For better or for worse, the first three episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six (which debuted today on Prime Video) are mostly about getting everyone in the right place at the right time, with the right mindset.
Before Daisy Jones (played by Riley Keough) meets the Six, she is a free-spirited groupie turned aspiring songwriter in Los Angeles, while they’re a brother-led band from the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Based on the book of the same name, Daisy Jones and the Six will eventually recount the story of the band’s greatest performance — and how they all splintered apart right after it.
But before that happens, before Daisy and the Six inevitably collide, creators Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber attempt to build up who they are and what they want, just like the book did. But while the book’s structure could be used for a faster-paced and generally more interesting exposition, the show feels burdened down by trying to keep the book’s format. That is, until the last moments of the third episode, which finally indicate just how compelling the show could become.
[Ed. note: This post contains some spoilers for the first three episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six, and some book spoilers.]
Daisy Jones & The Six — the book, not the show — is structured as an oral history, with different characters recounting the same experience from their own point of view to the fictional author. It’s a key part of the story that all comes to a head in the climax, which brings the author into the fold and reveals a crucial twist. The show tries to replicate this by turning it into a talking heads-style documentary. But having characters summarize what a flashback just showed on screen is less compelling than piecing together what happened from their slightly differing accounts. The talking heads aren’t used as effectively as they could be, since they mostly just announce what’s going to happen or summarize what just did, instead of adding more depth to the characters by how they’re saying 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 much of the 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) brings in Daisy to help tweak a song that frontman Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) wrote. Billy is resistant to the changes Teddy and Daisy propose, since it’s a very personal song to him. Daisy, meanwhile, is mostly here for the ride. They clash, but finally give it a go. At this point, Billy is particularly surly, insisting that they go back to his version afterward. When Daisy tries to talk to him, he brushes her off, but she just says she wanted to tell him that she likes his voice.
And then Teddy lies that Billy’s mic isn’t working, forcing Billy and Daisy to share a microphone and record. It’s clear that there’s something going on there — an attraction that is unsaid because Daisy wants to be taken seriously and Billy is trying to turn his life around for his wife and newborn daughter; a respect for the other’s musical skills but reluctance to admit it; and from the majority of the episodes we’ve seen so far, two entirely different paths and musical ambitions. It’s a lot unsaid, and it all goes into the resulting performance, which is nothing short of electric. Hopefully, it’s indicative of where the show goes from here.
After all, the story of Daisy Jones & The Six can only do so much when those two are not together. But Keough and Claflin have fantastic on-screen chemistry, something these two characters absolutely need for the story to be as vibrant as the book was. And the fact that the music, with its Fleetwood Mac-reminiscent rock duets, is as stellar as it is promises good things going forward. After all, this is a show about one band’s most iconic album; if it fails to deliver on the music, it can only go so far. The clunky exposition of these three episodes might almost be worth it, provided that the rest of the show delivers.
The first three episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six are available on Prime Video now, with new episodes dropping on Fridays.