Why Siren Is The Best New Show of 2018
By Ezekiel McAdams
March 26 2018
Let's just get it out of the way, I love mermaids. I've been obsessed with them since I was little, when to the best of my recollection, I was introduced to them in, Disney's The Little Mermaid. This movie had a profound impact on me, I idealized and admired, Ariel, and wanted to be her. I can't think of many other straight boys that wanted to be her, but I did. I would practice "Part Of Your World" on the playground and while I stopped when the teasing began, my love of mermaids never diminished.
I first heard of Siren or The Deep, as the Pilot was called, before it got picked up to series. To no one's surprise, I was instantly captivated, it even gained a little extra cred when I found out it was being filmed in Vancouver, which If you never lived there, the scenery and atmosphere of B.C. is perfect for a mermaid show. First, I was just ecstatic that we were finally getting a Mermaid tv series. I devoured every tidbit that came out during the filming of the Pilot, followed the stars and director on social media and told as many people as I could through my social media and real life, that this was a show to look out for.
When the show was picked up to series, I literally cried happy tears staring at a still image from the set of Bristol Cove's Mermaid days. I was all in for this show and while I anxiously waited for the release day, I also worried, would my sky high expectations hold up? Will this be actually good?
Well, I've watched the first three episodes (the first two are combined as a two premiere, March 29), and I can say without a doubt, this show is good!
Siren takes place in the fictional Bristol Cove, Washington, a seaside town, where a lot of the commerce other then tourism comes from the Pownall family whose grip is rooted in the town's lore of mermaids, that are celebrated annually with the Mermaid Days Festival. The Pownhall family legend was something that Bristol Cove was built on but has since come by a quirky town footnote, like the "World's Biggest..." in every small town. Bristol Cove has a wonderful aesthetic, and is at at times, enchanting. On most shows, locations like the local pub, The Anchor and Siren's Song Motel would be blips, mere window-dressing, but here, the whole town of Bristol Cove, lures you in. Everything from the people, places, town's geography, feels like a real place that you could just pop in on.
The Pilot, directed by Scott Stewart, was not only visually gorgeous, utilizing the B.C. geography but also a strong script by series creators, Dean White and Eric Wald. While there's the occasional exposition that troubles most Pilots, this one is able to get over the hurdle and set up the characters, the mystery, the goals and arc of the series, relatively smoothly.
One of my earliest fears was that the mermaid protagonist, Ryn (Eline Powell), would be a typical love interest and be immediately thrown into a love triangle, while the male population of Bristol Cove would hit on her and talk about attractive she is. Thankfully, that doesn't happen. Ryn, doesn't even appear until halfway into the Pilot and when she is introduced, she is quizzical, aloof, cautious with an air of mystery as she purposely detaches herself from those around her. Ryn can also handle herself and at no point is she used as a love interest or the damsel trope.
I can also say, thankfully, that Ryn, isn't the only women with agency, we also have Maddie Bishop (Fola Evans-Akingbola), the Sheriff's daughter who works at Bristol Cove's Marine Research Center. Maddie is interested in science and a lover of animals, compelled her to take the job, when she watched a video of captured seals go viral. She has a strong bond and relationship with her father. Maddie befriends Ryn and helps her on her search. Maddie is probably the strongest character on the show, in the three episodes I have watched. She's funny, charming, protective, uses her love of science and her job to help the plot and characters. Maddie's also dating Ben, the rebellious son of the Pownall family patriarch and what I loved about their relationship, he trusts and includes her and doesn't hide any secrets.
Before we get to Ben, let's talk about Helen Hawkins (Rena Owen), the mysterious owner of the town's antique store who knows more about Mermaids then anyone and keeps the secrets and her interest in the mermaids closely guarded to her chest, like a world class poker player. Helen, like Ryn, is socially cautious and protective, and wants to protect Ryn, and make her feel safe from those who don't understand her. Their relationship is a highlight and I hope continues down the line.
All three women, Ryn, Maddie and Helen are not only interesting but developed and have agency. The best part is, they pass the Bechdel Test frequently.
The women on Siren are great but, so are the men. Ben (Alex Roe) could easily be the stereotype bad boy and he isn't. While Ben is rebellious towards his father and the family business, he would rather work at the Marine Research Center with Maddie and when he comes into contact with Ryn, his only intention is helping her. He is warm and generous and just a breath of fresh air from other male protagonists in this genre.
Ben's friend, Xander (Ian Verdun), who works on the boat, The North Star, while has moments of aggression, is also affable and is able to drive parts of the plot, away from the central three main characters (Ryn, Ben and Maddie) without detracting from the story.
Showrunner, Emily Whitesell has done a fantastic job, making not only strong nuanced women but a compelling plot and interesting characters. While the mermaids were my gateway hook, I believe this show could be about any other creature and be just as outstanding. That's a credit to Whitesell, the cast, crew and creative team. I can't wait to see what Siren has in store for the rest of the season.
Siren, is many things, it's a mystery, family drama and a fantasy. This is a show that in the first three episodes, has characters that are not only developed but interesting and compelling. The dialogue is snappy and organic. The mythology of the mermaids and Bristol Cove rich and has seeds of world building and an aesthetic and atmosphere that's only amplified by filming in B.C.
Siren, is the mermaid show dripping with heart, soaked in mythology and interesting characters but also harnessing a raw bite. This is the Mermaid show we've been waiting for!
Siren can be watched Thursdays on Freeform. Check your local listings.