Life Sentence: Pilot Episode – Review

“Not another show about cancer…wait, let’s do it about how it is to live without cancer!” probably summarizes best the idea behind CW’s newest TV-series Life Sentence. But as the pilot episode reveals: when life gives you lemons after surviving cancer, making lemonade out of them is not as easy as you might think.

Life Sentence places mid-twenties millenial Stella as its central point of focus. Stella (played by Pretty Little Liars alumn Lucy Hale) was diagnosed with terminal ill cancer eight years ago and has being living her life ever since according to the “YOLO” principle: trashing her bike into full garbage bins, partying in clubs with neon-colored wigs or jumping out of flying airplanes – and let’s not forget marrying a charming, hot and British holiday fling. As it is revealed in the first ten minutes of the Pilot: Stella gets “sentenced” to life – she is cured.

From this point on, the perfect image of her happy and supporting family unfolds: her brother is a loser, her sister an overstressed working mother, and while Stella’s father pays all her bills her mother comes out as a lesbian/bisexual. Nice stereotypes one might argue, but that seems to be exactly the means through which the show wants to set itself apart: take that classic cancer-movie storyline, use its one-dimensional characters and predictable plot twists in order to expose them in a series about managing life – if you are willing to dive deep into it.

And that is of course much easier with the wonderful job Hale does in portraying Stella: naive but strong, confident but anxious – full of fears but ready to overcome them. Elliott Knight as her TV-hubby appears to be the perfect fit – much more so than the “Ezria”-coupling in ancient PLL-times. From all the side characters, his role as Wes then becomes the most interesting one – perhaps most poignantly demonstrated in the scene in which he gets kicked off the support group for terminally ill people’s spouses: simultaneously euphoric and panicked, he realizes that he has to start to live his life with and not for Stella.

As the nearly oversaturated episode ends, it leaves the viewer in a state of happiness but also curious for how the twists and turns will unravel – the surprising “pregnant”-bomb serving as the main hook. Of course, one hopes that the quick pace of the show will slow down with the episodes to come but it is a style which makes Life Sentence stand out as an authentic dramedy – so let’s see how it develops, shall we?

All in all, Life Sentence‘s pilot presents a nicely wrapped package filled with wit, heart and thought: It is certainly worth the try and just as lemons get juicy when you make lemonade out of them, I have a feeling this TV-show might just as well become a sweet’n’sour treat for this spring season.