I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of the best way to start writing about From. What angle to take to describe this thing. Initially I thought I could kick off with something like: ‘It’s been a long, long time since I blazed through a TV show as quickly as From.’ That wouldn’t be incorrect, as my partner and I did power through its two seasons in just over a week, with the second being consumed in just one Sunday. From’s addictive nature is definitely a core attribute, and a fine angle to open a piece about it with. But it’s not the most appropriate or accurate one.
No, I think the best way to review From is with a warning instead.
So here it is: Fair warning, if you can find a way to watch the MGM+ series, From, I very much recommend that you do, as it’s a highly effective blend of mystery and horror anchored by some dynamite performances, which is full of scares, chills, action, and human drama. It is also a show that perpetually threatens to collapse in on itself, expanding its universe with new twists and reveals and escalating terror in a way that has me making bets with myself on whether there is a grand master plan at play, or whether it’s all being made up on the spot. Will From finally manage to answer at least one of the thousand questions it has thrown up in two seasons, or will it tumble off the high wire it has built for itself? That is the question I couldn’t stop asking while watching, whenever I got a moment to breathe.
The basic premise of From is reminiscent of a Stephen King story (and indeed the writer has already expressed his fondness for the show): A family on a drive through a secluded wooded road are forced to take a detour when confronted with a large felled tree in the middle of their path. Their new route takes them into a small town that has no shortage of strange attributes, the most immediate of which are the facts that no-one who arrives there is able to leave (all exit roads eventually loop back around and lead back into town), and that—as the locals who gather around the new arrivals are at great pains to point out—under no circumstances should the family spend a single night outside. Indoors, with one of the strange talismans that every household has hanging above its door, is the only safe way to live here.
I don’t want to say much more than that bare minimum because discovery is probably From’s greatest strength. It’s that age-old horror/mystery conundrum: How compelling is the story once the threat is revealed? From remains compelling throughout, but it tap dances around that central question by revealing new threats, or new elements of the same threat, continuously. It’s incredibly moreish and moment-to-moment riveting, but it also remains fist-clenchingly frustrating. I lost count the amount of times that my partner and I screamed at the telly a variation of: ‘Just give us some f**king answers! Any answers will do! One. One answer will do!’
I never watched Lost (a show that shares some DNA with From) back in the day but I am aware that this is one of the main issues that people took with its storytelling. It knew exactly how to keep expanding the mystery and to keep viewers hooked with surprises and reveals, but when it came time to tie things together, it fell flat. My big worry is that all of the investment that From has built up in me over its two seasons will curdle and turn into disappointment if it doesn’t stick the landing. In most horror or mystery shows you can start to guess at what is behind everything, or what kind of rules we are following. From evades all of this, and this will either turn out to be because the writers are nefariously clever little bast**ds, or because they’re just nefarious. Only time will tell. For now, all I know is that I’m hooked, and desperately hope that the former is the truth. I may be in too deep now, but if asked whether someone new should give From a shot, I would definitely say yes, it’s worth the gamble.
A special credit before I finish has to go to Harold Perrineau, who plays one of the show’s main characters, Boyd Stevens, and who is an insanely charismatic and sympathetic presence who anchors the madness here with truly impressive skill. All of the cast do good work, enriching the scares with a vital humanity, but Perrineau owns every square centimetre of the screen throughout.