An FX on Hulu Exclusive
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted December 27, 2022
I can recommend this TV adaptation of Octavia Butler's Kindred, even though it isn't as good as the book. It has always been easy for me to visualize while reading, and Butler's prose is lucid, compelling, mesmerizing. It also helps that it is written in first person, so we get into Dana's head from the very beginning. One thing that limits the show's effectiveness is it only covers about half the book, and it hasn't been renewed as of this writing. They could have completed the story with just a couple of more episodes, or just longer episodes, if they had not burdened it with extra characters and events. I tried my best to avoid spoilers in the book review, and I'll try to do that here as well, but I think it's safe to mention a few of the additions. First, in the book Dana and Kevin had been married several years, in the show her trips to the past begin on a night that could have been just a one night stand. All of the scenes with her neighbors, her aunt and uncle, and Kevin's sister are original to the show. There are also a couple of extra characters in the past, including Dana's mother, who had died when Dana was very young, but the book never implied Olivia had gone to the past before her daughter.
EDIT: Sad to say, but Hulu has already cancelled it. I still recommend it, and urge you to watch and spread the word, since it is possible Hulu will change their mind, or someone else might pick it up for a few more episodes.
The strongest element of the show is its lead actress, Mallori Johnson. Doubly impressive since this is only her second acting credit, the first coming earlier this year, with another in post production. Unfortunately I can't say the same for Micah Stock, who plays Kevin. He's generally listless, too passive, both in the present day scenes and the past. Hard to believe Dana would be attracted to him, and I don't mean just because he's white. Maybe just the window of opportunity, since she was upset about how her aunt and uncle reacted to her move to LA, and he was sympathetic and available. Then when her ordeal starts, and he is caught up in it with her, it's convenient for him to pose as her owner, so they continue to be tied together even if there isn't any chemistry. Ryan Kwanten, Gayle Rankin, and David Alexander Kaplan are servicable as Tom, Margaret, and Rufus Weylin, their performances a bit cliched even though they do a good job embodying the characters as written by Butler. If the show is renewed, Kwanten and Rankin will have to have considerable aging makeup applied, and a different actor will need to be hired for Rufus.
The production values are strong; sets, costumes, props, and cinematography. The past comes alive as well as in any major motion picture, even though I'm sure the budget was quite a bit less than what would have been spent for a theatrical feature. The story is timely and relevant, which is unfortunate, since we should have been able to stop telling it a long time ago, but too many people have ignored other attempts. Not as graphic as some other films and TV have been, but still enough to be upsetting. As it should be. The cruelty of slavery should never be forgotten. The indifference of a certain segment of the population to the telling of the story should also not be forgotten, it should continue to be told, and they should be forced to witness it. I wish it was otherwise, but sadly it's not. It will be a shame if Hulu or their parent company Disney doesn't renew, but that will depend on the number of viewers and how much social media chatter they notice. I've already sent an email to Disney about it. If you have Hulu it should be on your list. Eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each not counting credits. Another eight would do justice to the story, bringing it to its inevitable, but very violent, conclusion. Go watch it, and help spread the word.
My review of the novel.
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