Nov 20, 2014

[TV] The Dresden Files: Season 1

While digging through our hard drives for something to watch, I once again came across our copies of The Dresden Files and figured it was about time to finally try watching the show. And while I've yet to read the books themselves (much to the complaints of many friends online), I figured the series might be a soft way to look into the franchise.

Knowing that this adaptation only lasted a single season was a bit of constraint in my mind for how much effort to invest into this show. The general complaints around the show have ranged from its inability to fully capture the tone of the book or just the quirky way the overall narrative was handled. But the show was never meant to be a faithful adaptation of the book series, as stressed by author Jim Butcher himself. But I don't think it's unreasonable for folks to still expect that from the show despite the warnings ahead of time.

I think the show lacked overall direction in terms of a possible meta-plot or really exploring more about the life of protagonist Harry Dresden himself. It stuck to a case-of-the-week format and did little to actually talk about Dresden's history until maybe the tail end of the series. And even then, that wasn't much. But it certainly had a decent enough humorous tone I suppose.

Synopsis: The Dresden Files is an urban fantasy television series developed for television by hans Beimler and Robert Hewitt Wolfe for the then Sci-Fi Channel. The show was based on the books written by Jim Butcher and ran for a single season.

At the center of the show is Harry Dresden (Paul Blackthorne), who proclaims himself to be a professional wizard. His time is spent either investigating individual cases that come directly to him similar to a private detective, although he also lends assistance to Lt. Connie Murphy (Valerie Cruz) of the Chicago Police for particularly unusual cases. His primary companion of sorts is Bob, a spirit that Harry "owns" by virtue of his control of Bob's skull within which is soul is magically tied to as a punishment for past crimes.

Each episode generally covers a single case including mysterious deaths or even just a boy in need of help. And given Dresden is pretty much the only Wizard who has a yellow pages listing, some quirky characters tend to come his way. But greater knowledge of the sort of occult layer to the world is not openly discussed really and a lot of these secrets are pretty much managed by the High Council that governs the wizarding community as a whole. Other cases involve more supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and even the avatar of Death itself.

I'm not sure how to feel about the casting choice of Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden. I can hear him delivering the lines and trying to portray that difficult balance of appearing to be uninterested and yet still having a good heart driving his actions. But a lot of times his efforts at being snarky and sarcastic fall a little flat for one reason or another. Thus the tone of the show feels sort of like the early days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not quite as funny.

It's hard to determine what to expect from the show given the general impressions of what a wizard ought to be. Harry Dresden definitely breaks out that mold. but what he is instead doesn't quite come across as strong. He seems more like one who only occasionally dabbles in the world of magic and doesn't necessarily have greater mastery over it. But at the same time, the show tries to stress that one can't just use magic all the time to wish problems away, which I figure might make some people wonder what the point of the show is. After all, you have a wizard as a lead character and more often than not he's just mouthing off here and there.

The show naturally started to get more interesting towards the end, particularly with the episode "What About Bob?" which finally elaborates a bit on the reasons Harry "self-defensed" his uncle to death all those years ago. It felt like one of the better episodes that actually helped round out Harry background a bit more, although this progress was quickly abandoned.

There were also the episodes that featured the vampire Bianca (Joanne Kelly), who is described to be the most beautiful and most dangerous vampire in Chicago. She certainly has the potential of being a far more interesting character given enough time, but of course the show ended before we could see a lot more of her.

On the whole, The Dresden Files was just mediocre more than anything else. It's not exactly unwatchable but it's not super compelling either, and that can become quite the critical mistake for a show's first season. Thus it only gets 3 occasional uses of magic out of a possible 5.


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