Siren Has a Wonderfully Strange Atmosphere but the Storys a Slog

first_img There’s so much to like about Freeform’s new supernatural mystery show, Siren. It’s take on mermaids is new, unique and very cool. Whenever they’re on screen, the show gets ten times better. Then there’s the vaguely unsettling, otherworldly atmosphere its setting. It feels like both a real place in the Pacific Northwest and an anachronistic fantasy setting. It’s a well-done take on the “small town with a secret” concept, never laying the strangeness on too thick. It feels like an authentic, lived-in Northwest coastal town, even if the actors can’t always decide what accent Washingtonians should have. (Seriously though, why does the richest family, who’ve been there for generations, sound like they’re from New England?)Then there are the mermaids, easily the best part of this show. Almost all of last night’s two-hour premiere focused on establishing exactly what kind of creatures these are. They’re not friendly, their songs don’t sound like Alan Menken and they have no interest in being part of our world. The end of the first hour and beginning of the second makes it clear that these are predators. If you go in their water, their instinct is to eat you. These are the mermaids of old legends. The ones who would lure sailors into rocks with their Siren songs. We’re shown early on how effective their songs are. When the main character Ben rescues a strange naked girl who walks into the road, she sings an eerie tune. From that point on, he can’t get her out of her head. He’s unnaturally determined to find and help her.Alex Roe, Eline Powell (Photo via ABC)They look amazing in mermaid form too. The special effects on this show are fantastic, perfectly living up to the brilliant creature design. These mermaids look like monsters. They’re scary, their fierce and the actresses who play them both have eyes the pierce into you. Even though the script can’t quite get you to suspend your disbelief, these creatures do all the heavy lifting. They’re the ones who make you believe. Whoever did the creature design on this show found a surreal balance between horror and beauty. In their fish form, they move with a grace and speed that’s as mesmerizing as it is scary. Everything about their look conveys power and danger, but at the same time, you’re struck by the color and intricate designs of their form. The way they transform is some unsettling body horror you don’t normally expect from Freeform. And still, the end result makes you believe that sailors would maroon themselves for these creatures.I really can’t say enough good things about the production design of this show. Even the direction tells you exactly what kind of creatures these are when they’re on screen. Suddenly, the show starts to feel like a horror movie. When Ben dives into the water to search for the main mermaid, Ryn, she’s no longer the small, big-eyed girl he’s known. She’s a fierce creature of the deep. Suddenly, the scene is shot less like a TV drama and more like a creature feature. In these scenes, you can see something really great and weird buried in this show.And yet. When I say buried, I mean buried. There’s a lot of cool stuff in this show, but it’s all completely let down by its story. It starts out promising enough. A fishing boat captures a strange creature that gives one of the crew members a bad bite. The captain calls for help, and some unnamed military organization shows up, takes the bite victim and the creature, and disappears into the night. We’re introduced to the setting, a small tourist town basically owned by the descendants of the founder. They sell a story of a sailor falling in love with a mermaid, then never seeing her again. One of the sons of the family has estranged himself, preferring to save local wildlife rather than perpetuate a squeaky clean image for the towns tourism industry. It’s not a bad premise. The premise has promise. The problem lies in the execution.Rena Owen, Alex Roe, Fola Evans-Akingbola (Photo by Eike Schroter, via Freeform)Two hours later, that’s still basically where we are. The plot moves along so slowly; you start longing for something, anything to happen. It’s biggest developments are telegraphed so far ahead, they barely register as reveals. Oh, the founder actually slaughtered all the mermaids, rather than falling in love? Who could have guessed? The two hours are so awkwardly paced it becomes hard to tell exactly when these scenes are happening or how much time has passed. Was Ben’s girlfriend trying to call him before he got on the boat or after? Did he know she was trying to call or did he find out later? Why does Ryn do her creepy snap-awake thing in the woods in early daylight, but when we cut back to the fishing boat, it’s nighttime? These are just the things that would have been easy to fix.The bigger problem is that once the cool premise is established, these episodes don’t have anywhere to take it. So we have a bunch of characters running around, chasing after one thing or another. Find the mermaid, she runs away. Find her again, she sticks around for a bit. Find the government tracking device, it gets taken. Find it again, get it back. All the while, argue about who knows what and who should have been told what. The line “you gold her/him?” is repeated so many times over these two hours that I started audibly groaning every time someone said it. Each time, I knew it would lead to more precious minutes of screen time being wasted justifying why this new person is cool. It’s that pattern played out over and over again, thankfully broken up by those really cool scary mermaid moments. But only like two and a half per hour.Eline Powell (Photo via Freeform)The bad guys are also really not sticking for me at this point. It’s a military conspiracy to capture mermaids for… reasons. We’re not told what branch of the military, what operation, what team, nothing. They’re just “The Military.” It just feels weak. It’s one step above telling me your big bad guy is The Man. The scenes we’re shown in the military base don’t really tell us much at all. Nor do they really go anywhere. They’re taking samples of the mermaid and keeping the bite victim sedated because… because. What could be good, scary mystery-building scenes are rendered dull and pointless because so little actually happens in them. At the very end, we see one of the scientists start to fall under the captured mermaid’s spell. That’s the one part of all this that could be interesting. In future episodes, I mean, because it certainly isn’t going anywhere right now.Siren is the coolest, most original show I’ve ever been this bored by. It has fantastic ideas, mesmerizing direction and production design, and beautiful creature effects. It provides us with a cool and interesting world you really want to spend more time in. Until you do. Then, you see how slow things move in it. How little the story advances in two hours. The setting and atmosphere are interesting and weird enough, that I can totally see this turning into something great. But first, it has to figure out what story it’s trying to tell and tell it faster. Stay on target Best Trailers from NYCC 2018’Doctor Who’ Underrated Villain of the Week: The Siren center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img read more

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