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Series / Salvation

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Salvation is a 2017 suspense drama TV series. Originally announced in 2013, it was only picked up in 2016, with it being renewed for a second season in 2017 that premiered on 2018.

An MIT student named Liam Cole discover that there's an extinction-level asteroid on a collision course with Earth in under a year. After his professor disappears under suspicious circumstances, he goes to tech billionaire Darius Tanz with the discovery. Tanz and Liam approach the US government and discover that the government is already aware of the asteroid and is working on trying to prevent the catastrophe, while keeping the whole thing under wraps in order to avoid a panic. Unwilling to trust humanity's future to the government, Tanz takes Liam under his wing, and they work to try to develop an alternative means to save Earth. Meanwhile, shadowy figures play their own games in the background.

Currently, the original 13-episode run has been completed, with the second season having finished airing in early 2018. However, due to low ratings, CBS cancelled the series in late 2018, leaving it incomplete with a Cliffhanger.

This show provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: At the end of season 2 it's revealed that most of the show amounts to this. All efforts to stop the asteroid fail, but it turns out it was never going to hit Earth in the first place. It isn't really an asteroid, but rather a spaceship.
  • The Ark: Tanz has built a bomb shelter/launch pad for a spacecraft meant to take survivors and some of the greatest cultural treasures to Mars in the event of a global catastrophe. He assign's Liam's girlfriend to select the viable candidates. He doesn't plan on joining them, as he has the gene for Huntington's, and it would be irresponsible to allow it to spread in the surviving humankind.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Darius claims in the Season 2 finale that hummingbirds shouldn't be able to fly, which is just as wrong as the same old tired claim made about bumblebees. Might be excused by Darius being majorly off his rockers at the time, and it does lead him to a "Eureka!" Moment at least.
  • Artistic License – Military: An aircraft carrier blows up. The generals immediately assume the Russian subs that are in the vicinity must have torpedoes it. So why didn't the carrier have an escort, if there are potentially hostile submarines in the area? Carriers never travel alone.
    • Speaking of the carrier, the USS Pike has a motley collection of aircraft, all of which do not belong on an American carrier. The only American craft are a US Coast Guard chopper and US Air Force F-22s and A-10s, which can't land on carriers. Neither can the Eurofighter or non-navalized Russian MiG-29s. Also present is a French Army Caracal helicopter. Also, American aircraft carriers are usually named after politicians or famous battles, not fish.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Aside from Tanz's EM Drive being physically impossible, you can't just turn a particle accelerator into a giant railgun. They're meant for accelerating subatomic particles, not one-ton metal slugs, so the projectile would simply veer off course and punch through the accelerator casing even if you did somehow manage to convert it. In which case it'd be a coilgun, not a railgun.
  • Ate His Gun: The government traces a hack to Lazlo, Tanz's chief of security and best friend, finding him dead, apparently having shot himself with his own gun. Tanz, of course, doesn't believe it. The true culprit is Professor Croft, who injected Lazlo with a tranquilizer and then staged the "suicide".
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Harris is about to be shot by Claire for "treason", even though she's the traitor. There's a close-up of her gun, then a gunshot... and she falls. The camera focuses on Grace, who's standing behind Harris with a gun.
  • Big Bad Ensemble:
    • The Russians, Monroe Bennett's loyalists, and RE/SYST in Season 1. All three of them vehemently hate each other as much as they hate the protagonists.
    • Monroe Bennett's loyalists, RE/SYST, Q-17 and C.O.P.E. in Season 2. However, the last two are revealed to actually be working together.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Professor Malcolm Croft to Liam, who turns out to be working for the Russians all this time. Liam is forced to shoot Croft in self-defense, although Croft is shown to have survived. He reappears in Season 2, much to Liam's chagrin.
    • Darius becomes this to... well, just about anyone who had sympathies for him when he turns into an even bigger jerk in Season 2. He gets better, thankfully.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • Season 1 ends in one, with Liam leaving the Ark to help Tanz solve the problem with Samson's iron core. Meanwhile, Russia (or RE/SYST hacking into Russia) has launched three ICBMs at the United States with President Mackenzie about to retaliate.
    • Season 2 also ends in one, with the reveal that the "meteor" was, in fact, an alien spaceship that just arrived onto Earth. Because the series was cancelled, we'll never know whether the aliens are pissed that humanity has been consistently trying to attack them, or understanding that their spacecraft was mistaken for an asteroid, or even whether the aliens are benevolent or malevolent at all.
