Mosaic premieres January 22nd on HBO.
By Chris Flanagan
After watching Mosaic’s six-episode arc, I am more confused than when I started. Going into the show, I was excited because of the cast, the direction of Steven Soderbergh, who’s prematurely canceled project The Knick I am still in mourning for, and the secrecy surrounding the plot well before the show has even premiered. Not to mention the accompanying app that will allow viewers to see the story of Mosaic from multiple character perspectives as it unfolds. All of these things piqued my interest to the point where I was completely sold on the show before I even saw the first episode.
Then something happened… I watched it.
The plot centers around the character of Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), who is a famous children’s book author that lives on a large property in Summit, Utah. Her land is potentially worth millions based on geological findings and has now become the focal point of rival businessmen in the area unbeknownst to her. They set out to force her to sell her property through deception and subterfuge, but before that can happen she goes missing and is presumed dead. What follows is a winding murder mystery spanning four years that involves a con-man fianceé, a hopeful artist who is living with her, the local sheriff and the aforementioned businessmen. Everyone is a suspect as the pieces begin to slowly fall into place episode by episode and while that might sound intriguing it proved to be extremely slow and plodding at times in its development.
Soderbergh’s signature style is on full display each episode as his beautifully shot scenes demand the most not only from its actors but also their surroundings. There are incredible uses of camerawork that make use of negative space around the actor(s) that evoke certain emotions given the scene that is just what Soderbergh is known for. Also, the casting is phenomenal featuring a very strong albeit shortlived presence in Stone’s Olivia Lake as well as Garrett Hedlund as Joel Hurley, the artist squatter. And while there are many more performances throughout the six episodes that are of note, the one the most sticks out is that of Devin Ratray as Officer Nate Henry. He easily became my favorite character during the series and was the moral compass with which the story revolved around.
What made this a difficult review was the question of whether or not I enjoyed the experience of watching this show. In short, I found the story interesting at times, however, most of the development was often boring and too slow to keep my attention for long spans of time. Each episode excelled at revealing a small piece of the conspiracy a little at a time which kept you wanting to keep going in order to get to the end but once the result arrived the payoff landed with a hard thud. In fact, it left me with more questions because so many other threads were left unresolved and the show seemed to be okay with leaving the viewer in that state of confusion. I then turned to the Mosaic App in hopes of finding some other piece of extra information that helped inform the finale but I was disappointed to find that only Olivia Lake’s story is available for viewing at this point. I will continue to monitor this after the show premieres in hopes that it adds some extra experience that helps soften the blow of the story’s anti-climactic ending, but at this point, I am not holding out much hope.
Overall, Mosaic had potential to be an intriguing murder mystery that keeps the audience guessing with each new episode, but the actual result is not that close. While it can be entertaining approaching each character that is introduced as Olivia’s possible killer, you are quickly disappointed in the story’s conclusion as all of those possible theories of who did it dissolve and you are left with just a simple ending that took too long to arrive at. Despite these setbacks, Mosaic is still a beautifully framed show that boasts incredible camerawork and cinematography on top of strong writing that is delivered by a solid cast. All of this helps elevate Mosaic to be slightly better than it actually is and my case it was worth sticking through until the end, but if you’re looking to this as becoming HBO’s next big show you will be sorely dissatisfied.
I give Mosaic a B-.