SURREALESTATE – Season 1 Episode 1 – SPOILERS
Quotations abound in this episode and they are used effectively to set the mood for the story and characters. The first one is from Aleister Crowley (via August Ripley): “The conscience of the world is so guilty that it always assumes that people who investigate heresies must be heretics.” Luke Roman himself gets epigrammatic and suggests that “only love and low-maintenance composite decking last forever.” And later he offers (in an aside) a quote from Rochefoucauld: “It is with true love as it is with ghosts. Everyone talks about it, but few have seen it.” Much credit for the extraordinary visual impact of the episode must be given to Director Paul Fox, and Director of Photography Jackson Parrell because, as @NVGhost005 put it on twitter: “The cinematography for #SurrealEstate is the best I’ve ever seen on @SyFy.”
Luke Roman (Tim Rozon) is a real estate guy. (The word “realtor” is noticeably avoided by the show, possibly because large numbers of people regularly mispronounce it.) He specializes in moving ‘stigmatized properties’ (haunted houses). His mother left when he was little, and he was raised by his father, who died a few years back and with whom he “keeps in touch”. His mother (Victoria was her name) eventually returned to town. (After watching the first episode three times it is still not clear just what town it is. Although the series was filmed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, none of the characters sounds even a little bit like a Newfoundlander. The only obvious clue is that Luke is a fan of the Padres, so it might be San Diego.)
After her return, Victoria tried to call Luke a couple of times, but always hung up before identifying herself (but not before saying enough for Luke to recognize her voice). She moved in next door to a large Elizabethan house; went there to complain about the overgrown front yard; and was never heard from again. The current owner of the house that swallowed Luke’s mother is Megan Donovan (Tennille Read). She inherited it from her grandfather, who bought it sometime after Victoria’s disappearance. Luke has been keeping an eye on that place for a while. (When Father Phil Orley (Adam Korson) attempts to research the property’s title, he finds no records before 1987.) At the start of the episode, Luke walks up to the door of it in the middle of a rainstorm just as Megan (who is trying to sell the place by herself) is trying to escape some mildly spectacular paranormal phenomena.
Megan is a med student and is engaged to a lawyer named Brock Harlow (Matt White). We learn that Luke has a low opinion of lawyers and some sort of fear of the Easter Bunny. When the Donovan house is examined through a special optical device by August Ripley (Maurice Dean Wint), many spirits are detected calmly standing around the place. (He mentions this to no one, at least not on camera.) Ripley and Father Phil have a look in the basement and find a hellhound of sorts. Later, after being pacified with a couple of pork chops, the hound allows Luke and Megan to examine the wine cellar that was added to the house by Megan’s granddad. Therein they locate what seems to be a well, and a long arm reaches out from that and grabs Megan by the throat. After the distraught homeowner is rescued, the well cover is replaced and a welder summoned to seal it more permanently. It remains to be seen if that simple solution will end Ms. Donovan’s problems. Considering that his mother disappeared into that house (he still sometimes sees her waving to him from one of the upstairs windows), one wonders why Luke, who seems to be doing quite well financially, doesn’t simply buy the place himself.
Newly hired by the Roman Agency, Susan Ireland (Sarah Levy) is a successful realtor with paranormal powers of her own. (She can move things with her mind and start fires.) She was terminated by her previous employer after an affair with him didn’t work out. Susan is a (perhaps Scully-like) non-believer, but she knows how to sell houses. (She exceeded ten million dollars in sales volume in each of the last eight years.) In this episode, she solves a minor poltergeist mystery, leaving Luke free to deal with the Donovan house. Levy described Susan to Sophia June of Nylon Magazine: “She doesn’t believe in any of these things that Luke is bringing her into and yet she’s telekinetic, so the balance of figuring out: How do you believe in one thing, but you are something else? How do you marry the two? It ends up being this deeply suppressed secret that she hasn’t faced in a long time.”