Siren – Episode 1: The Mermaid Discovery
Starring: Alex Roe, Eline Powell, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Ian Verdun, Rena Owen
Director: Scott Stewart
Writers: Eric Wald, Dean White
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
This review CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS.
Siren, a new show on Freeform / ABC Spark, takes place in Bristol Cove, the fictitious self-named mermaid capital of the world. This first episode begins during Mermaid Days, an annual festival, during which a statue is dedicated to one of the town’s founding fathers, Charles H. Pownall who’d fallen in love with a mermaid. It’s your typical mermaid/human love story. Man succumbs to mermaid song, man falls in love with mermaid, the relationship can’t last, mermaid leaves, and man is sad. It’s a romanticized story the townspeople celebrate. But as we know, mermaids don’t exist, or do they…
Ben Powall (Alex Roe), a marine biologist finds a stranded woman on the road, Ryn (Eline Powell) and decides to help her. What he doesn’t know is that she’s actually a mermaid who’s come on land to find her sister who was captured in a fishing net and subsequently taken by military-looking men. Shouldn’t be a problem given Bristol Cove celebrates mermaids, right? Well, not so fast. Though the town brags about being the world capital of mermaids, it was actually involved in a nasty mermaid extermination event over a hundred years ago. It’s a set-up reminiscent of the townspeople on Antonio Island (The Fog) and begs the question if the mermaids are preparing their revenge.
Alex Roe (The 5th Wave, Rings) plays the role of Ben Pownall, the son who isn’t interested in toeing the family line, choosing to help distressed marine animals instead. Oh, and his ancestors were involved in the mermaid hunt. Fola Evans-Akingbola (Game of Thrones) plays the role of his work partner and lover Maddie, who is as driven to help marine animals. Ian Verdun is Xander, a fisherman who only wants answers about what happened to his friend Chris when he was taken by the same men who took Ryn’s sister. And what would this show be without a mermaid specialist to guide Ben to make right decisions about these creatures? In Bristol Cove, it’s Helen Hawkins, played by Rena Owen (The Straits).
The true star of the show is Eline Powell (Game of Thrones), who plays Ryn. She realistically conveys the sense of awe from finding oneself in a new and dangerous world. But it’s not quite a child-like awe. She doesn’t speak (not yet), nor does she understand human things or humans for that matter. And it’s clear that she doesn’t trust them, though you can’t blame her. Humans did try to exterminate them. To be clear, this isn’t Ariel (Disney’s The Little Mermaid) walking around town. Ryn is a dangerous predator who will defend herself and kill anything or anyone mercilessly. But with vampire, demon and zombie shows monopolizing the television monster landscape, it’s a fresh entry that could pay off in the long run.
Siren seems ready to use and break with some of the traditional beliefs about mermaids, which are confusing to begin with (a bit more on that below). But that leaves more questions than answers. Do mermaids marry humans? Do they lure them to sea to kill them? How long can they remain out of the water? Can all mermaids transform into human form and can they do so at will and without restrictions? And more specifically to the show itself, why is Chris being kept sedated? Is there some kind of were-mermaid shtick going on? Can mermaids be created, like vampires or werewolves? It’s new territory, and it’s exciting. If handled well, it could make the show really interesting, especially from a mythological point of view.
Sirens and mermaids are not the same things. It should be noted that in mythology, sirens are bird-like creatures (and there only three). It is mermaids who are half fish, half human. Both used their songs to lure humans to their doom and over time, the two were confused and began to refer to the half fish creature. So, even though Mermaids would have been a more appropriate title, it likely wouldn’t have had the same impact on viewers.
Verdict: Watch it.
It’s an interesting show that has yet to reveal its depth and true quality. That is about mermaids, an under-served segment of the fantasy/monster genre on television, allows it to be mysterious and bring to the table something new in each episode. Fun, though silly at times, it’s a welcomed change in the mythological creature genre.