Fellow Liberal Dead-heads, this is Ryne from The Moon is a Dead World. I’ve signed on to do a sort of recap/review of each week’s horror hits, so welcome to DEADtime TV. A new addition to the DEADtime TV compilation this week: Bitten on SyFy!
Bitten: “Summons” – Monday, January 13, 10 PM
Werewolves are coming back. They’ve been sort of ostracized from the rest of the monsters for a while, but last year’s Netflix Original Hemlock Grove put them back on track and then General Mills re-released Fruit Brute, so fuck you, vampires, werewolves are making a comeback. The latest TV series to feature werewolves is SyFy’s original series Bitten, joining the ranks of new shows Helix and Opposite Worlds.
While Bitten feels in part like a cable-TV version of Hemlock Grove with a clan of werewolves and isolated forest people who are eschewed by the rest of the town, it opts for a different approach; in a way, it reminds me of a Revenge-esque plot with elements of Buffy thrown in, which could either be a really good thing or, judging from the pilot, a sucky thing.
Bitten tries to start things off with a lot of sex and some nudity as though that’s somehow going to hook a viewer. Laura Vandervoort as our protagonist and werewolf Elena gets naked a number of times, although not explicitly, and the show makes it seem like this is going to be a pretty regular thing, because werewolves need to take off their clothes when they transform or else risk a large number of wardrobe malfunctions.
The show is populated by lots of pretty people and it knows it too. It uses that to its advantage: hunky guys go shirtless, women get their naked figures in profile, and people have sex a lot. But other than that, there’s little in “Summons”‘ plot that’s interesting.
Bitten calls attention to a number of mysteries about Elena, like her family “forest” with black “cousins” and her problems with her other werewolf cousin Clay after he calls them home to deal with a crisis, but the show dangles it in front of us like fresh meat. Hey, Bitten says, do you want to know more about this? Well fuck you, guess you’ll have to tune in later.
But I don’t want to know more about it. The pilot just isn’t interesting enough, especially when it can’t take time away from blowing each other to focus on the larger plot. Its werewolves are way too lackluster as well – they’re CGI, and I expected that, but I didn’t expect them to look so blandly wolfish. A battle between two werewolves and a coyote left me scratching my head and wondering who was who. They all look like CGI dogs with bigger teeth.
The trailer for this season has more promise than this opening episode, though. Apparently someone is going around making serial killers into werewolves. How this translates into a problem Elena must deal with is anyone’s guess, but “Summons” isn’t exactly the beckoning call to draw viewers to Bitten.
American Horror Story: Coven: “Protect the Coven” – Wednesday, January 15, 10 PM
Did you ever think you’d see Jessica Lange hauling away at someone with an axe like a lumberjack with an anger problem? Coven has kind of set that up for us since the Axeman came into the picture, although I’d argue that Mr. Serial Killer has really only been around as an impetus for Fiona to fight for her life and kill off all the younger witches who could potentially become the Supreme.
“Protect the Coven” sort of takes care of the whole witch-killing corporation plot line that I thought would take center stage now that Marie Laveau and the black witches have bonded with the white witches of the coven. As nearly all of Delphi Trust is wiped out by an axe-swinging slasher (or hash-slinging slasher?), it kind of makes that part of Coven sort of moot, don’t you think?
This season has sort of danced around its subplots like Salem-era witches around a bonfire, and it’s seriously limited Coven‘s storyline. To be fair, there are a metric ton of different A- and B- plots floating around the Coven universe, but none of them have seemed to stick. Kyle, who had a fairly important role in the opening moments of Coven, has become a sort of pet toy for Zoe, only around when the show needs him to be. Madame LaLaurie, too, is a prop that the show turns to when it needs a despicable character.
“Protect the Coven” seems to center around LaLaurie, giving her a bit more backstory about how she became the racist old pig that she is. Are we meant to feel bad for her? Are we meant to be offended when she returns to her wicked ways? I’m not really sure – Coven has been so haphazard characterizing her, even when it seems to be shouting out “RACISM!”, that LaLaurie is a wasted character. Why use her this week, of all weeks? Who knows.
If anything, “Protect the Coven” sets in motion the final battle between all of the witches, Fiona at the head of the line. There will be a Supreme crowned at the end of this season, but the question is, will we care which witch wins? And how will that affect the rest of Coven‘s magical world?
Helix: “274” – Friday, January 17, 10 PM
“274” refers to the amount of people Dr. Alan Farragut has lost to disease. Some, his CDC co-workers tell him, were inevitable, not the result of mistakes but the cost of finding a cure. It would be heavy stuff if it wasn’t delivered with such ambivalence towards actually giving the viewer a taste of Alan’s previous failures; we’ve only just met this character, and, in actuality, there’s not a lot we know about him. His 274 failures could have been his own mistake or someone else’s or collateral damage, but we can’t know for sure – Alan’s a mystery that Helix hasn’t provided answers to yet.
But that’s true of most of its characters, especially Peter; he’s the one seriously infected guy who’s also the brother of Alan and the lover of Julia. He runs around infecting everyone and scaring the people in the base, a monster with a face, but his background is lacking any substance. What did he do before he got to Arctic Biosystems? What was his work like? Is it normal for him to be experimenting with crazy viruses?
“274” doesn’t bother with its characters too much, actually. Julia does get some additional screentime this week because she’s been infected by Peter, although she fails to admit it to herself. Most of the episode is dedicated to figuring out a test that will react positively to the virus infection. Sarah, in her infinite wisdom, just happens to know a test that might work, and she even has the jellyfish fluid with her to boot! Turns out a positive virus reading will glow a fluorescent green when combined with the substance.
Except it’s not as easy as Sarah first thought. Julia, realizing she’s infected after coughing up a bunch of blood, joins the rest of the tested infected, but her test doesn’t glow green. There’s a moment of great tension here as she rushes to tell the others that Sarah’s serum isn’t correct – only to find that our army “good guy” Balleseros has blown up a satellite.
Yes, even though Helix has a lot of ground to cover not only with finding a solution to its very deadly virus but also getting to know the characters who are supposed to figuring out the situation, there’s something very likable about Helix. It manages to hit paranoid notes that work quite well, and there’s a lot of room to grow throughout the series, even if Alan and the CDC do figure out how to stop the virus. It’s an entertaining hour of television even if it isn’t as deft at developing character, and it leaves me feeling like I need to sanitize or risk infection.
Catch us next week with another edition of DEADtime TV!