Despite cringing at the use of the word “till” instead of the shortening of “until”—’til—I sat down a few nights ago intending to watch just one episode of From Dusk till (cringes) Dawn: the Series. And then I looked up and realized I’d watched the whole season. Here’s why.
There are several interweaving plots going on, just as in the original movie, which the series follows and expands upon. I can’t comment on how closely the series follows the movie since I’ve only ever seen the second half. But I can say there’s a lot going on and it’s handled well.
Each episode focuses on one particular part of the story, going back and expanding upon what we’ve already seen. And because new information that effects how I interpret the events we’ve already seen part of is always given, it doesn’t feel redundant—which is to say, boring. It also makes narrative sense, never leaving me confused or lost.
The use of anachronistic storytelling—showing things out of chronological order—feels necessary to me. By weaving back through events, not everything has to happen at once. So instead of the first half=bank heist, second half=vampire shit that the movie did, the series feels well integrated.
2—Character Driven Plots
I surprised how character driven the story was—every action and reaction feels natural, the result of lives crossing and choices made. There is an element of fate at work—a demigoddess and possibly some unseen gods. But in-story gods pulling strings is fine, “god” the storyteller visibly interfering is not. I want to get lost in the world, not be reminded it’s all just something a handful of humans slapped up on a screen. So I praise the series for letting the characters drive it.
Every character, mortal or otherwise, has their own conflicting needs and desires, within themselves as well as the needs and desires of others. And every character has conflicting loyalties. Boy howdy, do they. Seth is torn between loyalty to his brother and to his ex-wife. Richie is torn between Seth and the woman tormenting him in visions. Ranger Gonzalez is torn between loyalty to his dead partner and the vow of vengeance, and his wife and infant daughter. Preacher Jacob is torn between his faith and his family. Daughter Madison is torn between her family and her own life and boyfriend. Son Scott is torn between Madison and dad. And that’s just a few of the cast.
First and foremost—the effects didn’t take me out of the story. Enough care was put into them that I didn’t suddenly get hit in the face with CGI. If you ever saw The Mummy Returns then you know how that feels—hello giant Rock lobster. Anyways. I can’t actually point out many specific moments of effects-love precisely because they did what they’re supposed to do—be invisible. As I said, no face hitting. That said, I do love the obsidian knife. A lovely piece of set design. And Richie’s visions of an eyeball growing out of his hand.
There are no vampire bats here. Instead we get snake-vampires, which I have to say are much cooler. I love the incorporation of snake fangs and venom into the biology. The series also makes good use of various Mesoamerican mythologies for its base, much more so than in the movie. Santanico Pandemonium’s past is explored and with it the reasons for her interference in the lives of the Gecko brothers. She’s a slave to the Nine Lords of Night (I think I’m remembering that correctly) and wants to use the Hero Twins, whom she believes to be the Geckos brothers, to free her. Hence the mind-fucking of Richie.
There’s also a reoccurring eye motif in the art we see, in that obsidian knife I mentioned, for one. But a lot of the feel and mythos is brought in by what we see rather than what people say. Though there’s a lot of the latter as well. Things mentioned and then thankfully not explained. I do hate infodumps. There’s detail but also a lot of empty spaces left for the mind to fill in. I like that.
5—A Few Bugs
All this isn’t say the series is perfect. I’ve got a few gripes. Firstly, this arm tattoo of Seth’s that he mentioned Richie—crazy, vision-seeing Richie—made him get. It gets mentioned a total of twice, first in a way that made me think it was going to be important later and then once more at the end of the season, but just in passing.
Secondly, Madison exemplifies the Final Girl, though at least her “purity” is made an actual plot point.
Thirdly, most of the vampires (I’ve forgotten the name they’re called in the series, and even if I remembered I’m not sure I could spell it correctly) turn to dust when killed. All expect the ones Ranger Gonzalez kills after breaking free. If this was done solely so he could hand its head to that boy, I’ll be upset. Rule of Cool only works when the whole world runs on it. Carlos did mention they were some of his strongest warriors so I suppose it could be that only weaker vampires turn to dust, but I shouldn’t have to suppose—the rules of the world should be made clear and kept consistent. I’ll wait to see if this is followed up on in later seasons, but it annoys me.
And reminds me of the fourth thing that bugs me. Ranger Gonzalez being a…again, can’t remember or spell the name. But he’s immune to Santanico’s venom and it’s mentioned that he must be from “that” bloodline. There is absolutely no foreshadowing that this bloodline or anything like it exists. The only hint I had was sort of meta—it just seemed odd to me that they’d kill his character off before his storyline could be properly resolved so I didn’t believe he was dead. After so much studying of stories, I’ve gotten a feel for these things. It just didn’t seem proper to this world that they’d kill off a major antagonist who’s survived so much already with so little fuss.
But aside from that last complaint, everything else might be addressed in future seasons. I’m looking forward to them.