How Cissy Grew
Desperate Housewives star James Denton leads an impressive cast in this well-intentioned drama about a family that can't recover from a child's kidnapping.
The drama, which focuses on how this event ruined the family's dynamic for 18 years, absolutely has its impassioned heart in the right place and benefits from a strong ensemble of four. But some of Casey Stengel's directorial decisions undercut the work's full dramatic potential.
Butch (Denton) and Darla (O'Brien) focus on their loss, guilt, and rage towards each other, even years after Cissy (played by young adult Liz Vital throughout) has been returned. Although she was an infant with no cognitive memory of the experience, she feeds off both parents' negative energy to become a damaged young woman. As an adolescent, she scares the other kids with violent stories of alien abductions, and as a teen, she acts out with promiscuity and drug abuses. No one can move on from the past.
The show's non-linear approach successfully plays into the metaphor that memories are like shards of glass that can be shattered and discombobulated, and that memories flood back to us without reason and order. However, the segments focused upon are snippets, giving the audience little time to fully understand Johnston's purpose. Moreover, there's no rhythm to the scenes. And the final scene sheds light on a realization that the audience has already long been told, making it irrelevant at this late moment.