Bellevue, WGN America's new crime series, pulled out all the stops for its premiere episode, elevated by a complex and reckless female lead in Anna Paquin's Annie Ryder.
Paquin, the show's star and executive producer, portrays Ryder, a detective who must solve the mystery behind a transgender teen's disappearance. The vanishing is connected to the murder of a teenage girl 20 years earlier in a small town riddled with secrets.
The rural setting, where everyone is in each other's business, makes the macabre tone of the show's central mystery more compelling — the killer could be hiding in plain sight.
Along the way, Ryder must deal with the father shattered by his daughter's death and deal with being a single mom. During the premiere episode, Annie finds herself feeling a connection between the missing teen and a 20-year-old murder, which that led to her father's death when she was young. The episode ends with Annie being nowhere close to finding Jesse, but realizing that the teen might have been submitted to electroshock therapy as a way to "cure" their trans identity.
We also discover Ryder knows no boundaries when it comes to her job, beginning with her drunkenly smashing a man's car window outside a bar. The man at first confronts Annie but then finds himself seduced by her — she even lets him snort coke off her cleavage while working undercover to find the man's coke supplier. The man is arrested after two police officers barge into the room.
Annie is a single mom, co-parenting tween daughter Daisy (Madison Ferguson) with on-and-off boyfriend Eddie (Allen Rowe). The story picks up on the anniversary of the murder of Sandy Driver, a teenage girl who was killed before she was supposed to play the Virgin Mary in a Nativity scene when Annie was young.
The body was found modeled in the Nativity scene by Annie's dad and, Annie explains later in the episode, the murder shook the town and shattered her father.
In present time, a teenage hockey player confused about their gender identity goes missing, and Annie is part of the task force trying to find Jesse. Jesse was last seen around the town's old mine, where police found pictures of female body features cut from a magazine, blood, and a loose tooth belonging to Jesse. The police suspect the teen ran away to find people who share their trans identity.
Annie also deals with Sandy's dad, who is now living in a home and on medication to ease his torment after his daughter's unsolved murder.
Annie then encounters chief of police Peter Welland (Shaw Doyle), the partner of Annie's father. He comments on Annie's recklessness regarding the cocaine dealer and tells her she has to be at her best to find Jesse before the high school's big hockey game at week's end.
Annie also confronts a pedophile who was spotted at the local dive bar, who hands her a note with a riddle. Annie is shaken by the note, which has the same penmanship as notes she received following her father's death as a child. A mysterious psycho tormented her with clues and asked her to bring him keepsakes from her home to an empty birdhouse in the woods.
The pedophile tells Annie he was given the note by a stranger, who said the note would help find the missing teenager. After cracking the riddle, Annie finds herself in an abandoned church in the outskirts of town, where she finds a shepherd statue from the nativity scene with half its face made up. Annie believes it's a message from Jesse about the conflict between his trans identity and religion.
The police tell Annie the church is just a teen hangout but Annie believes it's connected.
Annie then visits Jesse's mother, who has taken to pills and alcohol after the death of Jesse's father. She says Jesse had a burn in the shape of a cross. A neighbor also told the detectives Jesse had tossed all the makeup they had and had stopped wearing their mother's dresses a week before they disappeared. Jesse's mother, however, did not know what happened.
Annie later takes a look at a photo of the shepherd statue and remembers when she saw Sandy Driver's body after it was found, and recognizes the statue in the Nativity scene. She starts to think her murder and Jesse's disappearance might be connected. She then returns to the crime scene where the tooth was found and accidentally slips and burns her hand on an electric fence.
That night, the town gathers to form search parties to look for Jesse and hold a prayer vigil for him. On their way home, Annie gets a call that Sandy's dad is on the loose and she's one of the few people who can talk him down when he's manic. So she heads to the last place where he was seen — the abandoned church. Annie goes into the church, leaving Daisy in the car, and sees a red liquid that looks like blood on the door of the church. She finds no one inside but encounters an image of a person surrounded by the blood-like substance with a crucifix and barbed wire. Annie takes a photo of the macabre image and comes to the conclusion the image is a message from Jesse saying they felt trapped by their religious beliefs.
When she looks at her hand and sees a cross-like burn mark from the electrical fence, she concludes Jesse was in the fence getting a form of electroshock therapy.
Outside the church, Daisy is terrified when a mysterious man climbs on the back of Annie's car and starts writing a note on the back window.
Annie runs outside after hearing Daisy's screams but finds no one. The note left in the back of her car reads: "ur my light," how the letters she would get as a child usually ended. Is the psychopath that wrote Annie the letters when she was young responsible for what happened to Jesse?0comments
The episode ends with Daisy demanding to be taken to her father's house, angry at Annie for putting her in the dangerous situation. The two of them drive in silence back into the town of Bellevue.
Thanks for tweeting with the #BellevueWGNA family! So excited to share our show with a whole new audience! xoxox— Anna Paquin (@AnnaPaquin) January 24, 2018
Bellevue airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on WGN America.