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Ghost Wars - Death's Door (Pilot) - Review

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     The first time that I heard about Ghost Wars I assumed that Syfy was launching another ridiculous ghost hunting "reality" show that I would never watch. Despite my early mistake, after watching the first episode of the series, I’m beginning to think that my conclusion was actually correct.

The Definition of Cliché

     The first problem that this show faces is that it is ultimately constructed of countless clichés. Ghost stories are probably amongst the oldest stories ever written. As a result, this series needed to convince me early that it had a legitimate reason for existing. Unfortunately, I haven’t spotted anything that works well enough to warrant it.
     Ghosts flicker in and out of existence with the same repetition that a million other series have featured. Doors suddenly slam shut and fake out scares run amok in a series devoid of any real written inspiration. If this were the only problem, I could probably chock it up to growing pains and hope that as their characters become more fleshed out, the writing would make up for it. Unfortunately, these characters have quite a few problems as well.
     Avan Jogia plays Roman Mercer, a young man who sees dead people. Mercer is ostracized by a majority of the townspeople and often lurks in the shadows to avoid attention. In the pilot episode, he attempts to leave the town in order to escape his “freak” label. Of course, the forces of evil will not allow the only good choice in the pilot to work and chaos ensues.
     From that point onward, not a single character shows any real motivation for the actions that they take. This would be bad enough if it was limited to the big characters, but this deficit actually extends to the minor characters as well. Towards the end of the first episode, a police officer takes time to apologize to the main character for not believing him prior to the wild events of the pilot. The officer actually mutters the words, “I believe in you.” Not two seconds later, Mercer is frantically telling him to stop the car, but the officer completely ignores him. Mercer jumps out of the car (the second vehicle that he bails out of at the last second in this episode) and the police officer plus his car run right over the edge of a destroyed bridge and into the abyss below. So much for believing in him…
     While I’ve identified a few working characters that stand out to me (see The Stuff That Mostly Works), the biggest problem with Ghost Wars is its main character...

The Amazingly Emotionless Avan Jogia

     Many of you may recognize Avan Jogia from his role as the titular character in the 2015 miniseries, Tut. However, prior to my interview with him at San Diego Comic Con, I had never heard of him before. During our interview, he seemed like a nice guy who was honestly excited about the show he was promoting. Unfortunately, none of that excitement seems to have found its way to this series.

     There is simply not a single stimulating thing about Jogia’s portrayal. He never shows any range of emotion regardless of what the scene clearly requires. In one scene, a friendly ghost named Maggie suddenly appears and jokingly says “BOO.” Mercer responds with “Jesus, Maggie, you scared the crap out of me,” but he doesn't look the least bit scared. What could have been a fun scene is derailed because Jogia’s delivery is completely and utterly lifeless.
     In another scene, he watches as multiple people in a bus that he is also occupying are burned to death. Most would assume that this sense of shock would bring on a heavy set of emotions from panic to sadness or anything other than what Jogia shows.
     Throughout the entire episode, he appears only minorly inconvenienced by the horrors that are popping up around him. This is a problem, not only because it makes the show completely emotionless, but also because I don’t personally feel the excitement that I expect as an audience member.

The Stuff That Mostly Works

     Vincent D’Onofrio plays a priest, Father Dan, who attempts to lead his parishioners through the newfound violence in their small town. D’Onofrio, as always, is very good in the role and deserves more screen time than he gets. He makes it very apparent that, while he is attempting to hold it all together, he is every bit as conflicted about the supernatural violence as everyone else. Father Dan is easily the most interesting character in the show and, in my opinion, would make for a much more interesting main character.    
     The most surprising bright spot of this series is Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf portrays a particularly angry parishioner named Doug. For unclear reasons, Doug sets his sights on Roman Mercer immediately after bodies start dropping. He doesn’t have as large of a role as others in the pilot episode, but he makes his scenes count. Within the first few minutes of the show, audience members understand that Doug is very unstable and has an undying hatred of Roman Mercer. When Meat Loaf is on screen, I buy into this show 100%. Whereas many of the other characters (especially Roman Mercer) are not even halfway believable, I take everything that Meat Loaf says as genuine. I'm hopeful that he will get more screen time in the second episode.
     Sadly, Meat Loaf and D’Onofrio’s efforts are wasted on a show that is just as dead as the ghosts that it portrays.

Rating: 1/3 - Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad, but this show is, so it only gets 1. In the pilot, Roman Mercer says that he wants to go “where no one gives a shit.” Mission accomplished.

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