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Siren - Pilot and The Lure - Review: "Extremely Promising Start"

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When this show was first announced by Freeform, I thought this was going to be absolutely terrible. Freeform isn’t exactly a great Network, and especially not for genre shows. A show either gets a wave of promotion that doesn’t exactly sell the show correctly, or just goes completely under the radar to the point where we’re actually like ‘this show was on air?’ when cancellation is announced. Siren has had a good wave of promotion by Freeform’s standards, but I still feel as though it hasn’t sold the show correctly.

From some of the promos I watched prior to viewing the pilot, it seemed as though the show was going to be about Ben being obsessive over finding some mermaid he’d read about in a book, possibly even falling in love with her and said mermaid wreaking havoc.

That is most definitely NOT what happened in the shows two hour premiere. What we instead got, again surprising considering it’s Freeform, is an extremely well done opening to the series. There wasn’t any filler, the basics of the story were laid out for us, there was decent enough introductions to the prime characters, information on the Pownall family history which will obviously be important down the line, so far not a love triangle in sight, and enough over the two episodes to leave me excited for more.

Quick recap: Chris, Xander, Sean and Calvin are fishermen out in the middle of a storm getting a catch. They inadvertedly have a mermaid in the mix, who attacks them, causing back-up to be called and arrive in the form of military. They take Chris and the mermaid away, leaving the remaining fishermen with a lot of questions and no answers.

Back home Xander seeks out Ben Pownall, whose family are descendants of Charles Pownall, the town’s founding father and the one who first encounterd mermaids many years ago and turned Bristol Cove into the mermaid capital of the world. He doesn’t believe Xander at first, but soon has his own close-up encounter with Ryn, who has come ashore to find her sister. It’s then left to Ben, his girlfriend Maddie and Helen to protect Ryn from herself, the community and help her find her sister.

None of which will be easy since her sister has been captured by the military, and in Ryn’s wanders around Bristol Cove she’s stolen clothes and killed a guy attempting to assault her, meaning the Sheriff who also happens to be Maddie’s father is on her case.

Freeform made an excellent decision in airing this premiere as a 2 hour premiere. The first hour gently eased us into the story, providing basic enough character information and background history for us to get a rough idea of where everyone is at, but not getting so lost in the details that the pilot rears off course.

Nothing in the pilot ever fills like filler with romantic and family relations kept at an absolute minimal, because the shows focus is on the mystery surrounding where these mermaids have come from and why.

The second half of the premiere sticks at the same pace, although it isn’t as action packed which is OK. It’s all about dealing with the aftermath of the actions in the first episode, and continuing to set up how things are going to move forward as the show progresses.

When Maddie and Ryn first meet, the show could’ve gone down the extremely predictable and cliched route of Maddie being threatened by Ryn’s presence around her boyfriend. She isn’t though, with her focus instead like Ben on how to help Ryn who is visibly hurt. Where some shows may have drawn out them discovering Ryn is a mermaid, Siren is done and dusted with that plot before the first hour is even over.

The crumbs the show drops on Maddie and Ben’s families get the curiosity piqued. Ben is visited by his mother after being absent from the mermaid days celebrations. She remarks on her husband Tom making a comment about her being in a wheelchair which isn’t particularly nice, but she brushes it aside because it was done in private; in public they put their happy faces on and she’s refusing to suffer alone in this. Maddie meanwhile questions why her father insists on saying a blessing to her mother, when she left 8 months ago. Her father’s convinced her mother will eventually make her way back to them, but she isn’t so sure and it’s clear her father’s blind optimism along with refusing to take care of himself weighs down on Maddie.

The military secretly experimenting on beings is something that many shows have done beforehand, but given the way the Doctor is clearly enchanted by the captured mermaid, I do hope the show goes somewhere different with this. The military is also keeping Chris alive but very much under a heavy dosage of drugs to stop him from going anywhere, so it’ll be interested to see just what exactly the game plan is here and whether Xander and Calvin will be successful in finding their friend.

Helen visiting the seafood market to pick up supplies for Ryn was an extremely comical scene. She basically picks up a little of everything, much to the cashier’s complete and utter bemusement. In shows like this you do always need that older, wiser character, full of stories to guide our heroes in their quest and also provide the audience with answers and Helen is written wonderfully in this opener. A particular delight for which full credit goes to Eline Powell and Rena Owen is when Ryn & Helen first meet. No words are exchanged between them, but it’s clear they both know who exactly each other are.

Another thing that turned me off Siren initially is the fact the cast is made up of a lot of actors I’ve never seen before, let alone heard of. Even if it’s not a big name, I tend to need someone that I’m familiar with in some setting to entice me into watching a new show. Siren have to solely rely on the actors being good enough quality to entice us and it works perfectly. From the first moment she’s on screen Eline Powell commands it, and mostly without even saying a word considering Ryn doesn’t really understand English. There’s a childlike nature to the character due to her (excuse the pun) being a fish out of water. She’s in completely alien surroundings, doesn’t know right from wrong, and only has one objective which is to find her sister. Everything else in her path is accidental collateral damage as Ben finds out when she almost attacks him. Fola Evans-Akingbola and Alex Roe who play Maddie & Ben respectively are also really great as they find themselves drawn into the drama.

The only real critic I have over the premiere is the scene where Ryn is attacked by the truck driver. It’s an extremely cliched move and one that I wish wasn’t TV’s go-to. I feel as though the writers having the truck driver acknowledge Ryn is child-like, and even questioning whether her parents taught her getting into a car with a stranger is bad, is their way of saying because this situation is being acknowledged as being wrong we’re supposed to clap our hands at the self-awareness. This is further amplified when his body is found, priors noted and the officer speculates over whether he tried to assault someone and ended up dead as a result. From the moment Ryn came across him we knew it was going to end badly, and I just think the writers could’ve been more creative in the outcome and still gotten to the same ending.

The second episode ends with Ryn coming across Helen’s book and seeing the pictures or mermaids being slaughtered. She then goes off into the night armed with a knife, and we can only hope the body count isn’t added to.

Siren is a show with a bundle of promise. I don’t expect the show to continue moving at a lightning pace, but if the show can keep the focus on the mermaids where it should be, and leave all the other storylines as crumbs building ever so gently I will be happy. And of course keep out of love triangle territory. Considering the Network it is probably a given one will be introduced sooner or later, but I really feel as though it would be out of place here. Unlike Beyond which has just exited the Thursday night slot and indeed Freeform altogether, Siren has enough about it to survive airing on a weekly basis.

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