Since time began we have lived in the shadows of the moon, in the blood of the earth. Today we will rise and the world will be ours. Beyond dark and light, beyond fire and water, beyond dusk and dawn.
So begins the pilot episode of Robert Rodriguez’s retelling of iconic vampire movie From Dusk Till Dawn, by himself an Quentin Tarantino. The words alone send a chill down the spine, but the lilting and decidedly sexy timbre of Eiza González’s voice lend it an unearthly and ambiguous tone. It’s at once intriguing, disturbing, and infused with evident anguish.
Quite the combination.
For those familiar with the film, the pilot is fairly predictable, though still highly entertaining. With the exception of the opening scene, the majority of the episode retells the opening scenes of the film.
But what an opening.
A woman (Eiza González) runs in terror through a jungle, pursued by fanatical tribesmen who herd her into a trap: a snake pit from which there is no escape for the young beauty. She’s repeatedly bitten by innumerable snakes before a huge python forces its way down her throat.
I’ll get back to the disturbingly phallic symbolism of that in a later post, for now, on with the episode!
The pilot sets up the first series of From Dusk Till Dawn, which was a ten episode run. For the most part it repeats the setup of the film: the infamous Gecko brothers, Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Richie (Zane Holtz), are reunited after the latter busts the former from prison. They almost immediately set about robbing another bank, but ran into a snag due to Richie’s decidedly itchy trigger finger and increasingly erratic behavioru. The cause of Richie’s unreliability appears to be a fairly serious mental disorder. This is another thing I’ll cover in a separate post at a later time. For now, suffice to say the boy has issues.
Among other things he’s hallucinating a beautiful woman repeatedly asking him to set her free.
The episode kicks off as the pair stop at a liquor store in the aftermath of the bank robbery. We learn they have killed four rangers and two police officers in the incident, and due to Richie’s paranoia the have a run in Texas Rangers Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia).
Needless to say things go from bad to worse to bat shit crazy from here.
The remainder of the episode focuses on events in and near the store, including some titillating flashbacks to the bank job itself, and some less-than-interesting flashbacks about Earl to give us some character background on the over-the-hill ranger and his protege, who has a new baby daughter.
The quartet stand-off in a show of bloody violence and sharp wit while two girls and a the store’s sales assistant are caught in the middle. We also me Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama), a decidedly creepy character who is evidently far more than he seems. It’s not short of action or emotional impact, both from the cops and the Gecko boys. Threats, promises and a hail of gunfire set up the action for the rest of the season.
Just as the original film was a by the book (though highly entertaining) crime flick that segued without warning into vampire horror fest half way through, the pilot feels more like an episode of Justified or Sons of Anarchy for the most part than it does a vampire TV show. The opening sequence, a few tantalizing glimpses of Mesoamerican mythology, and the mysterious woman Richie is seeing are the only indications something more is going on.
The acting is very good overall. Johnson plays a particular convincing Earl, while Cotrona brings a more humane side to Seth Gecko that was lacking in Clooney’s deplorable (though undeniably charismatic) portrayal. On the flip side, Holtz makes for a far more convincing and psychotic Richie than Tarantino managed.
Overall a strong beginning for the show. For those familiar with the film, it is fairly predictable, but fresh and enjoyable enough to be thoroughly worth the watch regardless. It also sets up the series to come, which as we shall see in future weeks diverges from the original film in several ways…