AMC's newest series has a lot to live up to, but even after watching the pilot, I have no idea if it'll succeed. Our hero is Will Travers, a crossword puzzle whiz and sad sack who lost his wife and child in 9/11. Nine years later, he's still incapable of having fun, even on his birthday. He works in a mysterious government think tank where he and his co-workers unravel various puzzles that present potential threats to the country, such as telemarketing in Pakistan. Will goes to his superstitious boss and ex-father-in-law David when he finds a pattern of crossword puzzle answers with double meanings that represent the three branches of government and a four-leaf clover, leading him to believe there's a secret fourth branch. David seems to dismiss his suspicions, only to go to his boss and tell him that he figured all of this out on his own, giving none of the credit to Will. Which ends up being a good thing, because David dies the next morning in a fiery train crash. Will is offered a promotion at David's funeral, but he considers quitting entirely before accepting it. Also, Miranda Richardson loves to play hide and seek, and David's friend and ex-think tank employee loves to play chess. Unfortunately, we now have to wait a month and a half to see what all of this means, if anything.
A bunch of kids run and hide while a woman who appears to be their grandmother but is probably supposed to be their mother even though she's played by Miranda Richardson, who is 52 years old. That's a little long in the tooth to have 8 year olds. Also, kids should never play hide and seek outside when it's snowing out! They did that once on Punky Brewster, and Cherie almost died! Although I guess these kids will be okay as long as there aren't any refrigerators around. We head inside and see various rooms of what is clearly an expensive and large home. Eventually, we come across an old guy hanging out in the steam room or whatever that is. I don't know. I'm poor, so my homes don't come with special rooms like that. He sits down to eat breakfast and read the paper, only to find a small four-leaf clover in between the pages. He then goes to the window and watches his wife and kids play before he walks into his study and shoots himself in the head. Okay, FINE, old guy. I guess you've proven to us all that four leaf clovers aren't necessarily lucky. Also, I hope you enjoyed that glimpse of Miranda Richardson, because we won't be seeing her again in this episode.
Instead, we meet our hero, Will Travers. He heads into work at API (American Policy Institute), where he is immediately confronted by a co-worker who needs his help with a crossword puzzle clue ("what lucky Lepidoptera larvae eat") because she doesn't apparently know what Wikipedia is. Will is able to solve it immediately (the Latin word for four-leaf clover), thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of plants, bugs, and Latin, and is rewarded for his efforts with the crossword puzzle, as the co-worker has given up on it. Yes, honey. Go try Sudoku, the stupid person's crossword puzzle. Will heads into his office, which is crammed with books and papers to show that whatever he does for API, it involves smartness, and watches out the window as his boss, David, maneuvers through the numbered parking lot. He nearly steps on the number "13," but is sure to avoid it, which is apparently regular behavior from him. And then another co-worker appears to remind Will that today is his birthday. If only his birthday was on a crossword puzzle, he'd apparently be better able to keep track of it. The woman, Maggie, orders Will to let her take him out to lunch. He protests weakly and then trails off, probably too bored by himself to finish his sentence.
Then we head into a meeting room for what promises to be a thrilling work meeting. Will only has four co-workers (the woman who asked him out to lunch isn't one of them, for some reason), even though the table has seats for twice that many. One guy snaps at the crossword puzzle lady because she didn't bring donuts, and that's her "most important job." David begins the meeting by handing out various assignments, giving the donut asshole, named Grant, some satellite photos of possible missile silos in Iran and another employee, named Miles, a stack of files about some Pakistanis with a "sudden interest in telemarketing." Will gets a bunch of CIA-nabbed bank statements from an arms dealer's briefcase to look through, and Tanya, who can't solve crossword puzzles or buy donuts, gets what David claims is the "most difficult and tedious" assignment of the day: a single sheet of paper. Whatever it says on it, we don't know, but Tanya complains after the meeting that it will take her the rest of her life to finish it. By the way, this work meeting has done nothing to shed light on what, exactly, API actually does. I guess they're against weapons and sales calls?
Miles calls Will into his office to look at something he's working on. Grant joins them, even though Miles obviously doesn't want him there. Miles is looking at the names of four cities: Larnaca, Seville, Ajaccio, and Dubrovnik, and trying to figure out how they're connected. We don't find out why he's trying to figure this out, though, so I kind of don't care. Will is able to provide a list of similarities between the four cities, from rainforests to their place in the Roman Empire. Then he suggests that the cities might not be a pattern, but someone's itinerary. This seems to be the key, as Miles puts his hand on his mouth in surprise. So it never occurred to these super-smart people that a list of cities might have something to do with traveling? And where did they get that list? Why do we care?