  • Colony Drop: An asteroid code-named Samson is threatening to end all human life on Earth in under 190 days (at the start of the show). Also, it's revealed that the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 was a deliberate use of this trope by the US government to drop a rock on a joint Russian-Chinese research base, code-named Project Atlas.
  • Computer Voice: Averted. TESS speaks with a pleasant female voice. You'd be hard-pressed to tell she's not human.
  • Cowboy Cop: Detective Alonzo Carter in Season 2 is as cowboy as you can get without getting fired, routinely breaking protocol and even putting hits out on other people when he thinks it'll serve his interpretation of justice.
  • The Cracker: The hacker group RE/SYST initially seems to be just a bunch of college protesters with computer skills, seeking to expose the truth. Then they start getting into the territory of destroying two aircraft carriers and launching ICBMs.
  • Cult: Liam notes that Bass Shepherd and his merry band of fatalists in Season 2, although touted as a self-help group, really feel more like a cult instead, what with the messianic leader, "donating" your material possessions to the group, and so on. True enough, they turn out to be an Apocalypse Cult that wants Samson to hit the Earth and resorts to sabotage to make it happen.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: After two seasons of doing everything possible to stop the asteroid from hitting Earth, the final scene of season 2 has the asteroid avoiding a rail gun shot and everyone realizing it's a ship.
  • Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: When the government starts suspecting Tanz of treason, he's imprisoned and tortured for information. He manages to resist for several hours. Fortunately, Grace manages to get him set free before drugs come into play.
    • Later, Q-17 and C.O.P.E. use sonic torture on Darius to force him to reveal the launch codes for the ark.
  • Everything Is Online: An extreme example. The hacker group RE/SYST appears to be able to blow up two aircraft carriers just by hacking them.
  • Evil Uncle: Nicholas Tanz, Darius's paternal uncle has a score to settle with him after Darius breaks into Nicholas's home in England and steals a meteorite sample. It turns out that Nicholas was in love with Darius's mother and resented her for choosing his brother instead. They manage to patch up their differences, though.
    • In season 2, it's revealed that he's much worse than originally thought. He is one of the founders of Q-17, an evil CIA-esque organization who is behind the assassination of President Mackenzie.
  • Fiction 500: Tanz Industries, which appears to be on the cutting edge of technology. They even release smartphone operating systems (TanzOS). On the other hand, Tanz is eventually hauled before the board of directors, who want to know what he's spending company money on. His uncle nearly succeeds in booting him out of the driver seat.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: In a way. After finally telling her the truth about the asteroid, Liam proposes to Jillian and asks her to marry him that day. She agrees, and they go to his adoptive mother (a nurse) for her blessing. She's reluctant to give it, initially assuming that it's a Shotgun Wedding (i.e. Jillian is pregnant) and asks Liam to wait a little before taking such a large step. Jillian ends up running out of the hospital chapel and tells Liam that, while she does want to marry him, it shouldn't be just because the world is about to end. Liam's mother is happy to hear they will take her advice (plus, she'd really prefer not to wear scrubs on her son's wedding day).
  • Greater-Scope Villain: RE/SYST appears to fall here in the season 1 finale, almost starting a nuclear war between Russia and the United States, then taking the world hostage with a hacked ICBM.
  • Happily Adopted: Liam was left as a baby on the hospital's doorstep. He was found and, eventually, adopted by a black nurse, who raised him in a loving home. Liam has never been inclined to find his biological mother and sees the woman who raised him as an angel.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Season 2 has two examples.
    • Malcolm Croft sacrifices himself to hand over the USB stick containing The Virus meant to kill TESS to Liam before RE/SYST guns him down.
    • Alycia makes amends with Darius and joins him and Liam for good in the finale after RE/SYST expels her and Darius frees her from servitude.
  • Hellbent For Leather: In Season 2, Alycia is always wearing at least one piece of black leather clothing, if not entire outfits made of it.
  • Hidden Villain: Nero, the leader of RE/SYST, is never directly seen; when he isn't simply speaking through cryptic text messages, he utilizes a digital avatar of an old lady to hide his identity. Further complicating matters, Alycia explains later on that Nero is not a specific person, but rather a cyclical position passed on to various RE/SYST members so that a single person doesn't hold too much power over others for too long.
    • The Season 2 finale finally reveals that the Nero from Season 2 was actually Dylan Edwards, Harris' own son, all along.
