Incompleteness is layered and complex, challenging traditional modes of storytelling

by Ed Blackadder

Incompleteness is an independently produced episodic show that is described as a psychological dramedy set in the present-day American Midwest revolving around the relationships of three couples, interconnected by a tragedy, as they try to find love in a modern world while dealing with their own mortality, and the illusion of free will.

Sound complicated? Incompleteness can be.

Written and directed by Dave Ash, Incompleteness spans a five-hour first season told in eight episodes.

With an ensemble cast, the story is initially centered around Alex (Matt Bailey) and Jodi (Bethany Ford Binkley). Without delivering too much in the way of spoilers, Alex and Jodi are expecting a baby, with some additional major life changes on the horizon. Alex has recently learned he is terminally ill and has also quit his job.

Alex hopes to leave a video legacy for his yet-to-be-born child while simultaneously obsessing over finishing a feature film before his inevitable death. Jodi has seemingly been unhappy with their relationship for quite some time, with the pressure of pregnancy, insurmountable debt, and Alex’s filmmaking obsession, taking a heavy toll on her.

Yes, it is complicated. Did I already say that?

Another layer of complexity is added with the fledgling relationship between Paul (Clarence Wethern) and Kayla (Katie Willer). Paul is a genetic engineer who moonlights as a screenwriter. Kayla is a barista whose true passion is music. The new relationship between Kayla and Paul represents most of what is missing between Alex and Jodi. Kayla and Paul are discovering their passion for one another, while Alex and Jodi are barely keeping themselves together.

Incompleteness still has another layer to add. This is the relationship between Michael (Juan Rivera Lebron) and Chelsea (Christine Weber). When the first episode opens, the viewer finds Michael and Chelsea at a locked door and in a panic as their son is on the other side, seconds away from committing suicide.

In this opening sequence, we are introduced to Michael as John and Chelsea as Emily. Why is this you ask? Again, without spoiling too much, we learn in the first few minutes that John and Emily are the character names in Alex’s feature film, which Michael and Chelsea are both acting in.

Thematically, the film within the film becomes a core element to Incompleteness, challenging the viewer to be fully invested in the storytelling, as writer/director Dave Ash weaves his in-depth storylines.

Ash continually keeps us guessing what is real, what’s important, and which direction the story is headed.

The efforts of Alex to finish his feature film and to create a documentary for his child, becomes all consuming, further pushing Jodi away. She’s pregnant, soon to be a widow, and drowning in debt. While, life is not easy for these two, Jodi takes centerstage as the emotional heart of Incompleteness.

As the relationship between Paul and Kayla develops, Ash further delves into the what ifs and what could bes in life based on the choices a person makes. While in the moment, these elements can be intensely and highly emotional, but when Ash pulls us back into the real world, it does leave the viewer feeling slightly deceived with a variation of the “it was all a dream” trick.

This type of trickery is the primary fault with Incompleteness. Ash is clearly making a concentrated effort to deliver a story that is philosophical with a high degree of existentialism while breaking traditional boundaries. Sometimes it works extremely well and other times it becomes overly apparent and intentional, making the storylines difficult to track.

At its core, the storytelling is interesting and the acting is compelling. Ash has created Incompleteness with intent — he wants the viewer to challenge themselves, to follow a complex story with equally complicated characters, and to accept a method that breaks the molds of traditional storytelling.

Incompleteness deserves a larger audience and a chance to bring this story to completion.

Ed’s Grade: B