We take a few minutes to look at Will's office, the camera lingering on shots of all of his books and charts and stuff in a passage of time montage that seems to last as long as the time it's supposed to be skipping. Then it's lunchtime and Maggie is there to take Will out. He cancels on her, saying he has too much work. Maggie says she'll accept his cancellation only if it's just a postponement and they'll have lunch on a later date. We don't know much about Will so far, but I can already guess that date will be the 12th of Never. Maggie leaves, and Will has so much work to do that he immediately puts his notebook down and picks up a crossword puzzle, only to find that it has the same answer for Five-Down (the Latin term for a four-leaf clover) as he saw in Tanya's puzzle earlier. He opens up another paper and sees, again, the same clue and the same answer.
And so, Will runs downstairs (even when he's running, this show finds a way to move slowly. It's kind of impressive, really) to the newspaper room to check out more crossword puzzles in today's newspapers from across the country. This involves lots of note-taking, crossword puzzle-circling, and exciting shots of Will thinking. And I thought the montage of his office furniture was boring. Wow. Finally, Will heads for David's office, where he isn't too excited about his find that he can't first ask David why he has a broom stuck to his wall. David explains that his foot brushed against this broom when the night janitor was sweeping up last night, and there's some crazy superstition that says you'll go to prison or die if you, like, touch a broom. You have to spit on the broom to break the curse, so instead of just spitting on the broom, David bought it from the janitor and then spit on it. Right, because I'm sure the janitor would have been furious at David for ruining his broom by spitting on the thing that CLEANS THE FLOOR. Also, how does someone this insanely superstitious maintain any kind of job, let alone a position of power over others? He probably only hired that Tanya moron because he stepped on a black beetle on a Monday.
Will finally tells David about his shocking discovery of a bunch of identical crossword puzzle clues in the big ticket papers. Not only did they all have that Latin word, but they also had the answers "bicamarel," "Fillmore," and "Marshall," which Will thinks represent the three branches of our government: Legislative ("bicameral," obviously), Executive (Fillmore was the last name of our 13th president, who Will says was a "lard-ass know-nothing." Well, Mr. Smarty-Pants, Fillmore wasn't that fat. He wasn't even the fattest president we've ever had. And just because he ran for president as the candidate of the Know-Nothing party once doesn't mean it should follow him around forever), and Judicial (Justice Thurgood Marshall). Since the last common clue is a four-leaf clover, Will thinks someone is saying that there are actually four branches of government. Um, that seems like a stretch. It's much easier and makes more sense to assume that all the crossword puzzle editors got lazy and copied Will Shortz from the day before and that you only found the answers' "connection" to the government because you were looking for one. David dismisses this as a bunch of crossword puzzle editors playing a joke on everyone, because they're all tons of fun like that. Will protests that this is more than that, but David just pushes the newspapers aside and thanks Will for being on the lookout. As soon as Will leaves the office (and by "soon," I mean "really slowly." Of course), David grabs the puzzles back and checks them out.
David then heads into the office of some other guy who is probably in charge since his office is all modern and new and even has a TV in it, whereas the rest of the peons don't even seem to have computers. David shows the crossword puzzles to him, saying he's "never seen anything like it." "Somebody either didn't expect the pattern to be caught or wasn't afraid if it was," David says. Yeah, or a bunch of people who find patterns for a living see patterns in everything. The guy asks if anyone else saw this. David says no, because he is totally trying to take the credit from Will. Finally! We get some INTRIGUE! OFFICE POLITICS THRILL! "Good catch," the guy says in a most evil fashion.
Will doesn't go to lunch, but his co-workers do. They're sitting in the cafeteria. Apparently, this super secret intelligence government organization place employs lunchladies. I wonder what security clearance they have. Tanya notices that a man nearby, named Spangler, is eating a bowl of cornflakes for lunch, and Miles says that's what he eats every day. Grant says he's a "man of habits." He certainly isn't a man of manners, as he's now wiping his face with his tie. Tanya has many questions today, like why is Will so "mopey." Miles says Will isn't mopey. No, he's BORING. But Miles prefers to describe him as "introspective." Tanya says it's more than that; Will always looks like his cat just died. If this show had anything close to a sense of humor, we would hear a record scratch sound effect, as Tanya totally just said The Wrong Thing. Miles picks up his tray as he informs Tanya that Will's cat didn't die -- his wife and child did, in 9/11. And with that, Miles can't bear to be in Tanya's presence any longer, so he leaves. Tanya turns to Grant, who seems to have forgiven her for forgetting the donuts and gives her a few details: Will was supposed to meet his wife and daughter at the top of the World Trade Center for the girl's birthday. But he was running late, and just as he left the subway station, the first plane hit. "He's never been late for anything since," Grant says. And then he, too, leaves the table. Tanya's life sucks. By the way, what the hell kind of awful birthday present is that, to have to wake up ass-early to be on the top of the World Trade Center at 8:30 am? They couldn't have done it in the afternoon or something?
Will is also having lunch, although he's wisely chosen a hot dog vendor over the cafeteria that seems to specialize in cornflakes and congealed mac and ch