Tidelands (2018)

I remember when we studied the Odyssey in middle school. It was 1997 and I was in an English class where we read a lot of books that completely and utterly left me spellbound. Part of it was that we spent a lot of time in class actually reading the books in a cozy little classroom and stopping to analyze things every so often. Our teacher made sure we understood the books completely and did so in a fun, accessible way. It was the kind of class that increased people’s joy of reading which is just as important as teaching reading comprehension. When it came to the Odyssey, I was incredibly interested. Myths and legends have always been a thing for me (see my Into the Woods review) and there is just something iconic about the Greek mythology on display in Homer’s texts. While the Iliad is a story about heroes and villains and warfare, the Odyssey is basically a primer on what nasty creatures lingered out in the wide world as the Greeks knew it. Odysseus confronts and uses his might and his mind to counter or avoid many horrible monsters and crafty dangers on his way home.

Among those nasties, were the sirens. A lot of people who do not remember much from that book still remember the sirens. People remember the sirens because they are used as an allegory or a literary allusion so many times in pop culture or as commentary on real life. Sirens are often depicted as beautiful, ethereal women who have such good voices that they draw people in. The truth of the matter is that the sirens are actually ugly creatures who use their beautiful voices to lure sailing ships, making them crash into unseen rocks that surround their island. I am sure you have heard people “um actually” about these women’s ugliness. I never really thought that they should have been depicted as ugly. If they really were beautiful but evil, that would fit with the ‘all that glitters is not gold’ message that people need to hear. For me, it was the same thing as people talking about Satan’s ‘true face’. If he is beautiful and evil, it teaches people not to automatically trust physical beauty. Take that even further and maybe the sirens do not need to be evil. Maybe they cannot help themselves or they are just being pragmatic. Food for thought.

This is an Australian produced show so I had never seen any of the actors before. I will say that the acting is pretty good. It reminded me of the Shannara Chronicles or Riverdale a bit which is not an insult. The production is very slick. I really loved the lighting in particular. They did some excellent subtle modeling with light that can be rare in television. I really liked the production and character design as well. They did a really good job of differentiating between humans and ‘tidelanders’ without it being too outlandish. It is more likely that non-human creatures would adapt to our world instead of continuing to be so flashy with their otherness. They would know that our society does not reward otherness. They also do it a lot with different accents which makes me think of Keel’s Men in Black descriptions. People are more willing to excuse weirdness if they can simply write it off as ‘being foreign’. Special effects are used sparingly which is good because CGI is expensive and risky in television.

The story is pretty neat. The show is ostensibly a crime drama with some supernatural elements. It reminds me of the early seasons of Haven. Similarly, it is set in a seaside fishing town where the community is tight and everybody knows everybody else. The whole town works like a well-oiled machine. I lived in a small town once and I remember that extreme interconnectedness. It was very foreign to a city-born guy like me. Still, just like anywhere else there are a lot of secrets and danger for those trying to uncover those secrets. Beyond the crime drama, there is a lot of personal drama and mystery as we explore those secrets. The supernatural elements are brought in bit by bit so that the show can still focus on more human character development and connections. I am three episodes in and I am pretty fascinated about where this goes next. There are only five episodes left in the only available season so far.

Overall, I liked the show. The air of mystery is great at enticing me to keep watching so that I get some more answers. The pacing is really good as I never felt like the show was dragging or lingering on anything too long but it was not going too fast either. I was also impressed with the casual depictions of LGBTQ+ in the show. There will be a day where I do not have to be surprised by it but it definitely pleased me that it was done in a casual matter-of-fact way. It is refreshing to see. As it is Netflix, there is quite a bit of casual nudity as well.

(Written on 4/20/19)

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