It hasn’t quite gotten its footing, but it has promise.
It’s the end of the 19th Century and England suddenly finds itself to be populated by the “Touched,” a group of people, mostly women, who develop superpowers, ranging from being gigantic in size to pyrokinesis. Naturally, society immediately rejects the Touched and threatens them. These people can find a safe haven at St. Romaulda’s Orphanage run by Lavinia Bidlow (Octavia Williams). The two main agents of the Orphanage are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), who can see glimpses of the future, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), whose ability to see energy flow allows her to invent incredible technology. The two have to navigate this new world and help stop a group of rebel Touched run by the serial killer Maladie (Amy Manson), while dealing with other threats.
The idea of a steampunk group of superpowered people fighting crime and dealing with discrimination naturally seems like a slam dunk. This show comes really close to that, but unfortunately it also suffers from a big problem with balancing a large number of subplots. There are so many plots going on throughout the show that it becomes difficult to remember what was happening in each one when the next episode picks them back up. It doesn’t help that many of the characters just kind of jump between the plotlines so you can’t even be sure that seeing certain characters means you’re dealing with a certain story. Also, there are sometimes scenes where the action sequence or character centerpiece takes your focus which makes it even harder to keep track of which story you were watching. Oddly, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem if this used the streaming model of releasing the entire season at once.
The positives for the show are that most of the performances are excellent, particularly Laura Donnelly as Amalia True, someone whose power frequently moves between “gift” and “curse” in a relatively believable way. Many of the supporting or recurring characters are interesting, like Nick Frost as the “Beggar King,” a brutal crime boss whose allegiance is, naturally, just himself. The show’s portrayal of the social and political implications of the sudden appearance of superpowers is well done (particularly when dealing with British imperialism). They also do a good job of using superpowers in interesting ways (and killing people in interesting ways with superpowers).
Overall, while the show still is a bit of a mess, it has a solid basis to work with.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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