All pilots should be as successful as reeling in the audience as Game of Silence Season 1 Episode 0.
It's a story you may have thought about passing up due to the nature of the tale. It's one we've heard before. It sounds a lot like the successful 1996 movie Sleepers starring Kevin Bacon and Robert DeNiro.
But what Game of Silence did in 45 minutes was get the audience invested in five characters enough to care about what happened to them 25 years ago and what will happen to them over the course of the coming nine episodes.
With a strong cast and moving characters, even a well-known story can still be compelling. It already feels like we're standing beside friends, not watching strangers, and that's more than many series eventually deliver, let alone pilot episodes.
Twenty-five years ago, Jackson, Gil, Boots and Shawn were four teenage boys who considered themselves brothers. Their girl was Jessie. The five of them did pretty much everything together and with very few flashbacks, it was obvious how much they meant to one another. Everything.
Jessie's mother didn't care much for the boys, especially Jackson, and it was from him she was attempting to tear away Jessie on the fateful day that changed all of their lives.
The boys arrived just in time to nick the car from Jessie's mom and save Jessie from a baptism. By fire, it seemed, as Jessie's mom was drunk and surely shouldn't have been driving anyway. That good deed lasted all of a few blocks before Jackson swerved to avoid hitting a dog and plowed head first into an oncoming car.
Although the woman in the car wasn't killed, the four boys got nine months in Quitman, a nightmare of a juvenile detention center run by Warden Carroll. He let the best little thugs do things on his behalf, and the fighters were his favorites. Gil could fight well, but it didn't seem like that won him any favors from the warden.
We've only just begun to learn what happened inside to the boys, but it was hell. That much is clear.
It was Boots seeing their biggest fellow juvie bully that brought them all together again. The mere sight of him and Boots snapped, beating Daryl senseless with a golf club.
Every bit of information we were given during the premiere was delivered with the right emotional impact and with an element of surprise. While on some level it could be seen coming, it was the way it the characters processed each memory and the present day impact on them that hit the right notes.
Each blow, both present and past, brought us closer to the characters in both timelines. Although the point of view comes from Jackson – a successful attorney carrying his own secrets from his friends and his fiancee – Gil, Shawn and Jessie all feel as important to the story and as well drawn as Jackson.
They all started in the same place in life, quite literally, but what happened to them in Quitman and how they dealt with the consequences of that experience shaped them as adult men.
Jackson ran away from his friends. We learned at the very end he had some sort of relationship with Jessie. He didn't forget the pain or get over it as his friends thought, however. He may have killed one of the guards, and Jessie was there to witness it.
Whether the guard died may be tied to the phone call Jackson received. If neither of them ever spoke of the incident in the rain, then there's only one other person who should be aware of it, and they thought he was dead. That's my initial guess.
Boots never left their hometown. He seemed sweet and kind, most unlikely to snap as he did. Did he have it the worst in Quitman?
Jackson was just made partner and is engaged. What are the odds Marina has any idea what he suffered in the name of justice as a boy? What are the odds any of the firm knows about his past? Yet it's very likely that experience is why he's the amazing lawyer he is today.
Gil and Jessie are together, Jessie quite worried what Jackson will think when he discovers she's with Gil. Did she choose Gil when things went wrong with Jackson? We didn't need to see too much to know that Jackson and Jessie were destined to be a couple, and it was only circumstances beyond their control that kept them apart.
So what now? Where does Shawn fit into all of this? Who killed Daryl after he got out of the hospital? It seems too easy to pin it on Gil since he had the gun, and I'm calling it early that it was one of Daryl's own men attempting to get rid of him or plant the deed on Jackson in an attempt to take him down or scare him off.
The warden never stopped being THE GUY. He was rewarded by the establishment for being a thug and treating kids like dirt. He's been in politics and runs a crime syndicate, as well. Jackson wants to get him the legal way.
Gil and Shawn want to get revenge, sure, but they want the kind that feels good in the moment. Fast and furious. Even if he pretends he doesn't for now, we know Jackson has had that feeling and carried it out.
Boots can't do it for himself, and he was their brother. He has a baby on the way. It's intricate and emotionally charged. There's not an easy solution.
Be sure to tune in on Thursday for Game of Silence Season 1 Episode 1, to find out what happens when Jackson agrees to go along with the plan for revenge, even if Shawn and Gil have no idea they're the subject of a murder investigation.
Thursdays are the normal time slot for Game of Silence, so don't miss it. What did you think? Did they hook you even if it's a story you might have thought was familiar? Do you care what happens next?
If you liked it and want you friends to catch up, tell them they can watch Game of Silence online right here. Ten episodes of mystery, intrigue, friendship and vengeance.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.