'Forever': Ioan Gruffudd Born Again and Again

In this show the doctor, Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), is immortal. However, t's not what you think: he doesn’t sleep in a coffin, drink blood, or have sparkly skin.


Airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Judd Hirsch,Alana De La Garza, Barbara Eve Harris, Donnie Keshawarz
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: ABC
Creator: Matt Miller
Air date: 2014-09-23

There is little that network TV loves more than a good cop or doctor show—except, possibly, a show about lawyers. The procedural delivers comforting formula for viewers with apparently insatiable appetites for it. For decades, crimes have been solved, patients cured (or not), and legal matters determined in courtrooms. In recent years, however, the networks have tried tweaking the format, inserting unfamiliar figures or twists of plot. So, we've seen a doctor indebted to the mob, a doctor with an evil split personality, cops who are androids or otherwise enhanced, and a doctor who talks to ghosts. None of these lasted more than a season.

It turns out that viewers, while willing to have their doctors and cops be unpleasant and even anti-social, prefer they not be too high-concept. That could be a problem for Forever, a new show that had a special preview Monday and begins its regular Tuesday time on 23 September. Here the doctor, named Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), is immortal. However, it's not what you think: he doesn’t sleep in a coffin, drink blood or have sparkly skin, and he hasn't been transformed by a stranger's spell (see: New Amsterdam). Forever doesn't fall back on such clichés, and the mystery it poses as to how and why Morgan doesn’t die is, so far, its most compelling aspect.

That said, Forever is already showing an affection for plot conventions, drawing from both cop and doctor shows. Morgan works as a medical examiner in New York, and has spent 200 years honing his skills of observation, always helpful in the big city. We meet him on the subway, where he manages to determine that a young woman is a Russian cellist on the way to a performance just by looking at her. She finds his Sherlock Holmes shtick charming rather than creepy: he is, after all, played by Ioan Gruffudd, here making no secret of his British background.

Their flirtation is cut short when a train derailment kills everyone in the Morgan's car—except him. Though he suffers a rather nasty impaling, immediately following his last breath, Morgan is reborn naked in the river. He explains to the audience that he has died countless times and always comes to in water at exactly the same age.

Granted, this explanation isn't exactly detailed or even very explanatory, but it does set up for an irregular, potentially disturbing assignment. We follow Morgan back to the morgue, where he examines the corpses from the crash and is seemingly unaffected by the death around him or the tragedy he just witnessed. The good doctor’s breezy attitude around the dead is unnerving to his assistant, Lucas (Joel David Moore), who copes by injecting droll one-liners into this otherwise mostly serious business. Morgan’s odd mannerisms also catch the attention of Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza), who briefly considers him a suspect in the subway crash until she too is disarmed by the British wit and charm.

By the end of the first episode, after much sleuthing and dissecting, Morgan and Martinez are planning their next case together. The series will offer up a case week by week, even though Morgan’s quest to understand his immortality is far more engaging. When he gets a phone call from a stranger who also claims to be immortal and seems to know everything he does, Morgan’s instinct is to run. It is only at the insistence of his friend, Abe (Judd Hirsch), who has been helping him hide his difference for decades, that Morgan decides it is time to stay put.

Abe’s loyalty to Morgan is confusing for most of the premiere, until a single flashback explains their connection and manages to be more poignant than several gauzy scenes of Morgan’s lost love. As complicated as Morgan’s never-ending life may be, the choices that Abe has made on Morgan's behalf look even more complicated.

Everything in the first episode suggests that Forever has a better shot at successfully combining procedural conventions and a high-concept than, say, Intelligence or Almost Human. The concept of an immortal man who wishes he could die is a powerful one, though for now, Morgan's dilemma is sketched in broad strokes. He is Sherlock Holmes (or maybe House, or Quincy); he is not a vampire (thankfully). He has experienced many lifetimes of emotional and physical pain. We might hope that Forever grapples with the darkness inherent in its premise, and spend less time on its procedural scaffolding. To do so, however, it will have to find a way for Morgan to be more than a familiar British charmer in a peculiar situation.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.