Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sinbad, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Sinbad and his brother, Jamil are in Basra and making a living while up to no good. Sinbad pretends to lose in a fist fight, so his brother can get excellent odds , then suddenly turn the fight around to fleece a bookie. A simple con – but it doesn’t end simply as his opponent bangs his head at the end of the fight. He seems to recover, Sinbad and Jamil leave, but then (under the menacing gaze of the sorceress Taryn) he slumps and died.

In the market, they indulge in some pickpocketing with the help of a friendly corrupt guard, stealing a case from Nala and her father (wealthy visitors to the city) – though inside the case there is only an odd, hairy totem.

Of course, since Sinbad is a hero, he has been indulging his crooked ways for good purpose – to support his elderly grandmother and his catatonic mother –because you can’t have a hero who is a thief through greed or even to save himself – he has to be stealing for other people to make him a redeemable character. Bonus points if the people he’s stealing for are elderly, children or helpless.

But it catches up with him – first with his grandmother having a vision from the coins that the money is blood money – money earned through killing (which is a surprise to Sinbad who didn’t know he’d killed his opponent). And then by the guards battering down their door, chasing them across the city and eventually capturing them.

Lord Akbari, the father of Sinbad’s dead opponent, is grieving for his son, being supported and comforted by his brother, the Emir, making a him powerful man one does not want to annoy. Lurking around is also the Sorceress Taryn (she who cast her magic eyes on the fight) who laments that they don’t have the magic to bring the dead back any more, since the Emir is encouraging science instead of magic.

He wanders down to the cells to tell Sinbad that his opponent in the fist fight is dead, and surprise, he was Lord Akbari’s son! And the Emir has very kindly let Lord Akbari decide how justice will be done in this case, how very nice.  Realising how well and truly screwed he is, Sinbad begs for his brother’s life – accepting his fate. So Lord Akabari… has Jamil killed and makes Sinbad watch; killing Sinbad’s loved one to make up for Sinbad killing his.

Sinbad isn’t without his tricks and, during the night, he manages to overcome one of the guards and escape home – where his grandmother watches over his brother’s dead body. His grandmother is grieving – and blames Sinbad for his brother’s death. Through tears she curses Sinbad to drift so he cannot spend more than a day on land – so he can learn and find atonement. She binds the curse in a locket around his neck, just as his friend the guard shows up to help him leave the city.

At the docks he stows aboard a ship where he runs into Rina, also sneaking about below decks to steal – who is very upset at them setting sale before she can escape. And he runs across Anwar, the ship’s doctor who is near incapacitated with sea sickness. The earnest and good doctor goes to get Sinbad some medicine, conscientiously mentioning to the Captain that one of his passengers is injured and in the hull.

Who promptly has him dragged out the hold to explain his presence, and offers him a coin toss, the result of which means Sinbad gets to remain as part of the crew, on minimum rations and comfort, until they reach the first port. Something Nala, one of his passengers, objects to – since she was the one he pickpocketed in Basra (not blessed with the best luck, is he?) which ends up with Sinbad in a cell instead.

That night there is a storm and a lot of water ends up in the cargo hold; no-one seems very excited about it, but the doctor does worry about Sinbad, who promptly tries to capture him to get out of his cell – which is rather anticlimactic since the doctor was willing to let him out anyway. Apologies are interrupted on account of the water bubbling – which finally worries them. Then there forms a great big monster made of water – which is very very very worrying indeed. Especially when it eats one of the crew with the newly arrived Nala next on the menu. Sinbad steps in to lure the blind creature above decks, away from Nala.

Above deck there are many more storm demons , one of which eats Nala’s father; the storm itself gets worse, including a massive wave. Losing crew, the Norse trader and passenger Gunnar has to step in and instruct Sinbad to help them survive a massive wave

One minute drama then we flash to the next day, the storm finally passed (a bit abrupt, but effective) and the aftermath of the storm, the huge wav and the demons. The captain is dead and so are most the crew; leaving only Gunnar, Sinbad, Nala and Dr. Anwar alive on deck. Nala begins to talk about the totem Sinbad stole – but the ship is listing, flooding below decks  - time for the next crisis. Below the hold, there is a leak and they need to seal the hatches to stop the water getting any higher – but Rina, the stowaway, had hidden down there and has her leg stuck – time for Sinbad to get her loose while the doctor melts tar with the help of the cook, the only other survivor. Saving Rina involves lots of passing air to her mouth-to-mouth (obligatory love interest has been discovered). After a vision of his brother (possibly involving Nala’s box) he manages to pull her free and Gunnar drags him out. Crisis averted.

Though Rina does wonder where they are…

Back in Basra, Sorceress Taryn tells the Emir and Akabari that she cannot find Sinbad; Akabari snarks about her not being powerful enough and the Emir points out that Akabari’s had a life off Sinbad, the debt is paid. But Akabari is not satisfied and is determined to find Sinbad

Well that was action packed – and a very good introduction to the show and a taster of what’s to come, I suspect. I don’t think we’re going to get much meta-plot here, more going to be action action and more action with mystery and wonder on the side while Akabari shows up to plot. It was a fun, swashbuckling watch though, but I suspect it may be shallow in the long run

It’s still a shame that we had to have the old chestnut of “they’re going to cut your hand off!” to theft that seems to have to be shoe-horned in to story. Can we have a story set in the medieval middle east that doesn’t involve hand cutting? Other than that, I think there was a decent sense of place without trying to present it as especially “barbaric” as is so often desperately common (yes, the Emir’s justice is hardly fair – but in medieval stories is any King’s justice fair?)

It has nicely introduced what I assume is going to be the main crew: Sinbad, Gunnar, Rina, Nala, Anwar and Cook. It was well done.

Inclusivity-wise, it has a decent amount of racial inclusivity. Yes it’s Sinbad – of course it should include many POC right? Hah, if you believe that you haven’t watched much television. But yes this does seem to have a decent number and the only one who looks problematic so far that I can see is Cook (having no name and with his dragon mark).

The women may be more fraught. The recurring characters seem to be the sinister and manipulative sorceress Taryn on the bad guy side. With the good guys we have Nala and Rina (who, I suspect, has already been set up as a potential love interest) both of whom have already been rescued by Sinbad –in the pilot, after knowing him for a few minutes. That’s pretty impressive and doesn’t bode well.

Still, a good pilot – this could be interesting.