Just because Netflix is out of the Marvel game, it doesn’t mean it’s given up on comic book shows as a whole. Last year’s The Umbrella Academy was a successful rebound of sorts, and a very clever adaptation of the source material to boot, and this week the streamer is launching the highly anticipated Locke & Key series, succeeding where several other movie studios and television networks have previously failed in bringing the popular comics by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez to life. And then there’s October Faction, the Netflix show based on the IDW series by Steve Niles and Damien Worm. It launched last month! Did you hear about it?
No, you probably didn’t… because it wasn’t very good. Which is a shame because this thing shoulda been my own personal catnip! The trailer promised a sort of Spy Kids-meets-Supernatural vibe, in which two teenagers discover that their parents are working for a covert agency of monster hunters:
Instead, the feeling I got from the show was the same feeling I got when I watched that snowy serial killer movie, The Snowman: Namely, did I miss something? In The Snowman’s case, actual portions of the script were never filmed, so there was a reason why a movie with everything going for it (Fassbender! Twin Chloë Sevignys! Corpsicles!) remained so fundamentally disjointed. As far as I can tell, October Faction doesn’t have that kind of excuse.
Part of the issue may be in the way the series, created by Damian Kindler (Sanctuary, Krypton), diverts from the text. The cast is larger and more diverse than in the comics, which is great, but so many additions have been shoehorned into the plot that it barely resembles the source material anymore — and without that basic roadmap to follow, the show gets lost in the weeds real fast. Here’s what the show is about: Fred and Deloris Allen (played by J.C. MacKenzie, who is not Alan Ruck, and Tamara Taylor) are agents for the Presidio, a clandestine organization dedicated to ridding the world of vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and other monsters. They have two children, twin teenagers Viv (Aurora Burghart) and Geoff (Gabriel Darku), who have no idea what their parents really do for a living — just that it requires the family to move all over the world. When Fred’s father (a former Presidio agent) passes away, the Allens decide to settle down in Fred’s childhood home in upstate New York. The twins struggle to adjust to a typical high school life, while Deloris faces the bridges she burned back when she left her hometown with Fred, and Fred tries to wrap up his family’s affairs.
Things start promisingly enough, as Fred and Deloris smoke a joint and kill some vamps at the local grocery store. The action was sorta budget and the banter was charming, but it worked. It made me want to root for these characters and their secret life! It was also the only sequence in the entire show that didn’t make me regret my decision to watch. Rather than the dreaded “Netflix Bloat” dragging things out, all ten episodes of October Faction fall victim to an overabundance of plot. There’s honestly just so much happening, and none of it connects. Viv and Geoff’s school storyline, and their own mysteriously awakening powers, are completely divorced from the secretive comings and goings of their parents. Fred, who seemed so charming, suddenly cheats on Deloris — which seems like it should be an important event, but isn’t? Major actions have zero consequences. Choices are made without any justifications. Necessary conversations and other connective tissue never make it to the screen, as the episodes follow serious revelations with awkward time jumps. I’m pretty sure a major character’s hair color drastically changed for no reason. I’m also pretty sure a major character died on-screen, and I couldn’t tell until they cut to the tombstone.
There are so many holes in the logic of the show that I started thinking it was actually me — that I was suffering short, persistent bouts of targeted memory loss. Why else would I be so unable to comprehend what I was watching? Let me illustrate: There’s a particular relationship in the show that carries a lot of weight, between Geoff and his classmate, a popular jock named Philip (Praneet Akilla). Initially, Philip bullies Geoff for being openly gay, but thanks to Geoff’s burgeoning ability to see past events (and ghosts!) he realizes that Philip is also gay. Turns out Philip confessed his love to his best friend and so surprised the kid that he got into a car accident and died, leaving Philip guilty, closeted, and suicidal. Geoff literally talks Philip down off a ledge and gives him a pep talk, saving his life. Great! Now cut to, like, the next day when Geoff decides he needs to tell Philip how he knew Philip’s secret. They sit in a car together, and Geoff explains that the ghost of the dead guy asked him to save Philip, and Philip believes him. Then they kiss. Then Geoff gives him a lecture about being true to yourself, and basically pressures Philip — who was literally about to jump off a roof the previous episode! — to start coming out to his friends and family. And Philip does! He drives with Geoff to his girlfriend’s house to dump her, then to his house to come out to his parents, who actually are super supportive of their son. The problem is that they don’t approve of Geoff — who, I have to remind you, has literally only been romantically involved with Philip for like 2 hours at this point. Philip goes back to the car and doesn’t reveal what his parents said, but of course Geoff uses his powers to see their conversation for himself…
And then he accuses Philip of choosing his own SUPPORTING, ACCEPTING parents over his not-actual-boyfriend, and they fight. I mean, I guess they break up, except… were they even dating? They hated each other, like, yesterday! What is even happening! Also, please keep in mind that this is just one plotline in one episode, in which Viv and Fred and Deloris all had their own equally bonkers sh*t going on.
The twins eventually learn the truth about their parents and Presidio, and they also discover that they’re adopted and are, in fact, warlocks themselves. The dangerous woman named Alice (Maxim Roy) who has been stalking them all season is actually their mother, and she’s real upset that the very people who helped kill her entire witchy community are now raising her kids. So she casts a spell that resurrects the spirits of her dead warlock community into the bodies of the locals — but in the end, somehow Deloris convinces her that the twins would be safer if they stayed with the Allens, and Alice just lets them go? By the way, Fred’s father has actually been alive this whole time, and is being tortured by Presidio for information regarding a ritual he performed — a ritual that happens to have brought Fred’s long-dead brother back to life in the body of a cyborg? There’s a mysterious werewolf who leaves the action to bury his fallen comrade, despite the fact that he had like 20 other comrades who also died and he left their bodies behind in the woods without a second thought. Oh, and Fred dies in a shootout where everyone else was hit by tranquilizer darts except him, and then he goes to Limbo and it seems like he’s supposed to survive, but oops— time jump to his tombstone reveal.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the nonsense this show tried to cram into a season, but here’s the kicker: that’s all almost ENTIRELY original to the show itself. In the comics, there is no big bad Presidio organization. Viv and Geoff have always known that their parents were monster hunters, and they have always lived in the weird house in the small town. There’s a weird cyborg, but he’s not Fred’s brother. Heck, even their last name is spelled differently (it’s “Allan” in the comics, FYI). It’s a smaller, darker, quirkier story in the books, and while I can understand the need to throw in some more conflict and complications to the proceedings to flesh it out, I can’t imagine how anyone thought the answer was… what I just watched.
But hey, at least there’s a lingering teaser of a monster in a basement to justify a whole other season! Just kidding, Netflix hasn’t renewed the show… yet. Let’s just hope this is Netflix’s big dud of the year, and keep our fingers crossed that Locke & Key turns out a whole lot better.
Header Image Source: Netflix