For better or worse, the first three episodes of Daisy Jones and the Six (which debuted today on Prime Video) is mostly about getting everyone in the right place at the right time, with the right mindset.
Before meeting the Six, Daisy Jones (played by Riley Keough) is a free-spirited groupie turned aspiring songwriter in Los Angeles, while they are a brother-led band from the Pittsburgh suburbs. Based on the book of the same name, Daisy Jones and the Six will eventually tell the story of the band’s best gig – and how they all fell apart afterwards.
But before that happens, before Daisy and the Six inevitably clash, creators Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber try to build who they are and what they want, just like the book did. But while the structure of the book could be used for a faster and generally more interesting exposition, the show feels burdened by trying to keep the format of the book. That is, until the final moments of the third episode, which finally hint at just how riveting the show could get.
(Ed. remark: This post contains some spoilers for the first three episodes of Daisy Jones and the Sixand some book spoilers.)
Daisy Jones and the Six – the book, not the show – is structured like an oral history, with different characters recounting the same experience from their own point of view to the fictional author. It’s an important part of the story that all culminates in the climax, which brings the author into the fold and reveals a pivotal twist. The show tries to emulate this by making it a talking heads style documentary. But making characters recap what a flashback just showed on screen is less convincing than piecing together what happened from their slightly different accounts. The talking heads aren’t used as effectively as they could be, as they mostly just announce what’s about to happen or summarize what just happened, rather than adding more depth to the characters by how they say it.
And because these first three episodes are so much about establishing everything, it turns into a lot of emphasis on the same things, without a lot of fun. It’s almost a drag – until the end of the third episode, when Daisy Jones and the Six finally meet in a fiery recording session. Producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright) enlists Daisy to help adapt a song frontman Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) wrote. Billy resists the changes proposed by Teddy and Daisy as it is a very personal song to him. Daisy, meanwhile, is mostly here for the ride. They clash, but eventually try. At this point Billy is particularly gruff and insists they go back to his version afterwards. When Daisy tries to talk to him, he brushes her off, but she just says she wanted to tell him she loves his voice.
And then Teddy lies that Billy’s microphone isn’t working, forcing Billy and Daisy to share a microphone and record. It is clear that there is something going on there – an attraction that goes unspoken as Daisy wants to be taken seriously and Billy tries to turn his life around for his wife and newborn daughter; a respect for the other’s musical abilities but reluctance to admit it; and of most episodes we’ve seen so far, two completely different paths and musical aspirations. It’s much unsaid, and it’s all about the resulting performance, which is nothing short of electric. Hopefully it’s an indication of where the show is going from here.
Finally, the story Daisy Jones and the Six can only do so much when those two are not together. But Keough and Claflin have fantastic onscreen chemistry, something these two characters absolutely need to make the story as vibrant as the book. And the fact that the music, with his Fleetwood Mac-esque rock duets, is as great as it promises good things for the future. After all, this is a show about one band’s most iconic album; if it doesn’t live up to the music, it can only go so far. The clunky exposition of these three episodes might just be worth it, provided the rest of the show delivers.
The first three episodes of Daisy Jones and the Six are now available on Prime Video, with new episodes on Friday.