Despite lackluster trailers, the premiere episode of Recovery Road sets things off to a good start and most of the alterations made for the book’s adaptation to the silver screen are mostly welcomed, and understandable, changes.
Trigger Warning(s): Conversation about Rape and depiction of potential domestic violence.
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
The series begins by showing us Maddie (Jessica Sula) before rehab. But there is no “Mad Dog Maddie,” in terms of the perception the book gives. If anything, sober Maddie would be a watered down version of “Mad Dog Maddie” and the intoxicated version might be a bit like how Maddie is by the end of the book version of her. But, one plus to the series starting before rehab is that it introduces a reason for Maddie’s addiction: Her father dying in a car accident. A change I can’t say is necessarily welcomed yet, but with his death does come a reason behind Maddie’s addictions which weren’t really given in the book at all.
But, alongside the changes of no “Mad Dog Maddie,” and a dead father, comes Maddie being at an outpatient treatment facility which allows her to go to school, effectively killing the awkwardness of her returning to school after being in a rehab environment. Though from there, most things remain the same. Stewart, now named Wes (Sebastian De Souza), is a bit mysterious, lovable, and very much the epitome of a Lost Prince, and there is Vern (Daniel Franzese) and also Trish (Kyla Pratt). Someone who, I forgot to mention, has been drastically changed. Possibly for the better mind you.
The reason I say that is, book spoiler, since Trish dies in the book, I honestly feel like Trish dying may actually hit hard now. For the way Pratt plays Trish makes her almost seem manic and happy go lucky, to the point where she dances on that border between being annoying to just downright loveable. Add in she is a former meth addict, and has a daughter she wants to get back, and it is hard to not plant seeds of investment.
Focusing on the main story, though, what is covered thus far is just to lay the foundation. Maddie has a drinking and drug problem, parties a bit much, is a decent student, but her mom Charlotte (Sharon Leal) worries about her. Especially since she, unlike her husband James (Tatum Shank), doesn’t have a strong connection with Maddie. So, upon just a hunch, she gets her daughter busted for alcohol on school grounds, and thus sets Maddie on the path to Recovery Road.
Though it has been years since we were introduced to Sula on Skins, I do feel like this production is similar enough to that for her to seem in her element, but different enough so that she as an actress can grow. For, as can be seen just by her attitude throughout the pilot, she can still tap into that Grace Blood sweetness, yet also come off like the type of brat you hope gets smacked in the face by her mom.
I genuinely like most of the changes to the story. The death of Maddie’s father I’m not strongly fond of, but between that and her parents working too much to make her possibly feel loved and wanted, it does make for some sort of reasoning behind her addictions. Then, with Trish, I feel like the first potential death of the show may actually mean something and not just be like a name in a newspaper. For, when it came to the book, as much as I was interested in Trish, after she was gone it was like she became a footnote and even with Maddie blaming herself for Trish’s death, I didn’t feel myself mourning Trish hardly at all.
I liked that the character Doug (Jerod Meagher) went off the rails in the pilot. If only because he went from fine, sober, and seemingly ready for independence, in one scene, and then in the next one he was like a crazed drug addict. This to me bought on a real sense that, for however long the series focuses on this treatment center, we may get some interesting characters coming in and out the facility.
De Souza, Sula’s fellow Skins alumni, I think fits the role of Stewart, now Wes, quite well. There is this unspoken sadness in his facial expression, he has a subtle attractiveness to him when he doesn’t even try, and yet there is this slight attitude underneath this almost vulnerable exterior which, for those who finished the book, shows how Wes can be when he gets alcohol in his system.
I don’t know how I honestly feel about Maddie being in school while in recovery. Be it because her best friend, whose name I can’t recall; boyfriend Luke (Who I’m pretty sure is Torrey Laamar); or just because I really appreciated her reintroduction to school, and normalcy, something about this change makes me very uneasy. To the point, I’m not on the fence about it but see it as perhaps the one thing which could potentially be a blemish for the series.
On The Fence
I’m not so sure what role Rebecca (Lindsay Pearce) is going to play, since she is a former friend of Maddie’s, but I am definitely intrigued.
I am really trying to possibly like Cynthia (Alexis Carra) but being that she is part of Maddie going to school, which I have hardly any love for, she is being lumped into what problems I have with this show. Yet, at the same time, with her being a recovering addict, of which Maddie knows, and says there will be mutually assured destruction if people find out, it is hard to not be interested about how Maddie and Cynthia’s relationship will evolve.
Final Thought(s): Watch It
ABC Family, soon to be Freeform, makes the much-needed changes to Recovery Road it had to do, and while I may not agree with some of the creative license taken, it is too early to really damn the decision made. But, one thing is for sure, this show will definitely fit in well with Switched at Birth, The Foster, and much of Freeform’s lineup. Though, I would argue, as long as there are relapses, struggles, and the occasional death, what it took Switched at Birth ages to achieve, and what The Fosters does off and on, perhaps Recovery Road may do within its first season, and consistently.
Thoughts Since Premiere
Do not watch this. It doesn’t follow the book, it just uses the characters and then goes its own way. In a way which doesn’t at all make things better or take things in perhaps a way which is divisive, but just an utter disappointment.