Drive was one of those strange mystery series tried out in the wake of the success of Lost in which one didn’t know clearly what was going on. Presumably, the truth would have been revealed little by little as the series progressed. Unfortunately we shall never know the exact truth, as the series was cancelled after about four episodes.
What the viewer did find out during Drive’s all too brief existence is that the series was about a very strange and very dangerous illegal road race. Contestants were required to race one another cross country, driving in stages the destination of which was the subject of a puzzle that had to be solved. There weren’t a lot of rules as such. Mayhem seemed to be an acceptable winning strategy. But at the finish line was a prize purse of thirty two million dollars.
While thirty two million dollars seems to be enough of an incentive for a lot of people, the organization behind the race was not above using trickery, coercion, and other tactics to motivate their contestants.
For instance, Alex Trully, a landscaper with a somewhat shady past, is motivated to run the race because the secret organization has kidnapped his wife and has informed him that he needs to win the race if he ever wants to see her alive. Alex was played by Nathan Fillion, best known for his role as Captain Mal Reynolds in the late and very lamented series Firefly and its spin off film, Serenity. Alex has a lot of qualities in common with Mal. Both of their preferred method of problem solving consists of using their fists. Alex, like Mal, was also not above a little armed robbery, a character trait that is featured in one episode.
Just as an aside, Nathan Fillion seems to be on a trajectory to having a career similar to John Wayne’s. Fillion, like Wayne, didn’t have a lot of range, but is very good at playing one type, a red neck, red state kind of guy with his own code of honor who is willing to do what a man’s gotta do. I’d love to see Fillion in a real western, a war movie, and an Indiana Jones-style adventure.
Another stand out character was Wendy Patrakas, played by Melanie Lynskey. Wendy has been driven slightly mad by an abusive husband, a state that is not helped by her constant worrying for her infant child who is stashed away in a safe house for families hiding out from abusive husbands and fathers. Wendy seems flakey and utterly ill equipped to do what is necessary to survive, not to mention win, the high stress, high risk road race. But she has a couple of moments in which she lapses into a state that is positively scary.
Melenie Lynskey, by the way, is best known for playing Paulie, opposite Kate Winslet’s Julie in Heaven Creatures, the film Peter Jackson made before the Lord of the Rings.
The question that remains is, what is the real purpose of the race? It doesn’t seem to be some kind of weird reality show, since there doesn’t seem to be well known, not to mention watched by the public. Indeed the mysterious organization that operates the race seems to shell out quite a bit of cash keeping things running smooth. The waitress at a coffee shop, the State Trooper that pulls you over, might just be working for them.
So what is the purpose of the race? My theory is that it is some kind of strange psychological test, measuring the behavior of people under stress. In any case, since the series is cancelled, we will likely never know the truth.
The final two episodes of Drive air July 4th of 2007.