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'Wreck' Doesn't Come Together

By Alison Lanier | TV | March 21, 2023 |

By Alison Lanier | TV | March 21, 2023 |


Wreck, a six-part British horror series now streaming on Hulu, has a refreshingly diverse cast and focus on young, queer people’s stories—but the whole show doesn’t come together into the cohesive vehicle it could have been.

We follow Jamie Walsh (Oscar Kennedy), a new recruit on the Sacramentum—a massive cruise ship with all the amenities, including overworked, hard-partying staff who go missing, one by one, with alarming regularity. That’s why Jamie’s there in the first place: his beloved sister, Pippa (Jodie Tyack), went “missing” as a crew member on the same ship, and he’s crept on under a false name to try to find out what happened to her. The massive corporate cruise line claims she jumped—but given the intro sequence in which she flees a murderous yellow-ducky mascot with a knife, we can rule that one out pretty quickly.

Jamie makes alliances onboard, primarily Vivian (Thaddea Graham), a fellow new recruit, Cormac (Peter Claffey), a big himbo whom Jamie is impersonating on the ship, Olly (Anthony Rickman), Jamie’s plot-relevant love interest, and Rosie (Miya Ocego), the ship’s Cher impersonator and Cormac’s heartthrob ex. The menacing ship leadership—Donald Sage Mackay as the ship’s director and Harriet Webb as the crew manager (named, pristinely, Karen)—join with officers Beaker (Warren James Dunning) and Sam (Louis Boyer) for a terrifying diorama of stern corporate power.

The ship crew operates a bit like a cross between a giant frat/sorority and a prison. Hijinks ensue. Alliances are formed. Conspiracies are unveiled. Duck masks become more and more unsettling.

One thing the show feels spot-on with is its queer representation. Vivian and Jamie bond over their struggles as queer youth; Vivian fled a homophobic home situation for this miserable escape hatch of a job, and Jamie is “kind of” out back home, where his whole family was Pippa and their alcoholic widower father. The central, meaningful romantic relationships of the show are queer, rather than coming off as tokenish window-dressing parallel to the main action.

Wreck keeps its tongue in its cheek with dark humor beats in a cartoonishly saturated cruise ship setting, with the cinematography and editing working overtime to land visual cues and hints. I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the show’s visual tone. The characters are precisely acted and the pitfalls of that cartoonishness sometimes appear at very inopportune moments, however: when a murderous yellow-ducky mascot is dragging a perforated body down a hallway, for instance, there’s no bloody mess on the stabby duck or on the carpet behind the bleeding body. And the whole moment feels fake instead of creepy.

So here’s the mean thing I was thinking the whole time: the writing just isn’t as smart as it thinks it is. The visual framing and character acting of the show as well as its rhythm and editing keep the humor alive, with some nice riffing on horror as a genre, but the writing lets all the air out. The number of limp jokes is grating at a certain point. I get we can’t have White Lotus in every show about rich people on vacation, but even without that bar, the writing didn’t sing.

It does feel like the show tried to get away with a lot narratively, in terms of how careful the plotting and shocks were, while other departments appeared to be working overtime. Maybe that tees me off specifically because I really care about writing. Or maybe just because everything else was just at that higher level, and the writing let it down.

Wreck is an entertaining, visually interesting adventure that will take you on a horror binge getaway, but don’t expect to be blown away.