FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES 1.01 ‘Pilot’
As part of his launch of the new El Rey network, Robert Rodriguez has dedicated himself to creating new, original content for his channel. Chief among that content being “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series.” At SXSW, Rodriguez and the whole cast appeared for the world premiere and for a Q&A afterwards. Rodriguez overflowed with excitement as he introduced the pilot, saying that they held on to the rights of the franchise all these years in the hopes of making a series out of it, and promising a story that expands on the original with new characters and new twists on old favorites.
The pilot episode serves as a refresher for those who haven't seen From Dusk till Dawn in a while, or those who have never seen it at all. The Gecko brothers, Seth and Richie, just robbed a bank, killing four Texas Rangers in the process. Now they are on the run to Mexico. They stop at a gas station for a quick bathroom break and things quickly turn into a hostage situation/shootout. Richie is pretty certifiably insane, so Seth should know better than to take him around people.
Sound familiar? That's because this is a scene lifted right out of the movie. It hits the same beats, and ends pretty much the same way. But it takes ten times as long to accomplish what was already accomplished before. What the hell? I know this creative team has a lot of ideas up their sleeve, so why start with this as the pilot? Stretching out and rehashing this scene is sure to bore old fans. There are a few differences from the original scene, but overall this makes me question the direction the rest of the season is going to take and its appeal for long time fans. Is it going to follow the film this entire first season? Or follow the other films for other seasons?
Rodriguez did say it was like “restaging a great play,” which makes me think, yes, we're going to be seeing a lot of the same things again. While the rehashing of the film isn't a great selling point for those who've seen it already, it is a way to reach audiences who know nothing of the franchise. Also, there are small differences in the pilot that have the potential to take the series in a new direction by the end of the season. How long do we have to trudge along before the alterations start making it worth our time though?
Rehashing qualms aside, we do get some decent performances from most of the cast. Eiza Gonzalez appears a few times as the otherworldly Santanico Pandemonium, and she balances out being sexy and kind of scary quite nicely. D.J. Cotrona does a pretty good George Clooney impression as Seth Gecko, but he lacks some of Clooney's raw charisma that helped keep us interested in such a deplorable character. We have Zane Holtz as Richie Gecko, and he's easily the most compelling performer of the bunch. He keeps many of the odd, stilted mannerisms that Quentin Tarantino had in the original, while still finding ways to bring new life and upping the craziness to the performance.
New character, Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Brandon Soo Hoo), acts as the sole voice of goodness for the cast, especially since his partner, played by Don Johnson, doesn't survive the pilot episode. Freddie's characterization seems to consist primarily of the fact that he has a family- that basic fact that writers will often use in the hopes of getting the audience to care about a character. Hopefully, he'll become more developed as he chases the Gecko brothers to Mexico.
With Robert Rodriguez at the helm, you can rest assured that “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series” will bring some bloody action (and a tremendous amount of talking). It helps that Rodriguez is the president and creator of El Rey so he only has to answer to himself. He commented about his restrictions with it being a series rather than a film: "Every network has their own guidelines and mine are written somewhere. I just can't seem to find them so we don't really refer to them that much." What a cool boss to have! While the pilot does feature some gore, there's far more talking dragging it down.
There are ten episodes in the first season, but Rodriguez promises the writers have talked about things happening as far as season five. Having only seen the pilot, it's hard to know where things might go. This first episode does an adequate job in setting up these characters, but the only really new thing it brings to the table are the addition of newcomers Freddie and Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama)… and maybe the fact that Richie's hallucinations have been kicked into high gear, which means he's even crazier than he was in the film. Yes, that is possible. The faster these variables lead the series down a different path from the film, the more interesting and innovative it will be. The cast all touched on how much their journeys' are different now, filming the last few episodes, than in the pilot, so the hope is still alive that Rodriguez will deliver.