Kyra Sedgwick can’t liven up Ten Days in the Valley
No one is better at looking harried than Kyra Sedgwick.
The Emmy-winning actress perfected her agitated state for seven years as an investigator on TNT’s The Closer. In her new ABC limited series, Ten Days in the Valley (Sunday, 10 p.m., 2 stars out of 4) Sedgwick is on the other side of the investigations, playing an overwrought mother whose daughter is kidnapped in the middle of the night.
Sedgwick is a strong choice for the role and succeeds in it, but her talents aren’t quite enough to redeem the series, which gets off to a promising start in Sunday’s premiere but drops off significantly in next week’s second episode.
The actress plays Jane Sadler, a former documentary filmmaker who exposed police-department corruption and now writes and produces a fictional cop TV show. She’s overworked, keeping secrets and self-medicating with sleeping pills, alcohol and a variety of drugs, which she indulges in on the night her daughter Lake (Abigail Pniowsky) goes missing. The cast is rounded out by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Lost”) as the detective on the case, Erika Christensen (“Parenthood”) as Jane’s sister and Kick Gurry (“Edge of Tomorrow”) as Jane’s ex-husband.
There’s a glimmer of an interesting story in the first episode, which establishes the players and the crime, and Jane’s unreliability. Sedgwick has a near-constant look of anxiety and fear as she tries to keep her secrets from the police while helping the investigation. It’s slowly revealed that other people in Jane and her daughter’s lives have just as many seedy dealings as Jane does.
But there’s a swift decline in the writing and plotting in the second episode. The mystery of the kidnapping takes a backseat to both interpersonal drama and Jane’s backstory. That would be fine if these secondary plots were interesting, but the petty squabbling of Jane’s ex and family is dull, her workplace drama is underdeveloped and her solo investigation into the kidnapping is confusing.
The series can’t quite figure out what to do with Jane as an antihero. Sedgwick gives it her all, but Jane’s actions are bizarre and suspicious, which is odd considering she’s supposed to be an expert on police procedure. The series also overdoes it with flashbacks and psychedelic visions in Jane’s scenes that end up more hokey than illuminating, and are often fighting the story rather than adding to it.
It’s a shame, because the question of who took Lake, and why, fizzles out quickly as a result of the series’ shifting focus. Though it sets up suspects and clues, the series too quickly closes the door on one, excising a piece of the riddle. It’s hard to maintain interest in a mystery series that can’t create a compelling whodunit. And if “Ten Days in the Valley” can’t sustain interest in Day 2, it’s hard to see it working through Day 10.