WARNING: This review does have spoilers for the first episode of ‘October Faction.’
When the patriarch of his monster hunting family dies, Fred Allen and his wife Dee Dee must decide if keeping the secrets of the family business from their teenage twins is the best way to move forward with their lives.
Continuing its run of adapting printed works into original series, October Faction, based on Steven Niles’ IDW graphic novel series, arrived on Netflix this week, adding a bit of monster mayhem and family drama to the entertainment pool.
While on a hunt with his wife Dee Dee (Tamara Taylor, Altered Carbon, Bones), Fred Allen (JC MacKenzie, Molly’s Game, The Irishman), gets the call that his father, Samuel Allen (Stephen McHattie, Orphan Black, The Strain) has died. It forces the family to pack up from their recent settling in Japan and return to the place where it all started: Barington-on-Hudson.
Even before the obligatory flashbacks, Fred’s resentment and lingering anger towards his father are clear. It’s a disdain that has bled over towards everything the town represents; namely rich, entitled, and snobbish elites. It’s a sentiment Dee Dee shares and the Allen twins, Geoff (Gabriel Darku, Impulse, Slasher) and Viv (Aurora Burghart, There She Goes) soon learn when they two experience the attitudes of their peers. It’s a theme for “Presidio”, which primarily focuses on the Allen family dynamic. Geoff is gregarious and personable while Viv, though exceptionally bright, has difficulty connecting with others. Other than Dee Dee’s pleasant conversation with a former friend, Gina Fernandez (Nicola Correia-Damude, Ghostwriter, Shadowhunters), who’s now the town’s sheriff, the Allen clan seem like outcasts in a town that is about as homogenous as can be.
From a character standpoint, October Faction has a quirkiness that reminds me of another Netflix original, the spectacular Umbrella Academy. Despite the serious undertones of horror going on under the noses of humanity, the series doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even in the brief moments of tension during their monster hunting soirees, Fred and Dee Dee (Fred particularly) carry on with a whimsy that belies the gravity of their life-or-death struggles. Staying with Fred, even undisguised tension between he and his mother Maggie (Wendy Crewson, Saving Hope, Frankie Drake Mysteries) contains threads of comic appeal. That is not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t mean there won’t be more sobering moments as the series moves forward. In fact, “Presidio” ends with a terrifyingly bleak turn when, during a séance to impress the teen elites, Viv somehow connects with a dark force that helps free a red-eyed creature that will most likely be a major antagonist as the series goes along.
On its surface, October Faction’s narrative is about as simple as the long-running Supernatural, with hunting things being the “family business”. Yet unlike the network of hunters that have no financial power behind their fight against the dark (the British Men of Letters notwithstanding), the Allens come from a long line of hunters and based on Fred’s communique with his boss, Edith Mooreland (Meagan Follows, Reign, Wynonna Earp) “Presidio” suggests a secret governmental organization akin to the CIA or the NSA whose sole purpose is tracking down and killing monsters. Yet “Presidio” doesn’t depend on lazy exposition to tell the backstory of this organization and instead we’ll most likely get a bit more of this as the story unfolds.
As a series premiere, “Presidio” checks the most important boxes; establishing a clear and quirky tone while also providing the important aspects of depth to our protagonists. It doesn’t give us a completed map of the world yet instead fills in some of the important waypoints while leaving the rest blank. Additionally, it ends about as well as a premiere could; opening the door to even more questions while also giving us a passing glimpse of the season’s big bad. There are a few wrinkles in need of ironing out, and where that may not be possible — some of the tertiary characters are more caricatures than real, live people — may end up being glossed over as the show’s primary narrative arc kicks into high gear. In all, October Faction is off to a decent start that hopefully gets better with each passing episode.