I just finished the finale of season 2 last night. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the series as a whole.
For those unfamiliar, the series is an extended retelling (season 1) and a continuation (season 2) of the From Dusk till Dawn movie, which I guess you could consider a cult classic. The basic premise of the movie is two outlaw brothers (Clooney and Tarantino) kidnap a vacationing family and use their RV to cross the border to Mexico, only to come across a strip club that turns out to be a vampire haven. Cue sexy dancers (with the spotlight on Salma) and lots of blood, gore, and over-the-top vampire killing courtesy of director Robert Rodriguez.
Right off the bat with season 1 of the show, there were elements that simultaneously drew me in and pushed me away from the series. I’m a sucker for intricate and complex fictional worlds with lots of back story, so throwing in a lot of Mesoamerican mythology and history (invented or not) was interesting. And as a horror fan, seeing them mix up the horror elements a little by changing the antagonists from average vampires into snake vampires instantly caught my attention.
But knowing that they were (more or less) repeating the story from the movie, waiting for certain events to happen was painfully slow. They really stretched some of the timeline to it’s very limit to cover the whole first season. You really have to have patience if you’ve seen the film.
Season 2 got interesting at first because they finally start getting into completely uncharted territory with the characters…. but again it seemed like they had about half a season’s worth of exposition that they were trying to stretch out over a whole season. There’s a lot of characters going back and forth talking about what they’re going to do and a few episodes in the middle of the season where the plot doesn’t really seem to progress at all. So again, patience is required.
The other big problem with the last season is that it kind of turned into a soap opera. At that point in the story, there are 4 or 5 different “sides” or factions that have separate, conflicting agendas. So many of the characters repeatedly bounced back and forth between the sides, with really no good reason to do so other than that they kept changing their minds. In other words, several characters constantly shift their allegiance throughout the season, simply because they feel like it. I guess you could say they keep having crises of conscience, but even then the show makes very little effort to actually show you that (or provide any reason at all for their flip-flopping).
Still, if you can endure all of these issues, there are some redeeming elements. The vampire fights are usually pretty fun, and the Mesoamerican stuff keeps going strong as they add more backstory to how the whole snake-vampire empire is set up. And you’ll probably recognize a lot of actors that make appearances throughout the show, some of which are in drastically different roles than you’re used to seeing them in (which is admittedly a lot of fun).
Fez from That ’70s Show is an ambitious, power-hungry snake vampire (no kidding), T-1000 plays a broken old priest dad, Machete is a headhunter with supernatural powers, the psycho from Contact and The Frighteners plays a sex-crazed professor, Marshal MacBride (who you also might recognize from several Robert Rodriguez films) is an old-timer conman, and… if you can believe it, Demi Lovato even shows up at the end of season 2.
Just don’t expect any world class acting or writing/dialog here; we are solidly in B-movie territory. In particular, it may take a while to get used to the replacement actors for characters that were in the movie (especially the Gecko brothers… it was very hard to let go of my Clooney & Tarantino mental image of them, as D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz just seemed flat-out ridiculous and laughable at times), but if you stick with it they hold their own by the second season.
I think the one shining star in the cast is the new Santanico (Salma Hayek’s character in the movie). She does a fantastic job filling the “alluring queen” role while still being able to pull out a cutthroat attitude and always looking like she’s going to rip your head off. A lot of times in action & horror genres (both TV and film), the strong female character tends to come off as more beautiful or strong & menacing, but rarely both. So I guess if there’s one reason I will continue to watch the show if/when a third season happens, it’s her.