I recently gave the first handful of episodes from ABC's new series Pan Am a pessimistic "C", and while I stand by that initial assessment of the show, I'm excited to report that the show has been showing great strides lately. My problem with it early on was that it didn't seem to know where it wanted to go or what its characters were supposed to be doing. It seemed a little stuck in telling us about various scrapes the Pan Am "stewardesses" manage to get themselves into while in foreign countries, while it should have been focusing on who these women are. It's starting to do that more now, and the last two episodes have been much more fun to watch as a result!
I make no secret of the fact that my decade-old crush on ER's Dr Kovac (aka Goran Visnjic) hardly leaves me unbiased when he's onscreen, but don't you think his turn as Yugoslavian diplomat (Eek! A Communist!) Niko Lonza made Kelli Garner's Kate and her heretofore overwrought CIA job so much more interesting? While I still think the interlinear storytelling on this show is too heavy-handed, it did help display her excellent emotional range in the last episode, "Truth or Dare". I loved the final scene, which had a heart-broken Kate putting on a happy face for the arriving passengers. We've all been there, girl!
I would be remiss to talk about the things Pan Am is getting right without mentioning Gaius Charles' (FNL's Smash Williams back on my TV!) guest stint on last week's episode. 1960s civil rights stuff was bound to come into play sooner or later, especially with a protagonist matched only by Brittany Snow from American Dreams in blonde-haired-blue-eyed-ness. The problem with doing a light show like this set in the 60s is that the big issues like civil rights and gender descrimination always come off a little like your high school social studies class suggested, good versus evil, ignorant versus enlightened, with little gray area. You're supposed to get enraged by the idiot racist, sexist, heavily-accented good ole boy. I've got no problem with shows condemning racism and sexism, but it gets annoyingly heavy-handed sometimes. What I liked about Pan Am's treatment of 1960s racism is that even though it did all of those things I just mentioned, it didn't dwell on it. Charles' character was at least a real character, rather than a prototype, and Laura (Margot Robbie) was able to have a character growth episode. I'm okay with that compromise.
All things considered, I'm actually starting to enjoy this show, so I'm upgrading it to a: B-