Detective Avi Avraham arrives on the scene of a murder in the city. Officer Janine Harris briefs him about the incident as we kick off The Calling episode 1.
A man, Joel Hamlin, dressed as a hotdog, is accused of murdering another man after he insulted him. Avi takes him to the station and asks him not to take the dress off. Avi is kind of a legend in the station. His unique ability to draw out people and extract confessions is well revered.
Captain Kathleen Davies, Janine, and Detective Earl watch from behind the glass as Avi gets the confession from Joel. He lost his well-paying job during COVID and could not find another. He killed the man because Joel could not handle the embarrassment.
Avi is called into another case, that of a young missing boy. His name is Vincent Conte and his mother Nora has come to report him missing. Vincent’s father Leonard is on a business trip and will be arriving in the city shortly. There is not a lot that Nora is able to provide Avi with, evidence-wise, just that he went missing on a Tuesday morning and was never seen after that.
The initial suspicion is that he ran away but Nora is not too sure of that assessment. Zachary Miller, an aspiring writer, is told by his instructor Michael Rosen that he might not be good enough to write. Despite several tries, the end product has been mediocre.
Zach leaves the class and almost walks onto incoming traffic due to the trauma of this revelation. He goes back home to his wife Dania and infant son Luke. Dania is in the bathtub and Zachary, for some reason, projects his anger onto her and gets into the tub to have sex with Dania. Janine aspires to be a detective one day and goes to Kathleen to request her to make Janine Avi’s partner.
Kathleen is skeptical and says Janine should think it through. Danie expresses her discomfort at what Zach did. He gets defensive and also lies to her about the class and that his work is soon going to get published. Avi is a deeply religious man and we see glimpses from his Orthodox offerings. Janine has her own rituals and we see a starry-eyed girl obsessed with crimes and solving them.
Janine gets the nod from Kathleen the next day and Nora comes back to talk about the investigation. The police question the neighbors and it turns out the Millers live in the same building. Avi visits the couple and discovers that Zach used to tutor Vincent. They do not reveal much except the fact that Vincent’s father is quick to anger and an overbearing parent, so much so that Nora hardly dares to interfere. There was some yelling on Monday night as well that Zach mentions to Avi. The detective spots an old friend in the street, whose name is John Wentworth, a former philosophy teacher at the Rockefeller, now homeless.
Janine and Avi get a distress call. They rush to deal with a hostage situation at Art’s Deli, whose owner is Avi’s friend. Despite strict instructions not to go in, Avi does so and puts his life on the line to neutralize Kyle Henderson, a schizophrenic drug-addicted veteran. Zach confronts Michael at his workplace and gets advice to channel something from his own experiences into his writing.
Avi inspects Vincent’s room and discovers it to be quite well put. He also finds Vincent’s phone and his coat and jacket, which dampens his suspicion that he has run away. Nora is not forthcoming about Leonard’s equation with Vincent. AVi sits on his bed. holds Nora’s hand, and tries to channel the secrets the room has to tell him.
Janine pesters Avi with questions about the case. His assessment is still that he ran away, or at least the fact that he is hiding from something and the parents are lying about the situation. John is not able to tell Avi a lot, just that he knew Vincent from his class and he was a sweet boy. Leonard is brought to the station and he is indeed a cantankerous man. Avi has trouble getting anything from him but he is definitely a suspect. Janine notices Avi drawing and he tells her that it is his way of communicating with the victims in his cases.
He sees things in those drawings and allows his hands to draw freely in order to embellish his senses. Janine tells him about herself and how “Law & Order” inspired her to take up policing. That night, they find Vincent’s bag and belongings dumped in a garbage can near the river.
The Episode Review
Does anyone else feel Jeff Wilbusch looks like a slightly more menacing and convoluted Paul Rudd here? I for one feel that quite strongly. The star of Unorthodox, Oslo, and Keep Breathing has taken on a more isolating, challenging role that might even define his career. Detective Avi is exactly the kind of character we content aficionados love sinking our teeth into.
Julia Canfield (Succession) plays Janine and gives a breezy account of herself. The central mystery proposed in episode 1 is one we have seen unfold many times before. There is nothing new in a teenage boy going missing and their parents (especially the mother) turning her life upside down till he is found.
The real test for The Calling will be in how it establishes that mystery and the steps the detectives take to reach the end, whatever it may be. First impressions are good but the feeling is not as cinematic as it ought to have been. Other Kelley productions have had that grand, refinement about the production whereas The Calling feels “tv-like”.
But anyway, that cannot be a sustainable point of criticism if the drama is good. There is promise but I would hold our horses for now!