STARRING Matt Dallas, Marguerite MacIntyre, Bruce Thomas, April Matson, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Chris Olivero, Kirsten Prout, Jaimie Alexander
CREATED BY Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber
23 episodes, 43 mins., 6 Discs
**** (out of ****)
Premiering on the ABC Family channel summer 2006, I was one of those people who made the mistake of not watching the freshman season of Kyle XY. Beside the not-having-cable factor, the show itself looked dumb (this was judging from the cover, nearly always depicting Kyle lifting up his shirt mid-way to reveal his lack of a bellybutton), and being on ABC Family – a channel I’m not a fan of being they do nothing but air the Devil’s program 7th Heaven repeatedly – sort of made me iffy. However, I was nonetheless intrigued enough to add the first season to my Netflix Que. And then, on a sunny mid-August morning, I received two of three discs, and by day’s end, I had watched all the episodes available to me. Turns out, Kyle XY is a freakin’ fantastic show! A perfect blend of family/teen drama and science fiction/superhero elements, only helped with some seriously grand dialogue (mind you, it’s not Joss Whedon, but no one can do Whedon except Whedon).
With only 10 episodes, the show took full advantage of what they had and crafted such rich, three-dimensional, relatable characters that everything that happens to them you genuinely give a damn about. And best of all, this isn’t some Brenda Hamptom-esque program with long, loving monologues or supposed “hip” teen dialogue. Nay, this is its own, breathing entity, corniness-free.
Season one began with Kyle waking up in the forest in his birthday suit, not a clue as to who he is. He’s brought to a detention center where he’s treated by psychologist Nicole Traiger. Nicole takes a liking to him, and brings work home with her until they can find a proper place to put him. There, Kyle interacts with the family: Nicole’s husband Steven, her teens Lori and Josh. He also makes an impression with the girl-next-door Amanda. To the amazement of everyone, Kyle displays intellect far beyond normal capacity: insane ability to memorize everything; learns misc. languages, etc., etc. Oh, and he also is lacking a bellybutton. The Traigers end up growing quite the liking to Kyle, and adopt him as part of the family. However, they might be over their heads as the disappearance of a renowned scientist is connected to Kyle, as well as a student from the 1980’s named Adam Baylin who has a striking resemblance to our title star. The freshman season was all about “Who am I?”, and by the finales end, Kyle comes face to face with someone who can answer these questions.
This season answers the who? and what? about Kyle immediately, and then a whole bunch of new questions and storylines are introduced – and to the show’s credit, most are answered satisfyingly! Similar to Lost, this show is serialized, with each episode holding a clue or some new nugget of information relating to Kyle and, this season, a new character by the name of Jessi. Picking up a while after season’s one finale – with Kyle leaving the Traigers under the pretense of finding his biological parents, he meets up with the mysterious Adam Baylin (the individual who looks exactly like him) –Kyle’s Obi-Wan to his Luke, providing the answers to his questions when possible. Additionally, Tom Foss, an ex-CIA agent-turned-Zzyzx-employee-turned-traitor-to-Zzyzx-by-saving-Kyle, assists Baylin and Kyle. Turns out that Kyle isn’t your typical human boy: he was gestated in a tube for 16 years based off Baylin’s genes in a underground facility called Zzyzx, his mind ever expanding and capable of abilities that seem superhuman (enhanced vision & sound, movement of polarities in objects, amazing cognitive aptitude, heightened reflexes, amazing exact drawing skills, etc.).
Home sick, Kyle returns to the Traigers where he keeps his origins and abilities as secret as possible, under the supervision of the lurking Foss. This creates tension amongst the Traiger house as Kyle’s deception of the truth and constant leavings (due to training sessions with Foss) not only unnerve them, but make them suspicious. Unfortunately, a company by the name of Madacorp has other plans for Kyle. Situations really heat up with the arrival of Jessi (Alexander), another experiment of Zzyzx taken by Madacorp to aid in their master plan against Kyle. So, Kyle has to do quite the balancing act – keep his stories straight with the Traigers, make sure no one gets hurt in the process, stop Madacorp, find out who exactly this strange girl Jessi is, find some equilibrium with him and his crush Amanda, and most importantly, continue to hone in on his abilities. As you can see, it’s a rather filled season, and mix in the teen and family drama, its episode-to-episode awesomeness!
With 23 episodes and plenty of stories to tell, all them are truly phenomenal and with the exception of one episode (2-08: “What’s the Frequency, Kyle?”), none of them feel like filler. Maybe if I was forced to watch and wait week after week, some would seem subpar (remind me to also thank the Lords of Kobol for season box sets), but as it stands, I find each episode contributes to the over-arching storyline, and if not that, at least with the development of our principle leads.
There are undoubtedly some faults, such as poor acting or dropped storylines or something of that nature, but I’ve become too engrossed in the program to really give a damn, honestly. It’s nearly infallible in my eyes. Except, maybe, when Kyle performs a stunt that’s just too impossible for my narrow-minded brain, or occasionally how Jessi behaves. With the character of Amanda, however, who is about as innocent of a teen as you’ll get without being a full-blown God-loving person, you’re forced to suspend disbelief because there’s times where she acts completely out of nature with how a everyday girl would act. For example, when Kyle and Jessi are on their own in the woods looking for answers, Kyle phones Amanda, and instead of Amanda being overcome with the urge to bitch-slap her boyfriend when he returns, helps him. In a world of Jerry Springer, I’m pretty sure there would be a bit of cussing going on over the phone. However, looking at the season as a whole, it’s pretty much perfect, and easily allows me to gloss over any errors.
