Published on August 14th, 2022 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
Harold Parrineau was trapped in a jail cell on Oz (1997), trapped on a mysterious island in Lost (2004) and now he’s trapped in a haunted town in From (2022).
Mid-May of this year I was invited by a friend to see Shaun Majumder perform his energetic and very funny stand-up act at the Broadway Theatre. When the show was over, my friend asked if I would like to meet him (the two met years ago doing a gig entertaining our troops). And let me tell you, he was a real dude. Friendly, excited, conversational, and Canadian as a Gordie Howe hat-trick. When I asked him general questions (where do you live now, what projects are you working on, etc.) he told me how excited he was to be a part of a new series filmed in Nova Scotia and directed by Jack Bender. I recognized Bender’s name as a heavyweight with episodes under his belt from Lost (2004), The Sopranos (2001), Alias (2001) and Game of Thrones (2016) to name but a few. That was enough to pique my interest and support Shaun’s new show (yeah, that’s right, we’re on a first-name-basis now!)
The premise of the show is as intriguing as it is simple, and while it’s nothing new to those of you who have already seen Lost, Wayward Pines (2015), or any number of Stephen King movies, it’s an effective lead-in that provides a workable landscape for future story development.
The Matthews family – dad, mom, teenage daughter and annoying, useless little Ethan – are taking an RV trip through middle-America when a fallen tree blocking the road re-routes them through an unsettling town. The family soon realizes that every road and attempt to leave the town leads them right back to the confusingly delapatated and creepy community they are trying to escape. Enter the town sherrif (Parrineau), the priest (Majumder), the woman who runs the diner and her deputy son, the arrogant tech-millionaire determined to find a way out, and Donna, the bad-ass survivor and leader of Colony House. Add in a couple of kooks and some things that go bump in the night, and you’ve got a show.
But how good a show have you got? Is From quality that’s worth the time?
The new series initially works to draw in viewers with a mysterious premise, an ominous setting, and haunting music to the opening credits (a Doris Day song covered by, most of the internet agrees, The Pixies). Personally, I came on board for Shaun Majumder and was not disappointed. The character he plays is certainly not the man I met back in May! I know Shaun from his stand-up, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and being a light-hearted, loveable goofball who is ready to poke fun at just about anything. But Father Khatri is as far from that comedic persona as can be, so it was enjoyable to see him flex his talent in what must have been a challenging task. Majumder the comedian paired with his role as the traumatized priest like watermellon and feta cheese *chef kiss*. It’s a strange, unlikely combination that exceeds expectation in all the best ways. Seriously, if you’ve never tried feta cheese on your watermelon, buckle up.
But clearly, and this is appearant from the first episode on, Perrineau is the anchor for the show’s credibility. He’s a confident, effortless actor who raises the performance level of everyone who shares a scene with him. Unfortunately, there are plenty of smaller rolls and fringe characters who’s ability to be natural on screen lacks conviction and it breaks the mood.
And then there’s the plot, or, if you prefer, lack thereof. Strangers from all over the United States who were last in Montana or California or Florida have all arrived at the same unknown destination. Some have been there a few days, others a few months, but Victor, perhaps the most psychologically affected person in town, has been there most of his life. The curiosity of where they are, as well as the mystery of supernatural creatures that come to feast on the undisciplined after dark (never let them in!) seems to be low on the investigation list. Most of the people in town just want to drink at the bar, work in their garden, eat lunch at the diner, swim at the swimmin’ hole and simply avoid being eaten alive at night. It’s a dull and defeated existence which begs the question: is this pergatory, hell, some kind of afterlife or is there a way out? This is the biggest problem as we wrap up the first 10 episodes and wait for Season 2 next year – there doesn’t seem to be any unified goal in mind for these characters. Even the obvious purpose to get out of town seems to lack focus from at least half the characters.
Clues to the nature of this environment worth exploring appear sporatically. Tree holes that work as portals, talismans to keep the canibals at bay, the mysterious function of electricity in the town and waking hallucinations that seem like warnings from beyond the grave. Some of the characters have the curiosity to investigate just like the viewer wants, but it always leads to more mysterious clues or simply an inconclusive end. And this is the problem with an otherwise perfectly acceptable show. My fear is that this type of aimless wondering is going to continue until the series is cancelled mid-stride. Just like it’s inspirational predecessors, especially Lost, viewers are lured into following something intriguing until, suddenly, we’re thrust in a new direction without insight, connection or conclusion from the previous thought. And yeah, it’s annoying.
From is like a fridge full of delicious, exciting foods. This looks good, and this looks good, and this looks good! Trouble is, there is way too many open containers in that fridge and a lot of it is going to rot before it can be properly savoured. Binge watching a show is a lot like binge eating. We need to over-consume in a single sitting because that moment and mood of total enjoyment will be lost if we set it aside too long. So I can understand if you want to devour From in just a day or two, and I can also understand if you see two or three episodes, set it aside, and forget about it. It’s really going to depend on your tastes and your mood.
The show dabbles in horror, dables in mystery, dabbles in soapy drama, but it never commits to any of them. Maybe the point was to not be defined as a single genre, but while something like Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) excelled at this and shocked the audience, it’s a recipe that’s more likely to end in mess rather than success. If you like supernatural mysteries with some jump scares, if you were a big fan of Lost, The Mist (2017) or Under the Dome (2013), From is good snack. If you’re looking for something to play along with and you’re expecting answers to a million questions, shut that fridge door now before you get sick. I don’t think even the writers on this show know where it’s going.