Based off of the cult classic film of the same name, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series sees a more in-depth and intricate breakdown of the characters and concepts bought to life from the film some years ago. The series sees a return to form for director/producer Robert Rodriguez, whose innovative storytelling provides audiences with a well-rounded, entertaining first season.
For those that are unfamiliar with the story, the series sees Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Ritchie Gecko (Zane Holtz) on the lamb from the police after a bank robbery gone wrong. The fact that Ritchie broke his brother Seth from prison, and is haunted by visions of a mystery woman begging for freedom, doesn’t make matters any easier. After a pit stop gone wrong which sees Ranger McGraw (Don Johnson) dead, his partner Ranger Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia) makes it his personal mission to stop the killers from crossing the border into Mexico. Besides the obvious freedom Mexico presents, the Gecko brothers have a meeting with the mysterious Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama), whose thirst for human blood sparks a whole new series of problems for the brothers.
Along for the ride are the Fuller family, whose impromptu family vacation is cut short when the Gecko brothers take them hostage as a means to cross the border. Patriarch Pastor Jacob (Robert Patrick) is dealing with his inner demons, especially regarding the loss of his wife. His daughter Kate (Madison Davenport) and adopted son Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo) are not only dealing with this loss, but dealing with the consequences of being around Seth and Ritchie. This of course leads to a showdown at the elegant Titty Twister, where all parties involved must work together in order to defeat, or join, the Queen Bee Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez) who is not only a demon of epic proportions, but is also looking for a prince in order to set her free (Note: Ritchie). What happens next can only be described as violent, and although not everyone makes it out alive, the stage is set for an even gorier, bloodier storyline come season two.
Some people might find the series a little slow paced, given a ten-episode arc is being entirely based around a 90 minute movie. But I appreciated the more thorough exploration of the characters, in particular the Gecko brothers, and the backstories gave great insight into understanding why they do what they do. On the flip side however there is a lot of (unnecessary) talking which deters from the action, but this is the catch 22 of television, not everything can happen all at once because then there would be nowhere to go come next episode.
Considering these characters have been interpreted before, it’s great to see the actors come into their own and bring their own flavour to these familiar characters. Cotrona, although great as the anti-hero Seth comes off as a poor man’s George Clooney, who played Seth in the original movie, haircut included. His cadence and all round voice seem Clooney-esque, and can be distracting in some scenes. On the other side of the coin is Holtz, whose interpretation of the cuckoo for cocoa puffs Ritchie is chilling and brave, if not a little demented, but he comes into his own and is definitely the standout of the series.
There are two standout episodes of the season, and they’re my favourites for very different reasons. The pilot of any series sets the foundation, the tone for the rest of the season, and with Rodriguez at the helm, the first episode is one of the best. It is a clear character study of the Gecko brothers, but done with such subtlety and offbeat humour that you immediately love these unashamedly vicious criminals. The seventh episode of the season, titled ‘Pandemonium’, is exactly what the name suggests, and it is here that the mystery starts to unravel. At the core is the bond that this mismatched group, the Geckos & the Fullers have formed, which comes to a head when they must band together to survive the rest of the night in what is basically a temple of doom. There is enough blood and guts to tide over even the most rabid horror fan, and pays homage to Quentin Tarantino’s particular brand of violence that so many of us have come to love.
It is a risk to develop a television series based off a film, but From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series successfully maps out the story and characters enough to branch out from the film and come into its own. As a whole the acting is decent, and considering the premise it’s admirable that the actors didn’t descend into melodramatic territory. This first season is a great building block for Rodriguez, who hopefully puts the same amount of energy into the next season of this unconventional series.