Howard Gordon has achieved mixed success since his days as a co-showrunner on 24, what with his award-winning Showtime series Homeland readying to begin its second season a few months after NBC decided to cancel Awake (which Gordon also served as a co-showrunner on). However, this TV development season has been good for him, as several of his show pitches have been purchased – including, most recently, the crime drama series Vigilant.
Claire Danes as CIA agent Carrie Mathison on Homeland constantly walks the oh-so-fine line between obeying protocol and working outside the established system. Vigilant, which Fox has picked up, likewise revolves around a female protagonist; though, the latter elects to operate completely beyond the law when she creates a fictional vigilante persona.
Gordon was not responsible for creating the idea behind Vigilant; that honor goes to Max Landis, the breakout writer behind this year’s found-footage super-powered teen film Chronicle. THR reports Landis’ premise is described as “a ‘superhero’ origin story” for the lead character: an intelligent but socially-awkward 20-year-old woman whose detective father is “brutally coerced” into working for a corrupt head of Internal Affairs, inspiring her to battle street crime and institutional corruption through an alter ego.
Vigilant, in a sense, does have the makings of a “superhero” origin story that is fully grounded in the real world. However, it seems to bear a stronger resemblance to CBS’ Person of Interest rather than a series about a legit superhero, such as CW’s Arrow television show (or the developing Wonder Woman origin series, Amazon). It is also worth noting that Vigilant does not appear to openly embrace the “realistic” sci-fi elements of Person, though.
Landis, for his part, was quick to begin playing down the superhero analogy shortly after the report broke, Tweeting that Vigilant is “not a ‘superhero’ show in ANY traditional sense.” The show, as he en-visions it, will have more in common with a gritty crime-drama like HBO’s The Wire or BBC’s Luther, as opposed to the short-lived The Cape (much less, Smallville). He half-joked that lumping Vigilant in with the superhero genre is like “calling Taxi Driver a pre-cursor to Spider-Man 3.”
Gordon’s recent televisions shows have been praised for their captivating mystery storylines and thoughtful examination of violence and crime issues, which is something Mandy Patinkin has openly agreed was instrumental in his decision to drop Criminal Minds in favor of Homeland. Moreover, good will generated by Awake raises expectations further for Gordon’s return to network TV with Vigilant.
Landis showed a knack for telling stories about ordinary young people who end up in extraordinary circumstances with Chronicle, so that should likewise heighten anticipation for Vigilant. The “superhero” comparisons probably won’t be dropped so readily as Landis hopes; on the other hand, that could allow his show to draw in a broader audience than if it were sold solely as a tweaked crime-drama series (thus, increasing its chances of survival).
More on Vigilant as the story develops.