Sunday, June 10, 2018

Siren, Season 1, Episode 8: Being Human

This episode is both very moving and emotional… and kind of frustrating.

Nearly the entire focus of this episode is on Sean’s funeral. That would be Xander’s dad, a man whose name I didn’t even know before this. Which is kind of the problem - because we’ve got all of these characters gathering round and grieving and being all emotional and reinforcing their own connections and it’s all kind of weird as a watcher because I didn’t know Sean, I wasn’t even slightly invested in him. In fact, I barely know most of these people and their pain is pretty meaningless to me. I feel like a stranger who just gatecrashed someone else’s wake and I should find some polite way to excuse myself and leave via the back door

And it isn’t just that I didn’t know Sean, there is an issue that most of these side characters are not well developed or important. The plot has focused super closely on Ben, Maddie and Ryn. I’ve seen Ted in passing but the tension between him and Sean’s wife Patty, his history of once being a fisherman himself with Sean, his relationship with Elaine his wife (which seems to have vastly changed since the first episode when they were portrayed as barely tolerating each other). I mean, am I supposed to care about Ted and Elaine? Are they important? Do they matter? Or there’s Cal, who has sex at a funeral and beyond the fact he doesn’t like Ben, do I know anything about this character or care?

We just have a whole lot of emotional moments between characters who haven’t really been established enough for us to really care about. Like Chris saying how utterly traumatised he is by all the mermaid stuff so he’s going to move to Iowa (Or Idaho. I forget which and don’t care enough about this character to check)... which would, I’m sure, matter if I thought of Chris as more than a glorified extra.

Or we have the moment when Patty turns on Ted as working them all to death and the cause of Sean’s “accident” with his pressure which means Ted realises he’s no longer seen as “one of the guys” but Ben stands up and speaks for him because the strained father/son relationship is still there. Or Xan drunkenly talking about “them” taking his dad. Or Helen ominously discussing family history with Ted. I mean all of these moments and toasts and talk about the community are really powerful and would be great in, say, season 3 after we’d spent some time investing in these characters - but there’s no emotional connection here.

More important is Xander and Ben falling out because Xander sees Ryn and learns that Ben is working with mermaids. He also learns this about Maddie but Maddie is still the one who tucks him to bed with him throwing in some awkward flirting which is a storyline no-one needs.

There’s also a really awkward theme: Ben is super super upset about Sean dying and has started to blame all mermaids, Ryn included. He thinks about her as being more animal than human especially thinking of how she behaves in water.

Maddie is still team Ryn and tries to educate Ryn about funeral practices among humans and while Ben is continuing to blame Ryn, Ryn goes to the funeral to prove she cares and is human. This cumulates with Ryn telling Maddie how her people care for their dead, showing parallels and Ben is convinced Ryn is human and “not like the rest of them”. Ben asks her to sing to him - which is ominous

The problem with this storyline is a) Ryn asserting her humanity and insisting she’s part human and part animal. But she’s not. She’s a mermaid. Why not have her asserting her own species’s culture, behaviour and beliefs? They’re not part animal/part human - they’re an intelligent species in their own right. Also this whole “you’re violent and predatory therefore clearly an animal” pretty much ignores, well, humanity. Just all of human history. Humans are not less violent or dangerous than animals, obviously.

And b) this whole debate is less “are mermaids evil” but more “is Ryn special and not like the rest”. Ben doesn’t realise that mermaids are sentient beings and not the enemy. He realises that RYN is a good person and not the enemy. Ryn doesn’t assert that mermaids are good people, she asserts that SHE is.

This is made more problematic by three mermaids coming to shore clearly planning lots of nefarious things. One is Donna. One is the Black man who killed Sean. And one is an Asian woman. While Ryn, the White mermaid, is asserting she’s “not like the others” and is one of the good ones and not an animal, we see those Others, threatening, violent and animalistic

This is a growing theme: Ryn, the nice White mermaid is the Good One. Donna and her fellow POC are the dangerous, animalistic violent mermaids are bad