Sunday, May 25, 2014

One Episode: Salem, Fargo, Resurrection


Interestingly enough, the dark, moody & somewhat sexy series about the Salem witch trials was not CW-ized. In other words, the focus characters are not all pretty people in their early to mid 20s. This is a show meant for those enjoying American Horror Story and some of the lighter spooky genre fare like Grimm and Sleepy Hallow.

Beginning Salem, John Alden (Shane West; Nikita) and Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery; Human Target) are in love amidst a growing Puritanical movement in their hometown. Then John goes off to war (French/Indian I believe) and she is left pregnant. She never hears from him, so assuming him dead, is given a choice between facing the Puritans as an unwed mother or doing something... darker. She chooses the latter and sells the fetus, and her soul, to a dark spirit in the forest, with the coaxing, soothing help of Tituba, the slave girl.

But John returns many years later, a soldier who "saw things", a tortured soul, bitter that Mary forgot about him and married the wealthiest man in town. She now stands on her balcony looking over the town while John pines. Meanwhile Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel; Fringe), John's boyhood friend, is a full blown raving Puritan preaching Hell and Damnation while spending good coin at the brothel. When Cotton is not partaking, he is warning the good townsfolk about witches. The thing is, he is not wrong. There are evil witches in town, Mary Sibley being the gothy leader of them. With her toad familiar and third nipple (between her thighs) she controls her husband, and by extension, the town.

The show doesn't actually label a bad guy. Mary may be an evil witch, but we can see she is being manipulated by Tituba, and probably whatever dark powers want the town. Cotton may be a hypocritical Puritan finding evil where none resides, but there are witches and he may be the only one who can ferret them out. I imagine the show is going to be about John stuck between the two warring factions, trying to extract his love from either of their clutches, first the witches that have Mary as their leader and later on, the Puritans who have learned of her evil duplicitous ways.

I was looking forward to Fargo, it being one of my favourite Coen Bros movies. Like Hannibal is rewriting the books to create a series, I expected Fargo the TV show to rewrite the movie, but keep its quirky American mid-west sentiments and random shocking meets humorous violence. And seeing it was starring Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit) how could I not believe this would be great.

It was meh, IMO. First up, it is not a re-creation or retelling, more an ode to the sentiment of the movie. So, new characters, new story, same quirkiness. Secondly, try as he may, Freeman butchers that mid-western "yah" accent.  Freeman's Lester Nygaard is meek, mild and bullied by everyone. He beyond unfortunate and also not very likeable. He is ripe for the manipulations of Billy Bob Thornton's (Armageddon, Love Actually) Malvo, seedy and intuitive with a fondness for fucking with people. You see immediately things are going to go very wrong when these two connect. Meanwhile, we are still wondering about the half-naked man who froze to death after running way from Malvo at the beginning of the episode, and is now discovered by the local cops.

And that is as far as I got before turning to Marmy, "Are you feeling this?"  Nope?  OK.  Click.  But I will have to go back and re-watch as Kent said it gets much better.

Resurrection joins that convoluted collection of movies and books and TV shows, tenuously connected by the idea of the dead returning. No, not zombies, but *blink* a person is back, exactly the way they were on the day they died. No explanation, though we know in American TV, this must lead to a why.

The TV show Resurrection is based on the book The Returned by Jason Mott (2013). The book has the same basic premise as a TV show out of France called Les Revenants (2012).  The French TV series was in turn based on an older movie (2004) with the same title.  Next year, probably, A&E will be presenting its own adaptation of the French TV series, called They Came Back. Unrelated, there is a post-zombie movie called The Returned (2013) which is about people cured of the zombie plague but dealing with prejudice and suspicion, which in turn is the same basic premise as the British TV series (2013) called In The Flesh.

So, this TV series. A young boy, Jacob, wakes up in a rice field in China. He wanders into a local market place speaking no Chinese but somehow communicates enough that an immigration agent is sent to pick him up and find out where he is from. The kid plays with the agent's smart phone and writes out Arcadia on the screen. Somehow, the agent connects that word to a missing child story from Arcadia, Missouri but not catching the fact it happened 32 years ago.

Can I just state my annoyance at the fact the kid figured out a smart phone? As a viewer we are not supposed to know he died in the 80s, based on plot points, but EVERYONE would know this. So, its ludicrous.

Agent Bellamy (Omar Epps, House) returns Jacob to his parents, a little nonplussed when they tell him the circumstances. This is the real only gem of the show, depicting the reactions by his parents now in their 60s. Suspicion, fear but a deep seated knowledge this is their son. Thus the mystery begins, one that draws out questions about the details around the boys death, his childhood friends now adults and by the end of the episode, the return of more people.

This show needed more style. The details are chilling enough but not for me. I am saturated by weird mystery shows, strange supernatural occurrences. I need something a little more in genre fiction to keep my attention. I never did return to this show but I imagine its something I might revisit should it appear on Netflix. I suspect the A&E series will be more captivating.