‘Deception’: Whodunit and Why?

The confusing plotlines in NBC's new drama could mean Meagan Good's star vehicle goes flat.

Cast of NBC's Deception (J.R. Mankoff/NBC)
Cast of NBC's Deception (J.R. Mankoff/NBC)

While the show succeeds in keeping the conventions of a typical whodunit in place and challenging those conventions by casting unlikely leads (two young, hot, African-American leads who are solid actors), Deception may have difficulty convincing an audience to return, simply because viewers need to know why they should care about Vivian Bowers. In a world where reality television rules, the novelty of the rich and shameless has pretty much worn off — not to mention the number of programs that have shown just how twisted money and power can make you (e.g., Scandal, Gossip Girls, 666 Park Ave.).

Most of the Bowers clan, including Vivian, has very little likability, so it’s difficult to figure out why anyone would care whether Vivian truly died of a drug overdose or was murdered. There’s a subplot involving a pharmaceutical scandal that needs more heft and complexity, too.

And then there’s this mystery: Why haven’t the Bowers, who seem to be aware of everything, including the meddling paparazzo, thought to find out anything about Joanna, who mysteriously appears on their doorstep years after not having been heard from? And I won’t mention the overuse of flashbacks, which are intended to provide a backstory but somehow cheapen the overall story arc.

The emerging love triangle involving Joanna, Will and Julian may prove interesting if former couple Joanna and Will are allowed to generate the same kind of heat as Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant on Scandal and I’m not talking about more sex scenes, folks. I’m talking about chemistry and allowing it to be on full display even in a meeting at police headquarters.

The writers on Deception have their work cut out for them because this series will have to do more than what has been done before to compete and survive as a murder mystery, especially with competition coming from CBS’ Elementary. All of the pieces are there for a great mystery: the murder, the victim, the detective, the clues, the cover-ups and the twists and turns. Hopefully the show will get out of its own way and head in a direction that distinguishes it from the rest of the pack.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.