Sunday, September 18, 2005

Somewhere Inbetween 1x02 - 'Part-Time Nemesis'

WRITTEN BY: Lee. A. Chrimes
PREMIERE DATE: 13/11/2004
PRODUCED BY: Monster Zero Productions http://www.somewhere-inbetween.co.uk/

Chris begins Twist's training in the arts he studied in an effort to gain her help in battling Malkuth, an old enemy with whom he has a complicated past, and a very special connection.....

It's often a struggle for many series to keep up the strength and consistency they display in their pilot episode. Pilots are usually strong, balancing character introductions with a large, exciting plot, and for many the successive few episodes are a little come down from that high. For me, the best series are the ones that take from the pilot and run with it, going in new directions. Two shows on TV that stand-out for me in doing this were Alias and The X-Files. Another, sadly not on TV, is Somewhere Inbetween.

The pilot was about setting the scene, introducing us to the backstories and the very different characters that make up Christopher Berkeley and Twist McFadden. Consequently, that came at the expense of a strong forward narrative, an exciting single plot that carries the characters forwards. In many ways this second episode could be considered an addendum to that pilot, as it delivers the narrative that, on reflection, perhaps could have been intertwined with the backstory building of the previous episode. What we get here is a rollercoaster ride of great character development, extremely well-written and exciting action scenes, and a strong comedic wit running through.

We begin with Chris following through on what he planned to do in the last moments of the pilot, train Twist with the skills in combat he himself has developed that have enabled him to survive the world he inhabits. Writer Lee Chrimes displays one hell of a talent for putting frenetic action sequences on the written page here, as the opening gym duel between Chris and Twist is quite electrifying. Writers should take a leaf out of his book with this. He really sets the scene visually without taking up too many pages. These scenes also serve to state the connection that Twist and Chris have that mirrors the one Chris had with Sanctus. In many ways, he is her savior, as Sanctus was his. Chris has too become the mentor. And opening the portal that brought Twist from her personal Hell has binded them, given Twist a similar power as Chris himself has. They are both 'something inbetween', and share a common destiny. This episode is all about strengthening that bond, the partnership between them, as well as identifying their common enemy.

That enemy reveals itself in the form of Malkuth, who was referenced in the previous episode as a powerful figure. Here, we are introduced to him in all his glory. A wonderful, pantomime villain, a near skeletal demon who wields quite the power base, not to mention a rich, sarcastic wit that puts him in the tradition of the best Buffy/Angel villains he is clearly modelled after. What makes him standout is his connection to Chris, revealed in a wonderful flashback moment as glimpsed by Twist. In having Malkuth's incarnation as he is now as a direct result of the affect Chris' powers had on him, is a great way of bonding the villain of the piece to the hero. It's also learned that in that moment, Malkuth gained a piece of Chris' soul, shedding light on one of the mysteries posed by the pilot. It only opens up more questions, however. In what way will this common bond affect Chris and Malkuth? Would it allow Malkuth to gain the power to turn Chris back into his servitude, as he was in the past? It leaves a great deal of interesting possibilities. Malkuth is an excellent villain that deserves to appear with recurring regularity.

The episode succeeds on so-many levels, apart from introducing a strong villain. The writing is razor-sharp, especially when it comes to Twist. Many of her lines are genuinely funny. At times, attempts at wit by non-professional writers in this form fall embarrasingly flat, but Twist is very well realised. Her sarcastic humour is a perfect counterbalance to Chris' more world-weary, professional sensibility. In the mould of the best partnerships, Twist is the foil to Chris, and her lines elevate this episode, and this series, to new heights. Coupled with this are genuinely well-written action-sequences, such as the aforementioned fight and the final battle. Chrimes already seems to have a real rhythm to writing this show, and a handle on his characters, which is rare so early in a show's development. It's obviously been well thought through beforehand, and it shows. If the series keeps up this level of strength, it will not fail to disappoint.

WRITING: 2/2
GRAMMAR: 2/2
FORMATTING: 1.5/2
STYLE: 2/2
DEPTH: 1.5/2

FINAL RATING: 9/10

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