4 out of 5
Developed by: Jason George
covers season 1
With a “don’t shut it off” premise and pacing that barrels past disbelief by, very simply, treating its unreal setup as real, Into the Night navigates past the pitfalls that plague most “strangers trapped in an X” thrillers and keeps us on point for six tight episodes, each new roadblock along the way sharing the same sense of relative realism and thus keeping things amped up nigh the whole way through.
It’s straight forward enough – a man bursts on to a red-eye flight with a gun and demands the plane take off immediately, as the sunrise promises instant death – and manages (thank to gun) to get his way, with the passengers left to wonder at the truth of his words while also calculating how to regain control of the flight. ‘Into the Night’ smartly confirms this promised plague soon enough, and while there’s certainly contention amongst and between the rattled passengers and crew and gunman, the usual bravado and arguing that would take up runtime and caused forced dramatics are skipped: the guy just wanted to get into the air and keep the plane pointed away from the sun; the pilot just wants to keep his passengers safe; the passengers now just want to stay alive. Instead, we focus on the logistics of the enterprise – now that we’re in the air, how do we stay there? – and the politics of planning how to do so – whose plan is the best? Who gets to decide on the plan?
The show plays with Lost-y flashbacks at the start of each episode, but instead of using this as a distracting way to, again, insert unnecessary diversions from what’s already an intriguing setup, it’s done more to humanize the various people on the plan, giving flavor to their conversations and struggles. Flight time is also filled up with discussions regarding the slowly learned information regarding why the sun is, apparently, killing everyone, paced out in a way that appreciably doesn’t make huge logical leaps or require a PHD to pseudo-science it (yes, there are some knowledge specialists on board who help it along, but it again feels like believable factoid recollections instead of eye-rolly info dumps) and, inevitably, the plane must land to refuel now and again, giving every other episode or so some scenery changes and chances to interact with on-the-ground problems.
Moral quandaries pop up: survival of the individual over that of the group; determining a reason for wanting to stay alive when living through tomorrow seems questionable. These are interesting questions but they’re really only vaguely studied, which exposes the one missing component of the show: that its characters aren’t especially interesting. They’re paired up and with ideas posited for purpose, which ends up working out well throughout, but there’s the sense that, had the show been given more episodes, this could have turned into a larger problem, with this moderate shallowness padded with exactly the kind of plot-padding dramaturgy that the show is able to avoid. But for every downbeat where you start to wonder if we’re going to launch into some not-quite-interesting side story featuring character X and Y, there are many, many other beats in which the show is rocketing excitingly forward towards its – thankfully – setup for another season.