From Dusk Till Dawn Season 1 Review “Boxman”

From Dusk Till Dawn

On the latest episode of “From Dusk Till Dawn,” it was time for Ritchie and Seth to enter…the labyrinth! Would Jennifer Connelly be there? Would there be songs from Bowie in a crazy wig and extravagant outfits? Would there be evil muppets or fraggles or what have you? Alas, there were none of these things, but “Boxman” was an enjoyable ride nonetheless.

This was a really interesting episode all around. Early on, the show pushed the boundaries of stretching the original movie into a series, with mixed results, but I like what they’ve done with the second half so far. I like that they’ve tied it into earlier events (i.e. giving us more on the Fuller mother’s death circumstances) and filled in blanks on others, such as tonight’s look at the Geckos’ childhood and the job that landed Seth in the slammer.

Even better, it was filtered through a nifty take on the whole “dream sequence” thing that wisely went for realism over surrealism, for the most part. Given that this show isn’t exactly subtle most of the time- not that it necessarily should be given the subject matter at hand- it was nice to see a show of restraint, in a way, towards the end. In their variation of a dream-within-a-dream, it was actually a sort of “worst fear warehouse,” or temple, as the case was here. Basically, in entering the “game,” the Geckos were willingly entering the temple with the intent of going through “trials” that involved interacting with figures and scenarios from their collective past, only with new wrinkles.

For instance, some people turned out to be snakepires that weren’t in real life, and simply exiting one room to another could land one in a different scenario from the previous one and potentially back into a previous one. Only by successfully defeating whatever the obstacles were in their path could the Geckos proceed to the next “level” of the maze. In the end, both made it to the same place after splitting up for a spell, but it was there we left them until the final episode.

The bit with the father, Ray, played by an effectively bullying James Remar, was reasonably intense, as he forced a young Seth to put together a gun in short order as he timed him and even held a gun to his head. But, for me, it was the bit with Big Jim Thompson, played by a scenery-chewing William Sadler, in fine form, that took the cake. The bit about transsexuals in Brazil was one of the most accurately Tarantino bits of the entire series that couldn’t be directly traced back to the man himself.

I just about fell out when BJT said to Ritchie: “I know that, just because you might see two big jugs up here, that don’t mean that there ain’t a pork sword down below just waiting to take you for a ride.” Big time LOL. That said, I won’t deny that most of the writing was bit too expository-heavy, with a whole lot of explaining of various stuff going down that was bit overwhelming, if I’m being honest. I would have to say, that genius bit with Sadler notwithstanding (which could have well been written by someone on the writing staff in general, regardless of the main credits), that the episodes written by a Rodriguez tend to be better-written on the whole.

If you could excuse the heavy-handedness of some of the more expository dialogue, though, the actual way they expanded on the mythology of the show was genuinely fascinating and interesting. I liked all the back-story of the temple and the way it deepened the material in general. Now, more than ever, I do think that this show will be much more appreciated by people who do the binge-watching thing, where all of this stuff flows like one big mini-series, which is basically is, anyway.

Yes, the show got renewed, which means the story will go on, which in turn means they probably won’t kill off most of the main characters, but I still like the way they’ve expanded the material for the most part. Then again, they might well pull an “American Horror Story” and do just that and have the next season be a different storyline altogether with new characters set against the mythos the show has laid down over the course of the season. That would be cool, too.

I mean, what are the sequels to the original movies, if not just that? I’ll allow that the sequels are nowhere near as good as the original movie, but they aren’t completely terrible, either- and neither is this show, even while it can be occasionally hit or miss. More often than not, though, I think it’s been more hit than miss, and it definitely made me open to the idea of a second season, which is all you could ask for, really, considering this is ground we’ve largely tread before.

My favorite moments of the episode: Ritchie knocking out…Ritchie, in the RV (nice way of signaling all is not what it seems, or that Seth was, in fact, not outside but still in the temple); the monster attack in the temple (kind of reminded me of that movie “The Descent,” which is great, if you don’t know it); the reveal that when a snakepire feeds, it can briefly transform into its victim, which explains all that business with Carlos at the border; Ritchie and the bodyguard making like Solange and Jay-Z in the elevator in a brief-but-effective (and even funny at times) fight scene; and the reveal that Professor Sex Machine is a snake goddess worshipper and plans to sacrifice Katie, which we saw had been indicated on the show previously, if subtly.

In fact, one of the reasons I think this will play better as a binge-watch is that stuff that was hinted at or shown without explanation was, in fact, explained later on. It’s kind of series writing 101: you hint at a lot of stuff and pay it off later on as a reward for careful viewers, but I know I speak for myself and a lot of people I talked to, in that many mistakenly thought that we were never going to get an explanation for a lot of this stuff, which proved to be in error.

We just weren’t patient enough to wait, which is sort of the Catch-22 of living in the Internet age- no one has the patient to hang in there and trust that the people we’ve invested our time in to know what they’re doing and where they’re going with something. Like Morrison said: “We want the world and we want it now!” I think maybe it’s because sometimes that trust is misplaced, though: witness the mixed reactions to the “Lost” finale.

As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I’m a little ashamed I didn’t trust the writers here more, but then again, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this show, and let’s face it, there were certainly some dubious moments along the way that didn’t exactly help matters. By and large, though, I do like what I’ve seen, warts and all, and that’s okay by me. One thing that’s been lost in recent times is our patience as viewers. We often don’t give a show half a chance these days, and that’s the real shame. Can you imagine if NBC hadn’t stuck with “Seinfeld” through those rough early years, for example? Try pulling that off in today’s television climate.

What did you think of the latest “From Dusk Till Dawn”? Have they made you a believer, too? Or has the show left something to be desired for you overall? Do you like the mythos of the show? How about the direction things seem to be headed in? Do you get the sense the show will pay off in the end, or will it all fall apart in the final act? Sound off below, my fellow snakepire worshippers, and I’ll see you next week for the big finale!