To spice up the situation in Kyle’s life is Jessi, played by the wonderful Jaime Alexander. Escaping from the Zzyzx lab, Jessi enters the world alone, curious, and, similar to Kyle, naked. Unfortunately, Madacorp got to her first, and programmed her (again, relating the two subjects as computers) to believe she was the sister of Emily, a Madacorp employee. Under this identity of “Jessi”, she attends Kyle’s school and is carefully integrated into Kyle’s life. Jessi, of course, is more than meets the eye, and has quite the history with a one Adam Baylin.
It’s difficult to choose favorites amongst the array of fantastic episodes, but there are particular ones that do deserve nods. First and foremost is actually a series of episodes, 2-10 to 2-14. Combined, they’re some of the most gripping television I’ve watched lately. I honestly stayed up the entire night to watch how this storyline reached its resolution. There is some true expertly written dialogue, character interaction, and some fantastic action sequences and heart-stopping climaxes. Several times, I had no friggin’ idea how Kyle was going to get out of a particular mess, and the Apocalypse was the only thing that could deter me from finding out. So, in summation, those were some bloody brilliant episodes.
Another one that I liked was 2-20: “Primary Colors”, in which Kyle’s brain is out of whack due to too much stress placed on his smarty-pants brain. Everyone needs his help, and Kyle being Kyle, he tries to assist, but it comes at a toll. I’m not so sure why it’s a topper on my list, but it was interesting watching Kyle sort of going all haywire. Jessi taking up the mantle of helping people was rather amusing, specifically her way of “teaching” Biology to Josh. The second-to-the-last episode, 2-22: “…Hello”, hits my top spot mainly due to its final minutes, with Kyle performing an amazing act, and a little bit of history surrounding Jessi is revealed. I know some prefer this to be the season finale over 2-23: “I’ve Had the Time of My Life”, but I enjoyed that one more. (What can I say? I’m a sucker for prom episodes)
The scripts are full of self-referential dialogue and geeky references that would make Josh Schwartz (creator of The O.C.) and Whedon (you know who he is) proud. Something that the writers can pat themselves on the back for is their ability to craft credible, realistic and naturalistic dialogue that doesn't in any way feel forced (or perhaps this is more due to the actor's ability to deliver them that way?). Without somehow contradicting myself through my bad writing skills, I'm just gonna say this show's writing department all deserve huge, fat paychecks for their incredible work here.
Aside from the writing, something that surprised the hell out of me when I first watched season one was the performances from these actors. Cartoony, Hallmark Channel actors these are not! I first want to touch on the parents, Nicole and Steven. Sure, they do hand out the obligatory Words of Wisdom, but it’s in a realistic fashion instead of the sweet, music-swells heart-to-heart that’s prevalent on basically any and all parent/child based programs. They’re written and acted in such a way that I don’t mind these sequences all that much (though they are plentiful, which becomes only mildly obnoxious occasionally). I could spend quite a bit of time discussing the parents, but it all boils down to the fact that they are portrayed as intelligent figures, and actually become integral to the plot and our characters.
Matt Dallas is excellent, as always; maintaining his wide eyed expressions, his innocent smile and constant interest in the world around him. Simply put, Dallas inhabits Kyle XY completely. As Jessi, Jaime Alexander is awesome. I may not exactly like how she chose to deliver certain lines and play a scene, but I can’t deny that however she does something, she does it well and when necessary, a bit kick-assishly (new word, I invented; if used, must pay me royalties). I do like how her storyline progressed through the episodes, and how Kyle and Jessi felt their connection but had no idea how to proceed. Not weakly written or acted, I just sorta don’t care for her character, honestly. However, Jessi does have a bit to do during its final episodes, but her storyline is also sort of redundant enough to roll one’s eyes.
The actors have also grown up since the freshman season. Most notable is Jean-Luc as teenager Josh. His character is put through the ringer this season, and was thus forced to grow up and mature at a quicker rate than if he didn’t meet a certain someone (not Kyle). Not only does his character mature, but Jean-Luc has really grown as a actor – he can deliver the funny, no doubt, but he also has the ability to convincingly convey sadness, anger, and fear, amongst other emotions. April Matson as Lori also gets more to do, and that’s fantastic as she really is a fine actress who can play pretty much anything. All around, I have nothing negative to say about the acting. I loved ‘em all.
Another great thing about this DVD release – it’s loaded with bonus material! Five of the six discs include two commentary tracks, and thank the Lords of Kobol they aren’t a world of suckyness. Actually, the commentaries are quite informative and extremely interesting to listen to. The writers even bring up dropped storylines, and that’s always fun to hear of. The only drawback: the episodes on the first two and a half discs with commentaries reference the remainder of the season as “Season 3”, so it’s a small annoyance, but no real biggie. However, there is an annoyance in the form of a 7-minute previous feature titled “Facing the Future”, which is a promotional tool for the remaining episodes; in a complete season box set, it’s sort of useless. Next up is “Livin’ with the X’s”, a 10-minute “day-in-the-life” of Matt Dallas and Jaime Alexander. Not entirely thrilling, but I sure as hell would love to live in Dallas’ house – that place was gargantuan. Last but not least, there’s 27 deleted scenes spread throughout five of the six discs, and they range from ‘Ooo, nifty’ to ‘eh, whatev.’ However, there is an Alternate Ending to the mid-season finale, “Leap of Faith”, which would change the dynamic of the Jessi/Kyle relationship – and not for the better, in my opinion.
In conclusion, I’m sure Kyle XY doesn’t float many people’s boat – after all, there’s plenty of not-so-appealing teen angst – but it’s so well crafted that it’s a shame it doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. Working on not only a teen level, but as a sci-fi show and/or a superhero origin story, it creates a nice equilibrium that all parties who watch the program will find something to enjoy. It’s smarter than plenty of shows (i.e., Smallville), and with an extremely talented cast and a brilliant crew of writers, Kyle XY is definitely worth your time.