  • Hypocrite: Cult leader Shepherd preaches acceptance of the inevitable extinction of human life on Earth, only to spend at least part of the money he rips off of his followers on a spot in a luxury doomsday bunker, and later on hitch a ride on Salvation to escape to Mars while everyone else dies.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Anyone who finds out about Project Atlas finds themselves dead in short order. Amanda is eventually shot and set on fire, when she finds out about the asteroid. She manages to send her story to Grace before succumbing to wounds.
  • Kill Sat: The reason RE/SYST launch Russian ICBMs is so they can leave one in orbit and use it to threaten the world governments into doing their bidding, lest they use the missile's 13 nuclear warheads to wipe out the capitals of the global powers.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Harris, Grace, and Darius have one going through the entire show so far.
    • Liam, Jillian and Alycia get into another one in Season 2, although Jillian isn't all that invested in it due to their relationship trouble.
  • Magnetic Weapons: Much of Season 2 revolves around Darius' plan to convert a decommissioned particle accelerator into a railgunnote  to deflect the approaching Samson asteroid.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: Russia seems like it's back it its old tricks with hostile posturing and threatening to destroy any rocket launched from Florida. Then it's revealed that the US has previously already dropped an asteroid on Russia (the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor), so their fears of another such attack are justified. Especially since certain members of the US government are indeed planning exactly that.
  • Mysterious Past: Whenever Grace needs to get rid of a body or have something done that's not exactly legal, she calls her dad, who appears to be a retired CIA operative. When she asks what exactly he did for the CIA, he gives her a "like I'm going to tell you" look.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In order to keep Bennett from using Twitter to turn public support against Mackenzie, the latter orders the internet shut down. Unfortunately, this nearly results in the RE/SYST-controlled ICBM in orbit engaging its fail-safe, when it doesn't receive the expected signal once a day. Fortunately, internet access is restored, thus averting disaster.
    • Jillian makes the genius decision of handing over the Railgun blueprints to C.O.P.E. and (unwittingly) Q-17 purely out of spite for Liam's warnings that they're untrustworthy, thus allowing them to sabotage and destroy the Railgun in a suicide attack that also kills Nate and Dr. Rosetta. She gets arrested for treason against the United States over it. The only saving grace is that it's later revealed the Railgun wouldn't work anyway.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Darius Tanz is obviously a fictionalized SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, perhaps with a bit of Steve Jobs thrown in.
  • Nuke 'em: As usual, the first and last resort of all militaries worldwide when faced with an incoming asteroid is to nuke the crap out of it. Darius is quick to point out that doing so would simply turn the asteroid from a giant slug into a giant buckshot shell that would kill billions anyway.
  • Oh, Crap!: Many such moments, but one that stands out is when Samson is struck by another, smaller asteroid (a billion to one chance)... and nothing happens. Liam and Tanz realize that the asteroid isn't porous like they'd assumed. It must have a solid iron core, which means the government's Shoot the Bullet approach not only won't work, but will destroy the EM drive and end any hope of saving human civilization. Another even greater moment near the end of Season 2, when Samson dodges a railgun shot, revealing itself to be an alien spacecraft.
  • Old Flame: Tanz and Grace visit Lazlo's cabin after his death, where they meet Lazlo's sister Tess, who was Tanz's first love before they split. She has a husband and kids now, but Tanz is still haunted by "what might have been", especially since he was the one who ended the relationship. Grace immediately realizes that he still has a thing for Tess, given that his company's AI is named TESS. Later on, Tess shows up at a Tanz Industries board meeting, having inherited the 10% of shares Tanz has generously gifted to his best friend. Also, Claire is this for Harris, although it's clear he has no feelings for her anymore.
  • President Evil: Vice President (later President) Monroe Bennett seems hell-bent on wiping out Russia and China no matter the cost. His Number Two poisons President Mackenzie in order to invoke the 25th Amendment and put Bennett in power. Fortunately, Mackenzie survives and manages to stage a counter-coup. Bennett manages to flee and, in Season 2, subverts a number of generals and their men into "taking back the White House". However, he does at least try the legal route by petitioning the Supreme Court to determine who is the legal president. Not that he has any intention of abiding by any decision against him.
  • Reactionless Drive: Tanz's solution is to build the previously-thought-impossible EM Drive, which is a constant low-thrust rocket engine that requires no fuel (and violates Newtonian physics). This will allow him to send a "gravity tractor" to the asteroid, which will fly near the rock and nudge it out of the way by a few degrees in order to miss the planet. The key turns out to be a unique crystal that doesn't naturally exist on Earth but has been found in a few meteor craters.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Professor Croft sacrifices himself to get TESS's deactivation code to Liam, effectively disarming RE/SYST.
