September 17, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Finding Carter”


FINDING CARTER was the surprise of the summer TV season,.  Hailing from the wilds of MTV, a network rarely known for its dramatic chops, the series, created by Emily Silver and show-run by Terri Minsky, has told a compelling story through a remarkably well-drawn set of characters, both teen and adult.  Last night’s Season 1 finale, written by Minsky and directed by Peter Lauer, dropped some tantalizing hints about the show’s underlying mythology, while setting up a Big Cliffhanger for Season 2.

The series had an arresting premise–Carter (Kathryn Prescott), unaware that she’d been kidnapped from her birth family at the age of 3 by Lori (Milena Govich), found herself restored 13 years later to what were basically a group of strangers–but a premise doesn’t get a series far beyond its pilot.  What’s been impressive about Finding Carter is the way it’s gone forward from that initial idea, developing its characters and their relationships.  Carter is a complicated, multi-faceted person, appealing and sharp-witted but also self-destructive at times.  Her siblings are vivid:  twin sister Taylor (Anna Jacoby-Heron) was a stew of ambivalence about the return of a sister who, in her absence, had dominated their household for most of their life, but found herself hesitantly blossoming once the family was back together; younger brother Grant (Zac Pullam), born after the kidnapping, hid his own resentments and fears behind a curtain of quips.  Even Max (Alex Saxon), Carter’s friend from her years with Lori, who followed her to her new home, was far more textured than the stoner comic relief he first seemed to be, proving to be a loyal friend and eventually a romantic interest for Taylor (and turning surprisingly dark in the finale, sending Taylor away).

Despite its fundamentally young target audience, the adults on Finding Carter have not been short-changed.  Carter’s birth mother Elizabeth (Cynthia Watros), a cop who was obsessed with getting her daughter back, is also an adulteress and someone with a quick to anger style that reflects Carter’s own issues; the emotional center of the show has been their developing ability to get close to one another.  Carter’s father David (Alexis Denisof) is ostensibly the kinder, more sympathetic parent, but he’s also a parasite who lied to both mother and daughter about the fact that he was secretly writing a book about Carter’s return–and as the season finale revealed, he appears to have more of a tie with Lori than had ever been known, extending perhaps to before he and Elizabeth were even married.  Lori, who’s only appeared in bits and pieces through the season, has been fascinating, an apparently genuinely loving parent who may be a sociopath as well, and who we now know may have had a much more personal motive for abducting Carter than it had seemed.  The finale’s big twist, which had Lori drugging and re-abducting Carter, could risk easy melodrama next season, but at this point the writers deserve our trust that they can make it work.

There’s a lot of talent in front of and behind the cameras on Finding Carter.  Watros and Denisof, with their best roles in years, have thrived on the dimensions of their characters, and Prescott, Jacoby-Heron, Saxon and Pullam are all strong, with Prescott an enormously charismatic leading lady who can convey a variety of conflicted emotions in a simple reaction shot.  Also notable are the number of indie filmmakers who have joined the series alongside Minsky and Silver:  Maria Maggemti (The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls In Love) is a writer/producer, while Rose Troche (Go Fish) and Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena) have directed episodes–names you’d expect to see on a Sundance roster before a primetime MTV series.

Finding Carter has its weak points, especially in the characters Carter has met in her new/old home.  The season spent far too much time with its most clichéd character, Crash (Caleb Ruminer), a sensitive yet reckless drug-dealer who became Carter’s bad boyfriend in a storyline that was familiar from endless other teen dramas; he seemed on his way to jail when the season ended (for shooting Max), and hopefully the show won’t make an effort to free him.  The writers also never figured out what to do with Carter’s other new friends, neurotic rich girl Bird (Vanessa Morgan), high school bookie Gabe (Jesse Henderson), and Kyle (Eddie Matos), the son of the cop Elizabeth was having an affair with, who at various times seemed like he might be a mate for Carter or Taylor, then mostly fell out of the action entirely.  Perhaps in Season 2, the writers will work on making those or other schoolmates into characters worthy of the rest of the series.

That renewal wasn’t a gimme; Finding Carter‘s ratings were moderate, never at the level of the network’s Teen Wolf, perhaps because it spends a fair amount of its time with its adults, who are of less interest to MTV’s young-skewing viewership.  Still, like its leading characters, Finding Carter has proven itself resilient, and with Parenthood entering its last few months on the air, there’s a fair chance MTV will enter 2015 as the network airing the best drama about families around.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."