September 27, 2015, 9pm (EST), ABC
Big bets pay off remarkably well in Blood & Oil‘s pilot. Scheming, borrowing significant sums of money and being willing to risk it all based on dubious sources of information – in this case, eavesdropping someone’s cell phone conversation – all pay off very quickly. While there’s potential in the concept of life in a town that runs on the booming oil business, viewers of Blood & Oil are not likely to observe similar returns from betting on this show.
ABC’s new primetime soap treads familiar territory, in the vein of recently-departed Revenge. With the backdrop of an oil boom in North Dakota, seasoned oil baron Hap Briggs (Don Johnson) seeks to expand his empire. The wealth of the “Baron of the Bakken” is contrasted with the dismal working and living conditions faced by oil rig workers also looking to capitalize on the boom. Newlyweds Billy (Chace Crawford) and Cody LeFever (Rebecca Rittenhouse) are among the many people looking to embark on the “grand adventure of a lifetime” and get what they see as their piece of the pie. But, as explained by local bar owner Jules (India de Beaufort), those who live in this North Dakota boomtown tend to either have two houses or two jobs.
In the initial days of the LeFevers’ attempts to capture the American dream, they have little luck. Before they even arrive at their destination, their plan to open a series of laundromats is quickly scuttled once they are run off the road – in the show’s opening scene – and all of their equipment is damaged beyond repair. Instead of heading back home to cut their losses, Billy opts to move ahead with the plan to avoid embarrassment and make back some of their money by working in the oil fields. Yet it quickly becomes clear that the American dream isn’t so easily obtained – with several people with similar ambitions living in camps and struggling to find decent, reliable work.
Billy’s plan hits a major snag when Cody learns that she is pregnant, causing her to question the risky business in which she and her husband have pursued. But a hot tip she overhears about Briggs’ interest in a particular plot of land quickly answers all of the LeFevers problems. Billy brokers a deal with the landowner, who had been burned by Briggs in the past, and turns around to lease the property to Briggs in return for millions of dollars.
Adding to the soapy drama of Blood & Oil is Briggs’ son Wick (Scott Michael Foster), a stereotypical egotistical rich kid with little ambition of his own. That is, until Hap cuts Wick out of the will and throws him out of the house – prompting him to seek payback. Wick hatches a plan to steal oil from his father and build his own business in the process. At the same time, Hap bonds with Billy – wishing that Wick would be more like the bold newcomer.
The pilot ends on a cliffhanger, in which Hap – with Billy and Cody in tow – discovers that he’s being robbed by a masked Wick. As Hap, Billy and Wick fight each other in the middle of the oil patch, and while actually covered in oil, a spark falls to the ground as the pilot fades to black.
While there are some standouts in the pilot episode, particularly in the form of Carla Briggs (Amber Valletta), the classy but crafty wife of Hap, the pilot does not provide much substance and the plot offers nothing that hasn’t already been done before – and done better. There are few surprises, the dialogue is unremarkable and, most notably, the tone is unclear. While the show is clearly aiming to be a splashy primetime soap, Blood & Oil is bafflingly humorless. Overall, despite the shameless cliffhanger in the very first episode, there is little reason to keep coming back to find out how much blood will be spilt in the quest by the LeFever and Briggs families to grow their fortune in oil country.
- “You’re a little crooked.”
- “Nice driving, Dale Jr.” Seriously, with two car crashes in one episode – both of which he just kind of shrugged off – someone should revoke Billy’s license.
There is little reason to keep coming back to find out how much blood will be spilt in the quest by the LeFever and Briggs families to grow their fortune in oil country.