Unaware of the terrifying new enemy stalking them, the Allens struggle adapting to their new normal.
Now that the decision to stay in Barington-on-Hudson has been made, the Allens must find a way to settle into a place holding painful memories and its less-than-friendly native residents. For Fred, his biggest hurdle is finding a manageable level of civility with his mother. She’s a handful that, while getting along well enough with Viv and Geoff, doesn’t garner such affection from her son and stepdaughter. Whether the schism between her and Fred is because of Seth’s passing, Samuel’s apparent disconnection with the fam after his eldest died, or something else altogether, their rocky relationship will be an on-going subplot as October Faction moves a bit more towards its horror roots.
Family drama aside, one of better facets of “No Country for Old Vamps” are the small slices we get of Alice Harlow (Maxim Roy, Shadowhunters, 19-2), a scarily powerful creature of the dark Viv accidentally freed during her séance. With her abilities to perform spectacular feats of telekinesis and apparently stop time, there is little in the way of context to theorize on her origins—though her search for Harlow House and its possible connection to the Allens suggests a deeper, more personal history. In her limited screen time, Maxim Roy paints a vivid picture of an old, power, patient, and unforgiving antagonist whose mysterious origins is one of the few saving graces for “No Country’s” narrative arc, wholly necessary considering the frustratingly dull time it spends on the teenage populace that navigates the halls of the local high school.
I understand that, with Geoff and Viv being a major part of the show, there’s a need to explore their high school struggles. There’s nothing wrong with giving us the obligatory Mean Girls glimpse but there’s a limit to this when the property’s a Netflix drama and not some Wednesday night CW teen drama. More than that, nearly every aspect of their high school life— even Viv’s maybe-friend Cathy (Anwen O’Driscoll, Burden of Truth, Emerald Code) — are overdone exaggerations of high school kids. From Cathy dropping pop culture references every other sentence to Phillip (Praneet Akilla, Arrow, Lux-Me) playing up the popular athlete/bullying jerk, the writing lacks both emotional and creative depth. Couple that is a touch less amateurish than the characters themselves and this narrative just falls short. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t curious developments that may possibly play out down the road.
During one of his more arrogant moments of showing off (ironically portraying the entitled prick many think him to be) Geoff displays some sort of telepathy or psychic cognition where he discovers (and announces aloud) the affair his teacher’s wife had with the gym coach. To others, the comments seemed out of malice, but the outburst is even a surprise to Geoff. This hint that he (and Viv) possess supernatural powers is reinforced when Alice approaches them on the bus. Despite her skill to remain hidden/disappear, the twins turn towards the bus intruder just before Alice freezes time. Alice may be more focused on Viv and the connection they may share but it truly seems as if both may be tied to a legacy that only been vaguely hinted at.
As mentioned, “No Country” puts a big focus on the past. In a poorly executed and harried flashback, Dee and Fred’s first meeting and eventual solidification of their bond (killing the werewolf that killed her father) plays out. Though flashbacks can be a crutch, they are perfectly at home in a series like October Faction. Unfortunately, those shown in the first two episode were a mix of subpar acting and a much too disjointed tone and flow to remain effective. Sadly, these issues taint “No Country’s” overall narrative push. The pieces are there to bring a fascinating story to the table. From the questions surrounding Alice’s relation to the Allens, Fred’s discovery of an unknown symbol carved into his brother’s floor, or the shocking reveal that Samuel Allen is alive and imprisoned by Presidio, should the story take care in artfully weaving these into the season’s arc, we could be in store for a solid first effort.
Should the series be distracted by the weaker story elements — namely the entire high school elite storyline — October Faction could fall away from being a pleasant surprise and dropping into the doldrums of a poorly adapted series that had all the elements to be something special. It’s too early to tell which direction the season is headed but, for now, it has some work to do if it wants to be more than another forgettable Netflix original.
October Faction – “No Country for Old Vamps”
5 out of 10