Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is British, works as a medical examiner for the New York Police Department, and likes scarves and classical music. Oh, he is also immortal and utterly clueless why.
Fear not, this is not a spoiler to the show and not even to its pilot as the first episode begins with Morgan’s words about his “first death” two centuries ago. Since then he hasn’t aged a day, maintaining the look of a man in his mid to late thirties and has never died. Well, actually he has died many times but always came back to life within seconds and without a scratch. Having presented that brief statement about his “condition” – as he calls it – Dr. Morgan assures us that we know as much about it as he himself does. What follows is the unraveling of the first clues about a mysteriously emerging opponent – dangerous and unpredictable.
The most notable character besides Henry Morgan is his seventy-something roommate and antique store owner, Abraham (Judd Hirsch), the only one who knows about Henry’s condition and his tormenting heartache caused by a woman he met in 1945 and later married: His lost wife Abigail (MacKenzie Mauzy).
Another important character is Henry’s colleague, Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza). Occasionally, Henry talks to her about himself in roundabout ways, revealing aspects of his past that are troubling. Jo, who is also suffers from emotional wounds of the past, appreciates Henry’s company despite being regularly puzzled by his eccentricities. Right from the beginning, viewers will certainly notice that they are fond of each other.
Having lived a few hundred years, Dr. Morgan is not your standard medical examiner. Having seen and experienced much during these past centuries, he is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes – only thrice as perceptional and sophisticated and two-hundred times more knowledgeable. His immortality and age are essential to solving case after case, a fact which dazzles his unaware colleagues. In a sense, Henry’s inexhaustible knowledge is a character of its own – and certainly the driving force behind his investigations. However, his unfathomable knowledge is on occasion comically contrasted with a peculiar lack of knowledge about popular culture (“Who’s Indiana Jones?”), most often brought to light by his admiring assistant Lucas Wahl (Joel David Moore), who constantly and unsuccessfully tries to become better acquainted with the eccentric and secretive Dr. Morgan.
ABC’s Forever (2014–15) has the standard structure of a crime drama series with a new murder case solved in every episode. Moreover, Dr. Morgan is always reminded of a similar event in the past which is woven into the present day plot. Also, Henry’s quests to gain knowledge about his condition, to find a way to end it, and – last but not least – to hide it from everyone are repeated themes throughout the series. Each episode ends with “the moral of the story,” presented by Dr. Morgan’s voice-over, a charming and sometimes even truly touching and thought-provoking voice-over.
The cast is well chosen across the board, and the on-screen chemistry between Ioan Gruffudd and Alana de la Garza is surely one of the show’s strong points – as is Gruffudd’s performance in general. His looks, gestures, and way of talking just ooze with 1800s British gentlemen vibes, and his “otherness” in modern day New York has just the right feel.
Well, Dr. Morgan’s life may fit the show’s title and go on forever, but the show itself does not: It got killed after the first season officially due to low ratings. My personal diagnosis: A crime drama series with fantasy elements and high entertainment value. Should you grow to love the show in the course of its 22 episodes, best stick to its main message and move on. Keep it in good memory, but don’t dwell on what could have been. Remember: nothing lasts forever.