It’s no longer enough for a new television show to have a good premise, smart writing, and a talented cast. In 2020, a whopping 493 scripted series aired. The proliferation of streaming services is likely to increase that number more and more each year. And with so much competition, a new program often has to be great right from the get-go. This standard provides little room for natural growth. But Debris’s fantastic season finale is proof that a great idea often needs a chance to develop into a great show. And that’s why the series deserves a second season.
Right from the very first episode, it was clear that NBC’s Debris had a lot going for it. The premise is perfect for a sci-fi drama. Two agents, one CIA and the other MI6, seek out fragments of a destroyed alien ship that are falling to Earth. Each piece boasts its own amazing technology, making every discovery a chance to tell an entirely new story. That provides a way to tell weekly, self-contained tales, all while building a much larger narrative. It’s the same formula that worked for The X-Files. But the differences in the pieces also allow the show to touch on any genre it wants. One week might be a horror story, the next could be a time travel saga. There’s a natural freshness to the show that adds to the weekly viewing experience.
The series also instantly established the show was less about science fiction and more about the spiritual side of existence. The show uses scientific concepts like wormholes and string theory to tell a relatable story about what it means to be a part of a much bigger universe. And that moving idea is explored through two caring, complex characters, played by two talented performers, Jonathan Tucker and Rian Steele. They ground both the science and the human elements of the show.
But Debris still experienced many of the problems almost every show faces during its inaugural season. It was clunky at times, as it was still finding its voice. The dialogue from scene to scene could go from inspired to corny to unnatural. And at times the pacing was off, since it had to world build, introduce multiple storylines, and also every major character. That’s an issue almost every series, especially one juggling so many elements, has to get through initially. But during this era of Peak TV, there’s less freedom to do all of that, let alone not do it perfectly.
Fortunately Debris already had a full season order, and those problems mostly vanished during the second half of the season. With less need to focus on exposition and establishing characters, the series was able to tell tighter stories. It was also able to start taking more chances. Things got far weirder—and far more interesting—than anyone might have predicted for a network show.
All of those individual pieces that worked so well fully came together during the show’s first and only two-part story. It involved multiple timelines and realities, which eventually crashed into each other in a surreal conclusion that was equal parts fascinating and moving. For all of the sci-fi goodness explored in that arc, it was the emotional connection between the two main characters that stood out. You can’t ask for more from any story, science fiction or otherwise.
But the show saved its best for last with a truly stellar finale. The episode tied together storylines in a satisfying and logical way that was still shocking. It also paid off smaller moments from earlier in the season, giving everything that preceded the finale new relevance. It was the type of hour that made you happy to go back and rewatch the whole season. And most importantly, the last episode moved the story to a new place viewers will want to follow. We got lots of answers, but we have even more questions now. All of the finale’s twists and turns have given the show a whole new level of intrigue with higher stakes.
Debris hasn’t been renewed yet. But it should be. In just 13 episode it went from a great idea to a great show. And it ended with the promise of something even bigger and better to follow.
All of that was only possible because the show had a chance to grow. Imagine the types of leap it will make from season one to season two.
Editor’s Note: Nerdist is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.