Frankly Critic: Mystery Edition

Ok. Long form thoughts on the first episode of [redacted] (Tried to avoid any spoilers for show)

Tl;dr. Show is pretty good. In general, I wish [redacted] adaptations leaned more into the fun side and didn’t try to be so dark. Also, Mysterious Benedict Society slaps. Also, also, this show also slaps. I wish I was asleep right now.

The show leans into the “spooky” and away from the “kooky” that characterized the original show. It struggles to maintain a consistent tone, alternating between blatant cliché and truly kickass scenes.  The epic scenes are amazing, and the clichés were so blatant I almost didn’t care?? Net positive. Looking forward to watching more later. 

I think the show missed out on a deeper exploration of what it means to be [redacted]. That exploration has been missing from several of the more recent adaptations. 

Over the years, the public perception of the essence of [redacted] has shifted and taken on a darker tone. It appears that the show is contributing that trend without looking back on the original source material. 

This shift could be due to changes in acceptable media standards through the eras. The original show had to be lighthearted to avoid the shock value that happens when one takes [redacted] as reality. They were nonsensical and goofy and spooky, but the viewers were always in on the joke. [redacted] was quirky, but in a relatable way. 

More recent adaptations have leaned hard into the “grim-dark-spooky” aspects. In the process, they lose that spark of absurdity that made the original so delightful. Viewers can’t always tell if they’re in on the joke, or if [redacted] is off their rocker. (Side note: I did appreciate how well the show portrays internal family conflicts while maintaining an “[redacted]” vibe.)

There’s also the struggle to define [redacted] dynamics. How do you portray a loving family that has a completely different set of values than the ones held by your audience? How do you make that appealing and not disconcerting? Especially because the audience is all the “normal people” who would be very confused/scared if they ever met an [redacted] in real life. 

Trying to lean into the grim dark while maintaining a comprehensible and appealing [redacted] dynamic is a very thin line to walk. Because as you make [redacted] palatable to a general audience through exaggeration and comedy, you remove them from reality (turn them into *characters*) so your audience doesn’t have to think through the implications of [redacted]’s very existence. 

Grim-dark portrayals rely on making things nitty-gritty realistic. Combining that with a family of fiction often creates something that feels garish. The tone feels confused and inconsistent because the show is inevitably trying to mash two very different vibes together. And they don’t coexist, so the tone just flops back and forth like a dying fish. It requires heavy suspension of disbelief to get through without cognitive dissonance. 

Want a show that really maintains the same set of spooky-fun vibes throughout? I highly recommend “The Mysterious Benedict Society”. It’s quirky and off-kilter and Good. Just the complete visual and story cohesion is amazing. 

With all that said, this show looks really awesome. Costumes are amazing, and the actor playing [redacted] is incredible. The thing I’m harping on is a structural issue inherent to any adaptation of [redacted], and I actually think they’re doing a decent job handling it. This show could have been so, so terrible, but it’s not! It’s actually pretty great. And the costuming is ✨immaculate✨

It’s 1:30 am, and I can’t sleep so maybe take all of this with a grain of salt. Ok, hopefully good night.

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