[Spoiler Alert: Plot is discussed in this review]
‘Three Inches’ was originally a pilot, but Syfy decided to pick up ‘Alphas’ instead of this superhero drama starring Noah Reid and James Marsters.
‘Three Inches’ is about Walter Spackman, a 26-year-old who moved back home because of financial troubles. He has bounced around from job to job and currently washes dogs. Also, he pines for a childhood friend, Lily. Walter finally has the courage to tell Lily how he really feels, but she rejects him, and it starts to rain. Heartbroken, Walter stays out in the storm and gets struck by lightning. Walter survives (this is logical; not all lightning strikes are fatal) and develops the ability to move objects three inches with his mind.
Walter wakes up in the hospital with ringing in his ears, which stops once he uses his ability to bring a drink closer to him. The next morning, Walter has a difficult time controlling his new power, so leaves before his mother notices anything odd. Walter meets Troy Hamilton (Marsters) in a bar; well, Troy probably made sure to be at the same bar as Walter. Troy is a private contractor who has a team of people with gifts, a team of superheroes. Walter thinks his power is lame, but Troy convinces him that his power can do marvelous things if Walter practices and trains.
While the training sequence is abbreviated, I do like how the show gives us superheroes with limits. Walter cannot use his ability over great distances, and he can only use it so many times in a row before he needs to rest and “recharge.” Troy has Walter focus on small tasks like unlocking locks; Walter thinks this is silly at first, but Troy is right—even superheroes need to get through locked doors. Reid and Marsters work well together. Reid’s Walter is a quirky, unfocused likeable guy who slowly realizes he might have found a purpose. Marsters plays Troy with a quiet and reserved authority; I can’t believe the man who gave us Spike is in a fatherly role, but he is, and Marsters injects Troy with warmth I did not expect, which is evident in the scene when Troy talks to Walter the night before the first mission. Although they talk via video, we see the two form a connection as Troy assures Walter that you don’t need to see the courage inside of you to know it’s there.
Their relationship continues to develop over the course of the mission. After getting more training from Brandon and bonding with the other team members, Walter joins the team on a mission to retrieve a package. To fund the group, Troy gets tasks from paying clients. The team’s missions are not always heroic; they can deliver a package or retrieve data. Their mission is to retrieve and deliver a package. Walter is surprised the package is a 10-year-old girl, Cassie, who is hunted by different groups for her ability. Walter defies Troy, goes rogue, rescues the girl, and reunites her with her sister. Walter and Troy argue, but after Cassie escapes, Troy reveals how proud of Walter he is because Walter did the right thing and gave him an excuse to feed the client. The moment near the end of the show, in Troy’s office, solidified their bond, forming a relationship that could have been the emotional core of the show.
Was ‘Three Inches’ unbearably awful? No. The pace of the show was quick, and the performances were solid. Marsters and Reid did a great job, as did the actors playing Brandon (Kyle Schmid), Watts (Stephanie Jacobsen), and Belinda Spackman (Andrea Martin). Belinda, Walter’s mom, became one of my favorites by delivering funny one-liners and providing levity at the right moments. Why do I think ‘Three Inches’ wasn’t picked up? The pilot is crowded. The team is large:
- Troy: The ex-Army intelligence officer who investigated psychics, got so interested in people with gifts, leading him to form his own team.
- Brandon: The field leader who is Troy’s son. He is a regular human who desires to have a power.
- Watts: She alters people’s emotional states, making them feel happy or sad.
- Annika: She can mimic sounds she hears, so she does perfect imitations of people.
- Carlos: The Human Smell. He emits strong odors from his body.
- Todd: He can see up to two minutes into the future.
- Ethan: He communicates with insects.
When the team is in the field, there are seven members; at headquarters, Troy makes eight. ‘Three Inches’ is what I call a “Kitchen Sink Pilot,” a pilot that shoves as much in a limited time period as possible. If the team had three less members, then many scenes, especially the bonding over beers moment in the bar, would have been stronger. The pilot focused on Walter, Troy, Brandon, Carlos, and Watts, and they had good moments such as Carlos tricking Walter into wearing a costume his mother made, Brandon being a jerk to Walter out of jealousy, and Watts and Walter forming the beginnings of a friendship. To persuade Walter to stay with the team, Watts tells Walter her real name, a fact she has kept from the rest of the team.
The crowding is apparent during the warehouse sequence. The team goes through the warehouse together, pausing so members can demonstrate their abilities. Having a smaller team would have intensified the action while building team dynamics and letting us get to know the characters more. The smaller team sharing Walter’s responsibility for Cassie’s escape would have made the “I am Spartacus” scene near the end more poignant because we would have a better sense of everyone’s personalities.
Too many characters can distance an audience. I watch ‘The Secret Circle,’ and while I am a fan, I have to admit the show is packed; an episode can feature nine characters, and keeping up with that many people can be difficult, which is why I suspect many have not connected to the show. ‘Three Inches’ has a large cast, and some of the characters did not have many lines, so we really didn’t get an impression of who they were and who they could be. In comparison, ‘Alphas’ has six regular characters: Dr. Rosen, Gary, Cameron, Rachel, Nina, and Bill. By focusing on a team of six, the audience was able to connect with the team, which contributed to the show’s popularity.
Also, large casts equals large budgets. I imagine a Syfy executive counted how many actors would be needed each week for each show and did some math. In addition to the eight team members and the two girls who needed help, we were introduced to Walter’s mom Belinda, Walter’s best friend Mecklin, and Walter’s love interest, Lily. Since Walter lives with his mom, Mecklin got involved in the Cassie plot, and Walter kissed Lily at the end of the show, Belinda, Mecklin, and Lily were likely to return in upcoming episodes. With such a large cast, ‘Three Inches’ probably became less appealing to for Syfy to pick up.
The size of the cast is really the only flaw of ‘Three Inches’ I found. If the pilot had a smaller cast, then we could have seen how the others, such as Annika, Ethan, and Todd, encounter the team. Seeing how the team finds a man who can talk to insects is more compelling than hearing part of the story during a bar scene. Although I thought parts of ‘Three Inches’ were more interesting and endearing than ‘Alphas,’ I can understand why Syfy passed on this show and went with ‘Alphas’ instead.