Faraday makes several stops along the way, such as reaching a specific transmission site in New Mexico, which turns out to be the center of a tornado, and then reaching a technological empire called Origin in Seattle. The opening scene in the first episode shows us Faraday from the podium as a huge tech guru with a sold-out crowd, ready to unleash a power source that will change the world. We know what he achieves success more or less, and that is his life story. The framing device slightly reduces the overall tension of the «save two worlds» story, although we know that mastering technology is the norm for the essence of the «The Man Who Fell to Earth» story.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Simpson’s CIA agent Spencer Clay learns of these strange activities going on in New Mexico, especially after a tornado arrives with a strange signal that hasn’t been seen for four decades. Overfocused and with an uncertain moral compass, he obsesses over understanding the transmission and begins to learn more about the legacy of former tech guru Thomas Newton and his company World Enterprises.
Created and often co-written with Alex Kurtzman (The Mummy) and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Gets Married), the series has a blockbuster sheen but keeps it reasonably down to earth. The series is particularly witty about the text that people most associate with the story, not so much the novel by Walter Tevis, but the 1976 film directed by Nicholas Roeg and starring David Bowie. Skillfully presenting itself as a sequel of sorts, it uses certain passages from that film, such as the traumatic surgery scene, and Bowie’s iconic image of Thomas Newton, covering his face with a hat, to add color. (Here, Newton is also played by Bill Nighy, so that role can live without remorse). facing questions with no answers. It’s a good way to let this series find its own heart and soul.
Writing sometimes takes too long to really get started, weighed down by creating its own mysteries episode by episode rather than excited by them. But this is where the actors’ collective charisma comes in, as they are able to fill in most of the gaps in the series. Ejiofor is often fascinating as the outsider learns to be human, interaction after interaction, while being repulsive and alien to everyone around him. He doesn’t know some customs, like how you can’t just yell «F**K!» in a public place, and when he says something like «I have four stomachs» with wide eyes, there is no whimsy or magic in him that would kill his sincerity. His performance is also where the show (at least in the first four episodes) goes to great lengths to tell the story of what modern man does. Taking a very different approach from Bowie’s minimalist title performance, Ejiofor charts his own path of discovery in The Man Who Fell to Earth, which includes an always expressive face, messianic calm and unpredictability.