the same flight team as her baby sister (who has been christened the face of pan Am much to older sis's chagrin), she also has to carry out her first espionage mission; switching out the passport of a German passenger so that he is detained at customs ... she successfully completes her mission though it takes the entire intercontinental flight to do so.  Turns out, it was a test. The German passenger was in fact her new MI-6 (the British CIA for those that don't ready spy novels) handler.  We'll be seeing more of him.
Laura (played by Margot Robbie):  The newest Pan Am stewardess, she's only been flying 3 weeks.  Upon graduating from stewardess school, her picture was snapped by a photog for LIFE magazine and she was pictured on the cover of the magazine's latest issue about the ushering in of the "Jet Age".  She is clearly self-conscious and embarrassed by the attention this garners her but she is a natural beauty and fits right in with what the Pan Am stewardess should be.  She's going to be the Peggy from Mad Men and the show seems set up to really follow her as a central character. She's also the younger sister to flight teammate Kate and a runaway bride he was being shoehorned into a stereotypical 50's era wedding scenario by her close-minded mother.
Maggie (played by Christina Ricci):  An experienced stewardess who clearly has a rebel streak but also is clearly valued for her skills. She is sitting at home in the Village with her hippie dippy boyfriend (though those labels are so 1950s man ...) when she gets the call that Pan Am needs her to cover mysteriously missing Bridget's Purser spot on the Clipper Majestic. She hightails it (in a great old-fashioned NYC cab) to the Pan Am building in Midtown where she is helicoptered to the runway and boards just in time.  Maggie, I'd like to point out, was in the Bay of Pigs extraction flashback so she's clearly been around the block.  By the way, a Purser is the head stewardess on a flight and is like the boss of the flight cabin.
Dean  (played by Mike Vogel):  The newly promoted Pan Am captain and not secret paramour of the mysteriously missing Bridget.  Dean is piloting his first flight on Clipper Majestic run.  His maybe best friend is the frat-boy like Ted (played by Michael Mosley), a guy who clearly digs the new woman that the Pan Am stewardess represents and would like to sleep with as many of them as possible.  Dean is no stranger to danger, having been the first officer on an evacuee flight of Cuban exiles during the Bay of Pigs affair.  When Dean finds out that Bridget has resigned from Pan Am, he thinks its because she's decide to accept his proposal of marriage ... he's wrong.
Bridget (played by Annabelle Wallis):  Bridget is the not so secret lover of pilot Dean. She was also due to be the Purser on the Clipper Majestic flight but has seemingly disappeared.  We find out that she has in fact quit Pan Am.  Through flashbacks and some exposition (that you could have figured out from the flashbacks if yo knew where to look), we establish that Bridget was the previous "spy/courier" for the US and British governments and that she was the one that recommended Kate as her replacement.  We see her at the end of the episode spying on Dean in a bar and then we see her jumping in a car and speeding off.  We haven't see the last of Bridget but I have to imagine her clandestine role increased exponentially.
Pan Am is going to be a hit for ABC and it should be. Its fresh, engaging and has a great story to tell.  The flashback device was a little clunky in the Pilot; I think mainly due to its use for over the head exposition. That being said, I can see it being a great aid in the storytelling device, just as the "whoosh" flashbacks were in LOST -- they really help in understanding a character's motivations.  So buckle in, adventure calls. See you all next week!

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