Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Pilot Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles

The Frankenstein Chronicles (Netflix)
Premiered February 20

I wouldn’t normally watch a show with a title like this, but its genre classification on IMDB and my desire to sample every show on television led me to give it a try. Here’s the second straight show and the latest in a handful that aired its original run a few years ago, though this one is a bit more recent since season two just premiered this past fall on ITV Encore in England after the first season aired in late 2015. This show is most notable for two reasons: its title which adapts Mary Shelley’s famous “Frankenstein” in a different way with her as a character, and star Sean Bean, best known for his crucial role on “Game of Thrones.” This show definitely goes for gruesome in its thematic content, though what it actually shows on screen isn’t nearly as graphic as a number of other series have been recently. This does feel very dated, a far less flashy version of something like “Taboo” or “The Alienist” that aims to look the part rather than enhance its setting with striking imagery or visuals. This first episode didn’t qualify as horror, which I consider a plus, though given the nature of what he’s investigating and how things were often perceived at that time, I can imagine that subsequent installments may be considerably eerier and darker, especially since Bean’s Inspector Marlott seems to be haunted by his own demons. The opening scene was disturbing and intriguing, and I was curious to see where the investigation would take Marlott by the end of the hour. Unfortunately, it took a predictable route into less-than-engaging darkness, which is enough for me to say that this isn’t for me.

How will it work as a series? Marlott isn’t making friends in his search for answers, and I assume he’ll only encounter more enemies and unfriendly allies along the way. That could prove very isolating, especially considering the miserable and unsettling nature of what it is that he’s searching for. It could be easy to drown in this show, which needs to maintain a certain pacing to keep its audience interested.
How long will it last? This show was very well-received when it was first premiered on ITV Encore, and the fact that a second season aired two years later suggests that the network thought it was worthwhile enough to launch even after such a long time. Netflix opted to release both seasons in full on the same day, presumably hoping for some binge-watching. I haven’t read anything about a third season in the works, but I assume that if it’s successful here, that could be in the cards.

Pilot grade: B-

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