Two of my favorite prematurely canceled television shows from the early 2000s are Joan of Arcadia and Dead Like Me. The former is about high schooler Joan Girardi receiving missions from God that seem mundane, but end up having a meaningful impact on both Joan and the people in her life. The latter is about Georgia “George” Lass, a cynical college dropout who is abruptly killed by a flying toilet seat (it makes sense in context) and becomes a grim reaper. Their narratives are fairly divergent in terms of tone and genre — Dead Like Me aims for incisive black comedy, while Joan’s series is a gentler family drama — but they carry some interesting parallels. Each features directionless female protagonists suddenly introduced to a higher calling where they help others, and each explores nuanced philosophical discussions about life, death, happiness, grief: you name it.
I bring up these shows not because this review is about them (though I am very overdue for some rewatches), but because the charming web series V Morgan Is Dead reads as an offbeat mashup of both. Like George, protagonist V is a pessimistic young adult whose life is suddenly cut short and who finds herself employed with other dead people by a mysterious organization called the Sixth Floor. Like Joan, she is tasked with improving the lives of others in small but powerful ways — specifically as a Fixer who “makes connections” between an assigned person and another individual, be it her sister Penny and a new love interest or a runaway teen and a caring older brother. Of course, I have no idea if the creative team behind V Morgan ever saw either show I’ve compared it to, but I enjoy pretending they’re catering directly to my tastes on purpose.
Right away V finds herself between a rock and a hard place: Sixth Floor director Alistair Benson tells her that being a Fixer comes with rules, and if she breaks too many, her existence
will be erased from the timeline. “That’s the worst offer anyone’s ever made me,” she deadpans. Regardless, she accepts her new path, and pursues her assignments while being mentored by Andrew, a wisecracking Fixer who shares her sense of humor and her willingness to question authority.
In fact, questioning authority is one of the themes at the series’ heart, swirled with observations on destiny, free will, choices, and consequences. The closest thing the show has to a primary antagonist is a “rogue employee” named Will (!!!) who fell out with the Sixth Floor awhile ago and now has some kind of undefined anarchist agenda that involves revealing Fixers to the world at large. Given that Will is incredibly shady and most of the Sixth Floor workers have sincerely kind intentions, this sounds like a setup for an overall message of conformity and keeping in line with others’ plans for you, but it’s much more complex than that. V and Andrew both push back against rules they deem unfair or cruel, and Benson’s assistant Jenna is a surly perfectionist continually reevaluating her own relationship to Fixer guidelines. As with all decisions, these characters’ actions result in failure as often as they do success, but their individual journeys clearly speak to a need for agency and independence within the structure of the Sixth Floor.
In fact, while the cast is fairly large, and nearly every person is dynamic and intriguing to watch, V Morgan might be at its best when it zeroes in on the trio of V, Andrew, and Jenna. Tara Joshi makes V a likable protagonist, giving a performance that is equal parts spiky and warm. The character’s voice fluctuates between dry irony and earnest sensitivity, but it never feels inconsistent, instead being a reasonably multidimensional look at someone who, you know, just died of a brain aneurysm at 28 and has now been effectively coerced into a job where people’s lives are in her hands. (I mean, what modern stressed-out millennial hasn’t had a day like that, really? Hashtag relatable.) Andy McQueen’s Andrew is equally delightful, as he grows from his status as comic relief to a full-fledged character with strong opinions and a thoughtful worldview. And Jenna as played by Jenny Raven — my personal favorite — is incredibly engaging as viewers get familiar with her various facets, from long-suffering office administrator to mysteriously traumatized loner to surprise last-minute wildcard, apparently more loyal to her personal code than Benson or V. These three are consistently at the top of their game and I yearn for the show’s delayed sophomore season where we’ll undoubtedly get to see their arcs really blossom. Someone get together the crowdfunding campaign!
Of course, me outlining too many great things about the show will defeat the ultimate purpose of you watching it, so rather than continuing on I will instead casually point out that the first episode can be found here. If you should find yourself craving a well-written supernatural drama with endearing protagonists and layered observations on the nature of choice, give the 20-part season a try, and then come sit next to me so that we may scream into the void about that cliffhanger together. In V’s world, death is as complicated, heartbreaking, infuriating, and joyful as life.