Review: 'Mind Games' a Caper About Manipulation, Redemption and Steve Zahn


Review: 'Mind Games' a Caper About Redemption, Manipulation, and Steve Zahn


They are sure to reference the Jedi mind trick from ‘Star Wars,’ but Edwards and Associates are more like ‘Inception’ meets ‘The Little Rascals.’ A still-scheming ex-con, his bi-polar brother, his ex-wife, an infomercial actress, and a pair of students make up this ambitious and so far terribly unsuccessful group of poor, let’s call them, manipulators, in ABC’s ‘Mind Games.’

Christian Slater and Steve Zahn headline this one-hour caper from Kyle Killen (‘Lone Star’) that premieres on Tuesday night, but it’s a show that immediately stacks the deck against itself by declaring that its protagonists are more or less geniuses capable of influencing all sorts of human behavior. Well, almost – they are only getting started.

Slater’s Ross has just gotten out of prison, a two-year stint he blames on his ex-wife instead of his own morally ambiguous doings. His brother Clark, meanwhile, played with such energy and comic charm by Zahn (fun, but not as fun as he was in ‘Treme’), is recovering from heartbreak after his 22-year-old undergraduate student girlfriend stopped returning his calls. He also too is trying to moderate his highs and lows, and for much of the pilot, he is very high, so to speak.

Clark is immediately and throughout more interesting and entertaining, as when this whirling dervish of a character isn’t on screen, everything becomes lackluster. Ross is the older brother and acts the typical part, trying to reign in Clark, telling him what to do, and, of course, dismissing his far-fetched ideas.

When Clark invites Ross’ ex-wife Claire to join this group of fledglings, Slater’s character becomes more clichéd as ‘Mind Games’ sets up some far less clever romantic drama and long-term arcs.

Still, their first endeavor is curious enough while venturing into some murky territory. A bankrupt mother needs a life-saving operation for her infirmed son, and in order to get it, they need approval from a cold-hearted doctor. They take on the case to change the man's mind, as Clark’s magnanimity prevails, while Ross sees the long term financial opportunities from such a successful first case.

Review: 'Mind Games' a Caper About Redemption, Manipulation, and Steve Zahn

In one instance the group looks to fabricate a situation and manipulate the doctor’s self-perception, if only for a moment, and while that’s tough enough for one of the team members, it’s a later attempt that is straight-forward deceit. Questions of morality abound throughout, and the group’s inaugural client fosters plenty of musing – is it okay to lie and cheat in order to attempt to save a kid’s life?

The pilot stayed together because of the strength of Clark and his various relationships, including Claire who he brought on as a calming presence. Whatever clients follow need to be innovative and diverse enough to hold water, while our group of behavioralists continue to deal with their many, many issues.

Zahn’s inherent likability, and Slater’s brotherly affection are its strengths, while a supporting cast has some comedic timing; they are all easy to root for. ‘Minds Games’ looks to easily fall into the format of a typical procedural, but looks to be more about characters seeking redemption than careless, reckless or simply mean anti-heroes; should they continue to use their powers for good, that is.

It’s a serviceable show with potential, one that was pushed up to take the timeslot of the maligned ‘Killer Women,’ but it’s still hard to see either longevity or versatility for ‘Mind Games.' Then again, the group starts with nothing and throws everything they have to offer at this case; let’s see how good the show is at manipulating viewers.

‘Mind Games’ premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 10/9c on ABC.

- Christian Slater
- Steve Zahn
- Mind Games (ABC)

Written by: AnthonyWrites
Feb 25th, 2014, 6:44 am

Images courtesy of ABC


Message Posted On Mar 1st, 2014, 7:20 pm
Pile Of Crap!

Message Posted On Feb 28th, 2014, 5:41 am
Pure garbage. This looks like 'Breaking in' another flop with Christian Slater'. That guy cannot do comedy. I predict it will be cancelled after 3 episodes. Who'll take the bet?

Level 2 (91%)
Since: 13/Oct/07
Message Posted On Feb 27th, 2014, 1:36 pm

This just was not good. I certainly can't put it as well as BillO though that's for sure. I watched this only for Steve Zahn. He's one of my favorites, but even he started to get slightly annoying. And I'm not sure what it is about Christian Slater that doesn't appeal to me, because his acting is fine, but I was really distracted by his hair for some reason. I Think the razor might have been a little rusty or something. I also can't help but compare this to the always slick and smooth Leverage, I miss it so much. I'm sorry for them, but I don't know if this is going to make it. Of course I lost my lunch over the first episode of Beauty and the Beast, knowing that would be axed immediately, and that seems to be going strong still, so what do I know!


Message Posted On Feb 27th, 2014, 11:49 am
This had to have been one of the worst pilots I have watched in the last couple of years. I suffered through it and won't be watching anymore. Zahn is the best character but I can take so much of him bouncing off the walls and screaming like a banshee. His 5 min of relative calm while berating the health insurance executive was the only worthwhile time of the entire episode. Weak characters & an almost nonexistant story make this a nonstarter for me.

Level 1 (5%)
Since: 21/Mar/13
Message Posted On Feb 26th, 2014, 2:46 am

The show seems a bit more like Perceptions with a brother than Leverage. Way less slick than Leverage with a lot more moralizing about Ross' (Slater) character crossing lines which he sees as "moral ambiguities" and other see as the potential for jail time.

The pilot certainly sets up some potential future interpsonal pitfalls in regards to the relationship between the brothers, Ross and Clark (Zahn), Ross' ex-wife, Clark's  girlfriend, etc. The ending shows Ross to be a less than stellar sibling and lays the groudwork for the biggest landmine of all that is sure to blowup in his face in some future episode.  The plot (Big Health Insurance Cares More About Bottom Line Than Patients Well Being) was weak and barely interesting and seemed to be there only to provide a story where the Mind Games ensemble cast could introduce themselves and their characters. The resolution was not even close to being believable which only supports my thinking the pilot was to introduce characters not distract the viewer with an actual story.

What was most interesting was that the psychology behind the manipulations, and some of the terms spouted by the characters, are based on the real pseudo-science of psychology, persuasion and marketing and sales techniques. Advertisers persuade and manipulate people daily and the science and pscyhology behind it are decades ahead of what most people understand. I just happened to recently watch some episodes of National Geographics Brain Games and season 2 had an episode on persuasion. To hear some of the same terminology used in this first episode of Mind Game shows that the writers at least appear to have a passing knowledge of the science.

Maybe with Zahn's character and energy and a focus on solving real problems and not just watching the characters bounce off of each other the show might make it.  As Clark say early on in the show, we lead with our weaknesses because people like you more if you start out by admitting your faults.  Hopefully, the pilot was just following the same philosophy and the show will get stronger over time.  Like most new shows it will need to mature and the characters will need to mesh a bit.  For now the show is watchable if for no other reason then to watch Zahn bounce off the walls.


Message Posted On Feb 25th, 2014, 12:23 pm
Reviews come AFTER the show has aired not before.

Level 1 (77%)
Points: 7.8
Since: 19/Dec/12
Message Posted On Feb 25th, 2014, 11:45 am

From what I can gather this is another version of Leverage and if this is half as good, then Mind Games could be a good show too.


Message Posted On Feb 25th, 2014, 8:02 am
This is another mentally ill savant show. Next time I need something solved I will definitely ask the man in the dirty underwear talking to himself and spitting at strangers to help. Mental illness, much like with Lesbians, the reality tends to be very ugly.
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