Tuesday, 7 May 2013

How not to write a TV series


I have just finished watching the new Netflix originated series, Hemlock Grove. As I had really enjoyed their previous (and first) attempt at a home-grown series, House of Cards, I was looking forward to HG. Admittedly it is a horror show, and I am rather averse to gross horror (though clever, funny horror makes Buffy my favourite TV show ever), but I was willing to make allowances.

By about half way through the 13 episodes I thought that watching was a good move. The show was genuinely mystifying, very atmospheric and though leisurely in the extreme, there was enough complexity in the plot to keep the viewer interested - plus some genuinely intriguing characters. Ok, some aspects (Shelley's appearance, particularly) were trying too hard to be weird, but that was forgivable.

But then I watched the last two episodes and it all fell apart. Entirely. [ALERT - Spoilers coming.]

There was a lot left hanging for the next season. Well you expect that from a US series - they love their cliffhangers. That wasn't the end of the world. But first there was a senseless sacrifice, when it would have been perfectly possible to destroy the main killer of the series without any loss on the side of the good guys. Given the choice, which would you go for? Kill a werewolf before it turned (as it was actually asking you to do), or wait and let it bite your face off? So you could turn into a werewolf. And then have it kill you again. Limited on the logic front, to say the least.

And there was a sudden and senseless sequence of killings of most of the strong female characters. It isn't done all at once, so the sexism was not totally obvious, but women were dying left, right and centre. This was confusing, ruined any feeling you might have for the show and really left the viewer floundering. Add to that a decidedly unpleasant move from one of the (admittedly fairly weird) male sort-of-heroes and the revelation that the thing that has been striking terror throughout, carefully concealed to build its importance, is just an update of a Bodysnatchers pod person and it was a huge anti-climax.

The TV series is based on a book, and it's possible the book originated many of these problems. But as it was, what happened was there was great mystery and atmosphere built up... that all collapsed when the reveal showed the whole basis to be a sham. Bad choice of story, I'm afraid - and I'm not sure I will be bothered with season 2.

Image from Wikipedia

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