Northern Rescue

2019-07-15 15:00
A scene in 'Northern Rescue.'


After his wife dies, search and rescue commander John West uproots his three children, moving from Boston to his rural hometown of Turtle Island Bay.


Northern Rescue is a lot – that is what I would say when asked to describe this Netflix series in two words.

The show follows John West (William Baldwin) and his three kids – Maddie (Amalia Williamson), Scout (Spencer Macpherson) and Taylor (Taylor Thorne) – as they navigate their way through life in their new hometown, called Turtle Island Bay, after their wife/mother Sarah (Michelle Nolden) dies following a brief battle with cancer.

The show is narrated mainly by 17-year-old Maddie but puts emphasis on all its leading cast equally, including Sarah’s sister, aunt Charlie (Kathleen Robertson), who convinces the family to move to Turtle Island Bay from Boston and stay with her.

Right from the start Northern Rescue goes from one dramatic occurrence to the next, which immediately made me feel for this family. They take a major knock with Sarah’s death, but that is just scratching the surface, and I must admit that is one of the things I enjoyed about this show – it is filled with twists, some predictable and not so exciting but there are a couple that had me gasping with disbelief.

Unfortunately, Northern Rescue – which I believe is more of a family drama than a coming of age series – has a few plot-holes that spoiled the viewing experience for me.

In the age of binge-watching, the series is not something I would consume in one day or over a weekend. It has a lot of heavy content, and as I said before, it goes from one dramatic occurrence to the next. While there are brief moments of hope and happiness to lighten the mood, this family is going through it all. In saying that however, I do feel that it relates to real life experiences a lot more than I expected.

I have come to acknowledge that in my experience in watching family dramas where the mom (or any other family member) dies, I expect the family to recover feeling stronger and happier and their lives go on to be successful with the family member watching happily from heaven – which, let’s be honest, is totally biased. It’s not that easy and straightforward. I commend creators Mark Bacci, David Cormican, Dwayne Hill for constructing a show that is unapologetically raw and illustrates the realities of how losing a spouse, parent, and sibling can change absolutely everything at any given time, whether it’s a month after their death or 180 days later.

Another flaw I have to point out is the script. The starring cast have an evocative soundtrack to back them up and are brilliant in their roles – Baldwin, who, I must confess I thought was Stephen Baldwin for half of the series, nails the emotionally unavailable dad who cares but doesn’t show it in quite the right way; Williamson is your typical eldest sister who is not quite ready to accept the responsibilities of taking care of the family the way her mom did, and why should she. Macpherson does a great job of coming across as a kid with middle child syndrome who wants to make his dad happy but is also very into dating and, of course, young Thorne is the perfect little sister who is smart but trying to take on too much without telling her family. And let’s not forget aunt Charlie, the saving grace of this family but who has a whole bunch of her own drama to deal with, including wearing her sunglasses in the most untimely situations. But the mediocre writing makes it very difficult to be fully convinced by these characters. Acting is one thing, but when the actors don’t have much to work with script-wise it makes creating a gripping family drama, like This Is Us or A Million Little Things, all the more difficult and that’s where Northern Rescue falls short the most.

In addition to the disappointing script, the way in which certain plots were explored and executed was poor. While the character arcs are progressive over the 10-episodes, the only thing that I would say is enough to give Northern Rescue any hope of a second season, there are events (that I won’t mention because I don’t want to spoil it) that I feel could have been executed in a more captivating way. John, Maddie, Scout, Taylor and even aunt Charlie are all going through the same thing but in entirely different ways – the saying that people mourn in their own way couldn’t be better illustrated here – but it isn’t integrated very well, and it left me feeling as though some plotlines, like John’s day job as a rescue commander, belong in a totally different show.

As I said before, Northern Rescue is a lot. It has its issues, and I don’t see it winning an Emmy, but the way in which it relates to real-life experiences is what makes this family drama worth watching.


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