By James Field | TV | September 13, 2022 |
By James Field | TV | September 13, 2022 |
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A succubus, a banshee, and a chupacabras walk into a bar. The bartender says “What’ll it be?” The succubus says “I’ll have an empty bartender.” The guy says “How do you make an empty bartender?” So the banshee screams until his head explodes, then the chupacabras turns him upside down and pours all the blood into an empty keg. The succubus leans over and says “That’s how you make an empty bartender.”
Subtle? No. Neither is The Imperfects, Netflix’s latest supernatural YA series. But unlike my bad jokes, The Imperfects is worth sticking around for. It uses only the broadest strokes to fill in its story but, like a sweaty succubus, holds an attraction that’s hard to explain.
Abbi (Rhianna Jagpal), Tilda (Morgan Taylor Campbell), and Juan (Iñaki Godoy) are 18-to-20-somethings, young adults mostly going it alone and childhood survivors of AGDT, a mythical disorder caused by “genetic drift” among humans. Long story short: sudden climate change bad, humans going extinct, and a creepy, amoral ginger scientist named Sarkov (Rhys Nicholson) experimenting on children, fixing their bad DNA with synthetic stem cells stabilized with a pill regimen. Only when the pills run out do the trio begin developing powers. Abbi the grad student becomes a succubus, with a pheromonal attraction so powerful that everyone around her becomes entirely unable to control their lust for her. Tilda, a rock band lead singer with dreams of stardom, gains super-hearing and a scream that can send people flying. And Juan, a young graphic artist just about to hit it big, gains the ability to change into a chupacabras, which here looks like a werewolf grown from a Xolo dog. With the help of another brilliant young scientist, Dr. Burke (Italia Ricci), the three search for Dr. Sarkov and a cure for their conditions, while fending off a secret government agency and a woman seeking revenge.
I’m on record as a big fan of the broad drama-comedies of the early aughts; Psych, Burn Notice, Monk, etc. You can add to that the supernatural/sci-fi shows of the same era, the sort of thing Fox and Syfy were known for back when they still spelled it right. Shows like Dark Angel. Stargate. The 4400. Eureka. They weren’t necessarily good, particularly later seasons, but they were satisfying. 43 minutes of absolute nonsense spoon-fed to you like mashed carrots to a baby. The Imperfects are like that, only with 21st-century sensibilities, a bigger budget, and HD-quality video, but only of places that resemble the Pacific Northwest.
The plot, thin as tracing paper, exists only to put these CW-esque stars in close proximity to each other. Their gifts are all double-edged swords. Abbi’s pheromones are so strong her best friends try to sexually assault her, Tilda’s sensitive hearing makes all nearby noise sheer agony, and Juan’s chupacabras is entirely outside his control. I’m now old enough that I can’t tell anyone’s age any longer, though Juan is too young to legally drink and Tilda’s just old enough to make the will-they-won’t-they dynamic a little creepy. I also felt my eyebrows go up a bit at Abbi being ace; representation is great, but making the succubus asexual feels too much like a plot device. Better a plot device than no representation at all, I suppose. Sarkov and Burke are classic mad scientists, albeit both too young to be out making monsters on their own. Everyone talks about science a lot, but not in any way that makes sense. How did Sarkov invent his stem cells? Science! How will the monsters be fixed? Science! You know the gif of Bill Nye on Dancing with the Stars?
It’s that, but even sexier.
Despite all that, the series doesn’t lack charm, particularly when Juan and Tilda are onscreen. The two work well together, and their verbal sparring is a big draw. Dr. Burke is just a little unhinged, in a way that works for a character who realizes their old lab partner used their work to create monsters. Abbi is given less to work with and is often stuck regurgitating exposition at the audience, but is still entertaining. Rhys Nicholson… Their standup is really hit-or-miss for me, and I’ve never seen their other work, so the best I can say is Dr. Sarkov is one Free Candy van away from becoming a murder podcast favorite. I think I mean it as a compliment. Their shtick is entertaining in small doses but it can be a lot. Still, he’s an interesting choice for the character and a lot more fun than some casting choices Netflix could make.
Inclusive, diverse, and oddly compelling, The Imperfects provides action and laughs. Despite being mischaracterized by Netflix as The Umbrella Academy meets The Boys, it’s neither gory nor so full of adult situations that it’s inappropriate for the 12-and-up crowd either. There’s no word on a second season yet but I’m hopeful. The show’s positives more than outweigh the goofy CGI and occasionally bad writing. If you’re a fan of the supernatural teen drama, The Imperfects is made for you.