I’m about six episodes in and I have thoughts. It is gory and the problems with Famke Jannsen’s character in the book are kind of more apparent in the tv show in a way that’s somewhat hard to overlook–the main being that, for a woman everyone describes as evil, so far she’s doing a lot of fucking and moping and crying. If this is evil, the bar is very low. Annoying, weird, and difficult? Yes. But not yet evil.
And, I’m uncertain about the portrayal of the “Gypsies.” On the one hand I get that, if you’re going to have a television show that takes horror tropes–including movies–it would be weird to not have “Gypsies” and that the “Gypsies” like “Gypsies” in all horror movies are a kind of catch-all fake minority of people who will be able to procure items “regular” people cannot and who have knowledge “regular” people cannot and who do the woo-woo shit “regular” people wouldn’t even begin to know how to do. And I get that a lot of horror stories just don’t work without that trope and the expectation that viewers will know that trope and the mythology surrounding it. And, as far as “Gypsies” go, Peter and his family get a complex, sympathetic portrayal. But that trope is so easy to call on and the reason there’s an expectation that viewers of horror movies will know it is because there’s a real group of people called that name and attributed those stereotypes and persecuted and killed throughout history because of it.
So, there you go. It’s not unproblematic. And my discomfort with it never entirely went away. But it wasn’t strong enough to make me stop watching.
Other than that, it’s delicious. Peter is beautiful. He’s got these beautiful blue eyes and this very charming way of, whenever he’s confronted with something weird, looking behind him like, “Are you all kidding me?” Though, of course, there’s no one back there.
Roman (Bill Skarsgard’s character) is strange and fun. Skarsgard himself seems built like a child’s stick figure, with legs that come right out of shoulders and he has a way of moving that is both awkward and graceful at the same time. He’s not very good looking, but it’s very hard to take your eyes off him.
The greenscreen driving around is hilarious and awesome. Moreso than anything they do to throw back to old Hollywood horror, that invokes it for me, people sitting in an obviously stationary car while a background goes by.
As I predicted, the cat was not Fetchit, as it is in the book. They went with Casper.
And the story is a hoot, but I already knew that from reading the book. Which brings us to the most interesting part of the show–McGreevy wrote both the book and the show. So, since he’s got thirteen episodes to fill, you get much more fleshed-out backstories. That’s nice. But the best part is watching him revise his original story, smooth things over that were kind of wrinkled in the book, change things that seemed to not make sense, draw connections more obviously. It’s really interesting to watch his mind work. I really liked the book, but my experience as a viewer of both is that there’s something really generous in watching a writer revise his “text” to be more true to his story. After all, he had a perfectly fine book. He could have stuck with it very, very closely.
Maybe this is the advantage over True Blood. I think people liked McGreevy’s book just fine, but I don’t get a sense there’s a rabid fan base who needs to see x happen or it just won’t be right. He really can make good choices about where to differ from the book.
But the coolest thing I wanted to point out requires some very minor spoilers. Here we go. There is a LOT of dragon imagery in the show. A couple of characters make reference to seeing the dragon. A couple of boys are kind of pretending they belong to an order of the Dragon. A character straight-up does belong to the Order of the Dragon. So, at one point, we learn that a company called Lod, LLC wants to buy part of Godfrey Enterprises from the living Godfrey brother. Living Godfrey brother is deeply suspicious so he looks up “Lod” online. They show him going to the Wikipedia page for the city of Lod, in Israel. He scrolls down as far as the Arab section, but on screen we see nothing of interest. He also apparently sees nothing of interest.
But they spend so long showing it that it was hard for me to resist not calling it right up on my iPhone and blah blah blah, nothing of interested until you get to the end of the Arab section,
The city was visited by the local Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi in 985, during the Abbasid Caliphate and was noted for its Great Mosque which served the residents of al-Ludd, Ramla and the nearby villages. He also wrote of the city’s “wonderful church (of St. George) at the gate of which Christ will slay the Antichrist.”
St. George being most well-known for slaying a dragon. St. George being also born in Lod. Nothing about St. George is said in the show (that I’ve noticed so far), but the writer and/or director of that episode managed to stick him in there by planting clues about the dragon and then leading people to look at the Wikipedia page the character was looking at.
It’s so nicely done. It’s hard to explain what a nice treat that was, and felt like a good acknowledgement of how people watch TV, often with a second screen to distract them.
Anyway, I’m really liking it.