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View "Kaleidoscope" In 5,040 Possible Combinations

“Kaleidoscope,” now streaming on Netflix, was launched on New Year’s Day and immediately shot up to one of the network’s most-watched shows.

With a cast headed by Giancarlo Esposito and Rufus Sewell, the eight-episode heist thriller is stomach-clenching from beginning to end.

But which beginning? Which end? That’s up to the viewers. They can watch the episodes in any order they choose.

The series creator, Eric Garcia, had the idea of a nonlinear format in 2013 and shared the concept via email with a director friend.

“With a batch delivery of episodes, I didn’t see why we had to watch chronologically,” says the Camarillo resident.

Numbers or letters could possibly suggest a prescribed sequence, so episodes are labeled with a kaleidoscope of colors and are time-specific to the heist.

One viewer might begin with the “Pink” episode, which takes place 6 months after the theft, followed by “Blue,” 5 days before.

Another might prefer starting the series with the MacGuffin that takes place 24 years earlier, as depicted in the “Violet” episode. (In this episode, look for a woman with short blonde hair, dressed in a burgundy ballgown. She’s Eric’s mom, Judi Garcia of Newbury Park.)

It is advised, however, to save “White”—the story of the actual heist—for last.

“Just like white light is a combination of all the colors, all the episodes taken together make up the ‘White’ episode,” Garcia explains.

The colors aren’t symbolic but do inform the tone of each episode. For instance, he says, yellow is bright and cheery, red conveys tension and anger. He adds, “They could also represent the colors of us as people—the shades of who we are, of our personalities.”

According to Netflix, there are 5,040 possible combinations, each providing a unique experience. Garcia doesn’t consider one better than the others.

“All options are valid,” he emphasizes. “Google ‘Best Kaleidoscope order’ and you’ll find thousands of recommendations.”

One such recommendation was tweeted by author Stephen King: “Grade A entertainment. I suggest watching chronologically.” 

But many argue that following a traditional route is missing the point and isn’t as much fun. Plus, why would anyone want to give up the autonomy of shaping the story as they see fit? The debate does spark conversations, Garcia acknowledges.

In 2011, after living in Newbury Park for 12 years, Garcia and his wife, Sabrina, and their children, Bailey and Teddy, now 22 and 16, moved to Camarillo.

Garcia hasn’t always lived in Ventura County. He was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Even as a child, he wanted to be a storyteller in some fashion.

“There was a period when I thought of becoming an actor, then I switched goals and considered becoming a playwright,” recalls Garcia, who started writing when he was 12 and later graduated from USC as an English major with a concentration in creative writing.

He first made a name for himself as a novelist. Several of his books were turned into films, including Matchstick Men starring Nicholas Cage. He transitioned into writing screenplays when he adapted his book Anonymous Rex for the SyFy channel.

“I just liked the idea I could take people on a journey, in whatever medium,” he says.

Besides science fiction, Garcia’s favorite genre is crime.

“I enjoy stories where there are no ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys.’ Except for pure evil in the world, most people are a mix of both,” he says. “It’s that gray ground I find fascinating to delve into.”

While the series does an excellent job exploring the characters’ inner lives—their dreams and hopes, as well as their struggles and failings, there’s also plenty of action. 

One of Garcia’s most memorable moments during filming was setting off smoke bombs in New York City’s Diamond District.

“The shoot of that scene took over three Sundays in October,” he says. “We were given more time there than any other film or TV show.”

“Kaleidoscope” was inspired by a real-life event.

“When Hurricane Sandy ripped through New York City, it flooded a vault deep underground where six of the largest banks in the world kept a lot of their assets,” he says. “At the time, it was believed $70 billion worth of bonds might’ve been destroyed. Eventually they were all, supposedly, rescued.”

That got him thinking: “What if it was a coverup? What if the hurricane was a convenient way to make bonds disappear? What if someone really had taken them?”

As Garcia points out, heist capers are popular.

“We like to see criminals who are smart, engaging and a little bit of Robin Hood,” he says. “You’ll note in most heist stories, the thieves don’t rip off the common man — it’s a bank, a wealthy casino owner, another criminal.”

Including Garcia, there were seven writers on “Kaleidoscope.” He describes them all as brilliant, crazy people.

Also the showrunner, Garcia had to make sure their scripts and every aspect of the production conveyed the same, unifying tone. They used a multitude of white boards to keep track of the plot twists and continuity.

Because of the series’ structure, they encountered challenges not usually experienced with a linear format.

“We had to approach each episode as if it were a pilot. If people watch ‘Violet’ first, they think the show is about a family man trying to leave a life of crime. If ‘Orange’ is first, they think it’s a show about an obsessed FBI agent trying to catch her white whale,” he explains.

Each installment had to be self-contained ensuring that, no matter where a viewer entered there would be enough information to make sense of the entire series arc without being repetitive.

For Garcia the show’s take-away is about cycles—getting wrapped up in our lives, in our heads, in our schemes.

“It takes tremendous effort to break out,” he says. “If you don’t find a way you’ll just keep going around and around until you find yourself in a bad end.”

Currently Garcia is busy working on other projects, including a sci-fi mystery for Amazon and a stage musical based on “The Bad News Bears.” There’s also a possibility “Kaleidoscope” will be renewed with either a post-heist plot involving characters from Season 1 or with an entirely different crime story and cast. As of this writing, a decision hasn’t been made.

Garcia says producing “Kaleidoscope” was an all-around wonderful experience. But the highlight was working with an amazing cast and seeing them fully inhabit the characters he created.

The admiration is mutual. In an online interview with Screen Rant Plus, “Kaleidoscope” star Giancarlo Esposito says, “Another master has been brought to the forefront of our visual consciousness, and that’s Eric Garcia.”

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