I hate to say it, but I think I’ve figured out why The Crow: Stairway to Heaven didn’t last. Sure, there were production problems: Universal bought out Polygram, who originally made the show, and decided that it wasn’t worth a continuing investment, but even if that hadn’t happened, I suspect the show’s lack of focus would have had Polygram questioning its viability eventually.
The Crow: Stairway To Heaven has been a lot of things during its run. First it tried to be a television-safe version of the movie, then a “good deed of the week” episodic adventure show, then a serial drama with supernatural overtones, then a kinda-sorta take on the type of show Highlander: The Series was and now back to… what exactly? This week’s pair of episodes do not speak well of the program, serving primarily as examples of what the show shouldn’t be doing so early in its development. And we only have two episodes to go after these. Not good.
Lest you think it’s all gloom and doom, I will say up front that there are some promising bits in these episodes. I neglected to mention it when it happened, but when Albrecht’s partner (Christina Cox) got shot a few episodes back it opened up a running subplot about her suitability to return to duty that finally pays off in “The Road Not Taken.” Sarah’s mother also relapses into alcoholism — briefly, this isn’t as well-handled — and has to struggle back to the sobriety. So there are things going on outside the realm of the Crow mythos to keep our attention. Unfortunately they aren’t the heart of the episodes, which means we have only Eric Draven’s ongoing story to deal with, and that’s gotten kind of murky.
“The Road Not Taken” isn’t even a Draven episode, actually. Hannah Foster (Bobbie Phillips) returns for a near-solo outing that features Draven significantly only in the final scenes. The rest of the time he’s out in the woods having some kind of weird past-life regression/spirit communion with an 18th-century version of Shelly that comes out of left field, lasts too long and doesn’t have much of an impact. Which leaves us with Hannah to carry the episode.
If you recall reading my review of “Birds of a Feather,” the episode that introduced Hannah, you may remember that I said she wasn’t so much of a character as she was a type: Tough Girl With Wisecracks. That hasn’t changed. The writers try hard, really hard, to make her come across as a tortured soul mourning for the death of her daughter, but she’s just so one-note and blustery that it doesn’t work. And she’s not particularly convincing as an action hero, either, as Phillips is stunt-doubled for pretty much everything.
“The Road Not Taken” has to do with the abduction of a baby, at least ostensibly, but the bad guys are never fleshed out and we’re never sure why the baby was kidnapped or for what purpose. I said before that it seemed like it was way too early to add additional Crows into the show and I stand by that assessment. A return engagement with Hannah is also unnecessary and comes too soon. If she had to return, save it for another season. Of course, I don’t know if the showrunners knew at this point that The Crow: Stairway To Heaven was canceled, so maybe they had good reason to bring Hannah back one more time.
So “The Road Not Taken” was not a great episode. Somehow “Brother’s Keeper” manages to be even worse. All I really have to tell you is that Corey Feldman plays Eric Draven’s brother and you know you’re in from something seriously weird.
In the show’s defense, Corey Feldman and Mark Dacascos aren’t playing brother brothers; rather, Eric Draven was adopted by Corey Feldman’s father during the Vietnam War. In perfect compliance with television clichés, however, Feldman’s character is a complete screw-up, always getting into trouble, while Draven is upstanding. As the episode commences, Chris Draven (Feldman) is being pursued by a vicious gangster who wants some money that was stolen from him years ago, and which only Chris knows the location of. Much punching in the stomach and smacking around commences, which Draven has to put a stop to.
If you view The Crow: Stairway To Heaven as throwaway TV — a cheap knockoff of an excellent, moody film — then an episode like “Brother’s Keeper” wouldn’t even faze you. It’s pure hokum. You know that the wayward brother will learn a valuable lesson about responsibility/family and then be shuttled off the stage to be forgotten by the next installment. I’ll be surprised if we hear Chris’ name again in the two episodes that conclude the season (and the series). The bad guys are purely pro forma, the MacGuffin is an all-too-familiar one… there’s nothing happening here. Just about the only thing worth following is the ongoing issue with Albrecht’s partner, and even that isn’t going to set anyone’s world on fire.
I’d really like to know why The Crow: Stairway To Heaven started flailing so soon out of the gate. As I said at the outset, the show has tried on many guises up to this point and none of them have been exact fits. I have to wonder if the producers behind the program originally thought, “Hey, we have the rights to The Crow and the movies aren’t working out, so how about a TV series?” yet never considered exactly what that series would be about. They missed the boat early on by not extending Draven’s quest for revenge against his murderers beyond two episodes and after that they never seemed to know what they should have Draven be doing.
There are sparks of identity that crop up from time to time in all of these episodes and some work better than others. The show has held my attention pretty consistently, though I have been known to check the time while watching some episodes (like these two). Dacascos is well-cast and the rest of the series regulars have grown on me, especially Marc Gomes as Albrecht. There’s simply never been a point while I was watching where I could definitively declare that, yes, here is an episode that represents what The Crow: Stairway To Heaven should be. And that’s too bad.