Mosaic: Limited Series created by Steven Soderbergh (HBO)
Starring Sharon Stone, Devin Ratray, Garrett Hedlund, Frederick Weller, James Ransone, Jennifer Ferrin, Zandy Hartig, Jeremy Bobb, Paul Reubens, Maya Kazan, and Beau Bridges.
Were I to posit a guess about why people cling to the murder mystery genre, I would begin my thesis with a statement about the unifying human desire to complete a puzzle.
While some might not have the patience for the 1,000-piece behemoth, everyone finds satisfaction in connecting one piece to another and contributing to the bigger picture. And who doesn’t like the feeling when the last piece situates in its God-given home?
The murder mystery exemplifies our fixation on assembling the puzzle. It visualizes each piece of evidence placed in a larger picture and resolves the crime like finishing the puzzle on the dining room table.
The problem? Life doesn’t usually fit together like a puzzle. Precisely at this intersection, Mosaic finds a niche in the murder mystery genre.
Look Beneath the Boiler Plate Crime Drama
Settling the table for a boiler-plate crime drama about a murdered socialite, Mosaic stacks the deck of cards and begs the viewer to discern the facts as one usually does in these scenarios. However, the show doesn’t become interesting until it replays the same scenes from earlier episodes filtered through the lens of differing suspicions. Mosaic wants to confuse you about who murdered Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone). So, it shoehorns the evidence to fit two suspects, two motives, two results. Then, it asks the viewer to decide for herself. At this intersection, the show feels fresh, revolutionary.
How does it get there? Mosaic establishes a tried-and-true plot.
At the center of Mosaic sits Olivia Lake, a wealthy socialite who made her fortune from publishing a children’s book, which she wrote and illustrated.
The series begins with character development. We see Olivia wining and dining at a fundraiser for her charity, the eponymous Mosaic. With eyes on the handsome bartender, Joel (Garrett Hedlund), Lake discovers a kindred spirit and illustrator. Hoping for something more than a platonic relationship, Lake invites Joel to board on her Utah property. Yet, circumstances sour when Lake discovers Joel’s girlfriend, Laura (Maya Kazan). Joel’s perceived flirtatiousness only a cover for the hope of professional mentorship.
Simultaneously, Lake befriends Eric (Frederick Weller). Unbeknownst to the author, Eric has been hired to woo Lake and get her to sell her property to her neighbor, Michael O’Connor (James Ransome). When true love complicates the relationship, Eric rebuffs his client and comes clean to Olivia.
One fight and a murder later, Eric is in jail. But did he kill Olivia Lake?
The case never sat well with Detective Nate Henry, played empathetically by Devin Ratray of Home Alone fame. Four years later, with the help of Eric’s sister, Petra (Jennifer Ferrin) and Joel, the case unofficially reopens. While Nate and Petra truly believe Joel committed the murder, and evidence points in his direction, a counter narrative emerges that is much more intricate.
So, what’s the answer? Mosaic forces you to come to your own conclusions. Even though most murder mysteries operate as if they are a digital puzzle, real life never fits so neatly in a box. Mosaic sits in that tension and invites its viewers to do the same.
Verdict: 4 out of 5