December 2, 2021

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[Review] Nightflyers: geek trap or promising series?

The bet seemed low risk but the Nightflyers series was expected around the corner. The science fiction / horror show adapted from the novel Le Volcryn by Georges RR Martin seemed to have all the cards in hand to succeed in a sensational irruption on our screens. But the entry is as failed as the reception is mixed. You are projected into 2039 aboard the spacecraft, the Nightflyer, which must take you on a journey lasting two in order to try to establish contact with aliens. Indeed, the Earth is dying and the only hope would lie in these creatures capable of bringing a new technology that could heal the blue planet. The series is promising but it is far from renewing the genre.

If the Game of Thrones series had taken us back to a very distant past, Nightflyers projects us into a most apocalyptic future. Be careful, the series is not comparable with Game of Thrones , you will hardly be caught in the same way. If the plots are also convoluted, the scenario does not raise the level. The new Netflix series is struggling to convince.

An oppressive closed-door
It was ambitious, it must be said. What could be better than to be inspired by one of the most successful behind closed doors of cinema for the opening scene of his series? The connoisseurs of Stanley Kubrick will quickly have likened the first scene of Nightflyers to the famous ax chase that showed us a Jack Nicholson at the top of his game in The Shining . Here, we find the same type of scenario with this time, a woman trying to escape the man with the ax. Rowan (Angus Sampson) tries in vain to imitate Jack Nicholson’s facial expressions instead of trying to reinvent the scene, it’s a shame. Agatha knowing that she is doomed launches a last message in the direction of the Earth ” It’s a warning, not a distress call. Do not board the ship. Don’t bring the Nightflyer back to Earth ”. The dice are rolled, the series can begin.

After this pale imitation of one of the most emblematic works of cinema, we will go back six months to try to understand how the characters could have come to this. Unlike the Overlook which was lost in the middle of a nature as icy as it is disturbing, we are here locked in a spaceship where darkness weighs on the characters as much as on the spectators.

Everything is dark, from the color of the ship to the clothes of the characters, the air is unbreathable. The expression ” from genius to madness, there is only one step »Takes on its full meaning here. The confined atmosphere will lead the characters into the most tortured abysses of their personality. The more the series advances in the episodes, the more the characters lose control. The baseness of humanity is illustrated in its most distressing faults. This cloistered atmosphere will make everyone be wary of everyone. The Nightflyers gradually takes on the appearance of a haunted ship where the characters are chased by visions of the past that disturb reality. And we must admit that it is rather successful, you will need to take a deep breath of fresh air with each new episode completed.

A chaotic scenario
It is 2039 and the Earth is dying due to a lack of resources and a mysterious disease ravaging the planet. A team of scientists then board a spaceship called the Nightflyers to try and make contact with the Volcryn, a very advanced alien race that has managed to harness a source of energy still unknown to mankind. The members of the team take their places aboard the spaceship, each having buckled up in their suitcase, secrets which will come to light more or less in broad daylight as the episodes progress. First misstep. Dr Karl D’Branin (Eoin Mackin), the driving force behind the mission, leaves behind his wife in mourning for their daughter, Skye.

Then we have the mysterious captain of the spaceship, Roy Eris (David Ajala), who refuses to appear other than as a hologram in front of his crew. This allows him to spy on his subordinates with impunity and in particular Mel Jhirl (Jodie Turner-Smith), a woman genetically modified to become a super-human. Then intervenes the psychologist of the team, Agatha Matheson (Gretchen Mol) on board the ship to watch over Thale (Sam Strike), an L-1 telepath who would be able to establish communication with the Volcryn. In the future, L-1s are seen as dangerous beings, capable of transmitting images to you that could lead to your death. Thale is also considered more of a monster than a human, but as is often the case in a closed room,

We have just exposed you the premises of the story as it is presented in the first episode but hang in there, the series will not stop taking you from one plot to another without really transitioning and even less coordination. The expression going from rooster to donkey takes on its full meaning here. There were however some interesting ideas, things to be exploited but everything is only skimmed over and nothing is deepened. Where has the logic gone? The series only plays on the shock effects. But too much surprise kills surprise.

All the classics of the genre are served to you on a platter: telepathy, toxic spores of unknown origin, genetic engineering, tortured characters and a new species of alien that seems to control space and the world. time. But nothing helps, the scenario will not exploit any of its themes deeply enough. Nightlfyers is a collection of stories that started without ever ending in a meaningful way.

She wants to be original by using the codes of horror but there again, it is a bitter failure. Certainly, there are some gory scenes that will turn the eyes of the most sensitive souls but nothing terrifying to the point of cutting the screen. There is a little blood and a few scary scenes, but once again, the sauce does not take.

Superficial and apathetic characters
As for the characters, we can detect potential but the series never takes the time to dwell on them. Impossible to get attached to it in this context. Karl D’Branin is the only one whose past is a little explored, which draws the portrait of a man devastated by the death of his daughter. He is one of the few who are able to obtain precise memories of his life on Earth, but his behavior is so disjointed that it is difficult to rally to his cause. There are a few poignant moments, but no character can arouse real emotion.

Once again, it’s a shame. The dramatic intensity does not keep its promises. The characters lack depth. In addition, the hypersexualization of women and in particular of Mel will tend to titillate the most feminists. Once again, we have the cliché of the showcase woman. She could have a deeper role but no, we prefer to show her in the simplest device, capsizing the hearts of both men and women. The fact that she’s a super-human? Secondary, the explanations are sloppy in ten minutes. Another miss.

The series tries to put on a whole bunch of different masks without ever really adhering to them. Maybe she was too ambitious? Nightflyers is a science fiction series that wants to be different from all the others but does not convince. Season 1 ending on a cliffhanger, we hope that the (probable) season 2 will be able to fill all the gaps left by these first episodes. Season 1 misses the mark but let’s hope that season 2 will save the furniture.