What a Twist! discusses SPOILERy plot points and provides a space for Solute commenters to further the discussion. For the nonspoilery review of Restoration, click here.
One of the vicious twists of Restoration is that the character of Gavin (Stephen Carracher) doesn’t so much exist. Right away, the July consciousness of Oliver (Grant Cartwright) gets downloaded into Gavin’s body–Willis cues this with a fractional image of Gavin and a slight change in the onscreen text. (Stu, if you’re reading this, I’d love to know how you pitched that to Carracher.) That starts the plot of all of Restoration, entirely a battle between different versions of Oliver. Oliver-in-Gavin doesn’t want to be erased, he winds up killing Current Oliver who then gets replaced with Gerry (Generic Body) Oliver, who was downloaded in August.
This kind of plot pays off big dividends for the short-story format. Since Willis didn’t waste any time with backstory, especially not on Gavin, we’re in Oliver’s position of trying to figure out whose life he’s taking over. There’s the detail that Gavin smokes and Oliver doesn’t, there’s the look of Gavin (who definitely has the Aussie Tough Guy appearance down), and there are the visual cues in Gavin’s apartment: the strength bag, the keyboard. We get the suggestion right away that being in someone else’s body can change who you are: Oliver can’t play music, but Oliver-in-Gavin can. So, when Oliver-in-Gavin kills Current Oliver, is that something Oliver would have done as Oliver? I can believe that would happen, because Oliver-in-Gavin literally doesn’t know his own strength. To know anything more about Oliver and Gavin before the story would raise a lot of questions that need answers, and Restoration wisely doesn’t have that.
Even more interesting is when Oliver-in-Gavin kidnaps the daughter of technician Emma (Nadia Townsend). Again, is Oliver a desperate man doing something new or has something of Gavin infected who he is? (Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body? I dunno.) The final scenes do what science fiction does so well: play out the mundane nature of technology in service of the story, as Nadia merges the two remaining Olivers (-as-Gavin and Gerry) and then warns Oliver that she’s going to corrupt all his past backups. (If this indeed goes to a full series, I’d love to see the idea of the corrupted self play out.) That leaves us with an uneasy resolution that’s a little like the final scene of the pilot of Justified. Oliver’s family gets him back, but not quite the same him, and everyone will have to live with that.