  • The Reveal: Several.
    • Nicholas Tanz is the founder of Q-17, and they're responsible for assassinating President Mackenzie to install Darius Tanz as president.
    • Q-17 and C.O.P.E. are working together.
    • In Season 2's final episode, Dylan Edwards comes out of hiding to reveal that not only he didn't die in Season 1 as was believed, but he was actually Nero ever since he disappeared.
  • Second American Civil War: Averted, though only narrowly. After President Mackenzie successfully retakes her position from her treacherous vice-president Bennett, he claims her counter-coup was illegal and challenges her in the Supreme Court. With the justices split 4-4, Bennett attempts to assassinate Chief Justice Cheng before he can place his casting vote for Mackenzie, then points the finger of blame for the attack at her and launches a Military Coup. Fortunately, before this can escalate into full-scale civil war, Cheng regains consciousness and declares Mackenzie the legitimate president, which is broadcast nationwide; having lost any semblance of legitimacy for their position, Bennett's forces stand down.
  • Shoot the Bullet: This is the government's original plan, although it's rejected by scientists, as it is likely to turn a single large rock into hundreds of smaller rocks still headed for Earth. Basically, turning a cannonball into a shotgun blast. President Evil plans to do it anyway in order to have the smaller asteroids devastate the Eastern Hemisphere, ending the perceived threat of Russia and China for good. However, the discovery that the asteroid probably has an iron core means that hitting it would never work.
    • Darius later comes up with a plan to modify a particle collider to build a giant rail gun, which fire high density shots at the asteroid at extremely high speeds. He theorizes that enough hits will knock the asteroid off course.
  • Skewed Priorities: The show is about mankind's efforts to keep an asteroid from hitting Earth, but the majority of its time is actually spent covering an unending parade of selfish people playing political games for power, influence and money, the extinction of most higher forms of life on Earth including humanity be damned.
  • Take That!: Monroe Bennett is partially based on Donald Trump, claiming to want to make the country great again, making use of Twitter to talk to the masses, and using terms such as "fake news".
  • Time Skip: The Season 2 finale starts with a 44 days skip out of the 47 days to impact that were left by then. Unsurprisingly, society has pretty much ceased to exist and humanity has mostly resigned itself to its fate.
  • Title Drop: If the EM drive fails to redirect the asteroid, Tanz has a plan B: an ark ship named Salvation.
  • The Main Charactersdo Everything: Program a simulator? Check, Track down the professor? Check, design the EM drive? you got it. Build the EM drive? of course. present it to the government? Got it. 5 main characters do everything in this show!
  • Unexpected Successor: After Bennett's betrayal, President Mackenzie makes Darius Tanz as her new Vice President. Just before Tanz decides to resign in order to devote all of his time to the railgun project, Mackenzie is murdered, leaving him in charge.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: RE/SYST, emphasis on the extremist part. Their main goal in season 2 is to divert the asteroid. But the way they try to accomplish this is by blowing up two aircraft carries to trick Russia into nuking the U.S., then taking control of an ICBM to hold the world hostage in order to form an international group of scientists to come up with an idea to stop the asteroid.
  • Western Terrorists: RE/SYST may be genuinely invested in stopping the asteroid, but that's merely because it would kill them, too. The way they try to achieve this can't be characterized as anything other than terrorism, and they make no secret of planning to abuse their nuclear leverage far beyond the asteroid crisis.
  • Wham Line: The end of season 2: "If it's not an asteroid, what the hell is it?" "Whatever it's here."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Because the series was cancelled before some plot arcs could be resolved, we'll never know what happened to Hugh Keating, Grace's father who is still in jail to take the heat for her murder of Claire, as well as the Q-17 and C.O.P.E. members who hijacked the Ark to fly to Mars despite the "asteroid" actually being an alien spacecraft. Did they safely make it to Mars? Did the Ark malfunction mid-flight and they all died? Did they get shot down or captured by the aliens? We'll never know!
  • World War III: One is looming on the horizon, and (Vice) President Bennett seems hellbent on destroying Russia and China (along with most of the Eastern Hemisphere). Season 1 ends with Russia launching three ballistic missiles at the US, with President Mackenzie about to order a retaliatory strike. However, the conflict deescalates quickly after RE/SYST takes the world hostage, and the world's governments eventally agree to work together to try stopping the asteroid.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: It seems the Russians no longer have need of Professor Croft's services after he fails to make a working EM Drive based on the stolen prototype. They don't end up killing him though, and he later becomes one of the scientists RE/SYST holds captive.