EPISODE REVIEW: Siren S1 Ep 1 “Pilot”

Every town has a story. Every tale has a believer. Beneath the surface the truth is hiding under the skin.

SIREN S1 Ep 1 “Pilot”
Air Date March 29, 2018, Freeform Thursdays 8 pm
Created by Eric Wald and Dean White
Production Company Freeform

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What You Should Know:

Siren is a new series on Freeform starring Alex Rowe as Ben Pownall, Eline Powell as Ryn, Fola Evans-Akingbola as Maddie and Rena Owen as Miss Hawkins. It’s set in the Coastal Washington town of Bristol Cove known as “The Mermaid Capitol of the World”. Ben Pownall and his family are descendants of one of the town’s founding fathers, Charles H Pownall, who is said to have fallen in love with a mermaid 150 years ago. The series follows Ben, a marine biologist who rescues a strange young woman he finds on the road one day. As tensions mount over a missing fisherman, Ben must uncover the secrets of the mysterious girl as Bristol Cove faces looming dangers from the sea.

What You’ll Find Out:

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(SPOILERS AHEAD!)

The Bering Strait: A fishing vessel, The North Star, has just netted a load of fish, flopping around on the deck. But fish are not the only thing they’ve caught. Something else is moving about under the fish. As the fishermen surround the pile, something lashes out and strikes Chris in his abdomen. He screams out in pain. The fishermen try their best to help him. The Captain of the North Star sends for an emergency medical evac. He says something bit his crewman. The dispatcher asks what bit him. “I don’t know” responds the Captain.

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The deck is cleared into the fish hold. Something is thrashing around loudly. The men hear a high pitch sound, a woman’s ethereal singing echoing. Three of the men are drawn to the fish hatch. As they begin to open it, lights from an approaching helicopter hit them. Then Navy SEALs drop down to the ship.

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The SEALs take the injured crewman, Chris, up to the ‘copter. Then they open the hatch and tranquilize the thing inside. Against the Captain’s protests, they hoist up a fancy box with the thing inside up to the helicopter. Just off the rear bow of the ship a tail briefly flips out of the water. The same high pitch sounds can be heard.

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Bristol Cove, Washington: It’s known as the Mermaid Capitol of the World. The annual Mermaid Day Festival is in full swing. On a stage, a boy recounts the legend of Charles H Pownall, a local fishing captain who fell in love with a mermaid 150 years ago. He was enchanted by her beautiful Siren song. One day he went to the bay and his Mermaid was gone, back to the sea, never to be heard from again.

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Pownall’s great, great, great grandson, Ted, comes on the stage. He introduces his wife and two sons, Doug and Ben. Except Ben isn’t there. Ted Pownall presents the crowd with a monument to Charles H Pownall, a bronze statue.

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Ben Pownall is out on a boat, docking at another part of the cove. He has rescued an injured sea lion. Ben is soon joined by his girlfriend, Maddie, a “wild girl” his family doesn’t approve of.

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Later at the Anchor, a local bar, Ben meets up with his friend Xander, one of the crewmen of The North Star. They sit down at a table with the boat’s Captain and crewman Calvin who is against Ben being at the table. He resents Ben for leaving the fishing team. Xander tells Ben about catching “something we’ve never seen before”. And that the thing attacked their friend Chris and now there is no record of the emergency evac by the SEALs anywhere. Not even the Coast Guard has a record. Xander motions his head to a wooden totem of a Mermaid in the bar to which Ben scoffs. Xander says it didn’t look like that, it was a predator. Xander shows Ben a video on his phone. Ben says it could be anything. But it’s definitely not what they think it is.

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At a military compound, Aldon Decker is filling in Admiral Harrison on the recent events. He takes Harrison into a room to a large plexiglass water tank where we finally see what was caught…a Mermaid! And not Daryl Hannah type either.

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Ben gets a visit from his mom (who is in a wheelchair). She tells him his dad is terribly angry with him. We learn Elaine likes $600 shoes even though she is in a wheelchair. And that dad, Ted, calls her a “bitch on wheels”. She chastises Ben for not showing up and keeping the happy family pretense. She also mentions that Ben’s brother Doug told her about his seeing Maddie. “You do like the wild girls”.

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Back inside Ben’s cottage, Maddie is a little miffed Ben hasn’t told his family about their relationship…that mom learned about it from Ben’s brother.

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On the beach, Ben meets up with Xander who is disappointed Ben doesn’t boat with them anymore. And he’s worried about Chris who they still can’t find. Ben still doesn’t believe Xan’s fish story and Xander says there could be something out in the ocean that’s never been seen before.

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In the water, just off the beach, a young boy screams when a shark head comes bobbing out of the water. Ben and Maddie exam the shark head back at the Marine Center. They measure the bite marks and radius and Ben wonders if there is a new predator out there that hasn’t been seen before.

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Later, Ben is driving when a naked young woman steps in front of his truck. The girl starts to run away, her steps extremely awkward. She collapses on the ground and Ben gets her into his truck. He calls a doctor who agrees to meet him at Ben’s place. When the girl awakens she acts strangely. She doesn’t speak. But she begins singing the ethereal Siren song we heard earlier. When Ben answers the door for the doctor, the girl has slipped away.

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Ben hears the Siren song in his sleep. We next see the girl hiding out in a dilapidated boat on someone’s property. A rat pops up and looks at her. She eats the rat. She then climbs out of the boat and steals some clothes off a clothesline at the property.

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The girl heads into town, walking down the street with an almost childlike wonder at her surroundings. She happens upon a curio shop specializing in Mermaid artifacts. She walks up to the woman shopkeeper and the ethereal Siren song plays and the woman, Miss Hawkins, looks at the girl in horror. At that moment, Ben is driving by and sees the girl. He jumps out of his truck and races to the girl but she disappears yet again. Ben goes up to Miss Hawkins and inquires about the girl but she lies and says she didn’t see anything.

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The girl wanders down to the docks where the North Star is anchored. She stops and smells the net and flashes to the water where we see two Mermaids swimming through a school of fish. One of the Mermaids gets caught up in a net with the fish and pulled above. The remaining Mermaid is shown to be the girl. She screams a high pitch sound at the loss of the other Mermaid.

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At Maddie’s house, she is making dinner for her dad, the sheriff. He’s been looking into the disappearance of Chris. He says a prayer that Susan, Maddie’s mom, might find her way home.

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The returns to the property with the old boat. She takes a pair of rain boots to protect her feet which are getting cut up walking barefoot. She picks up a toy helicopter and flashes back to the Navy SEAL helicopter. She peaks through a window where a young boy is watching a cartoon with a seahorse saying “I am Ryn”. The girl repeats the words vocally. She goes away when the kid sees her and runs into a man, Donnie, working on his car.

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She says “I am Ryn”. Then she goes over and gets inside Donnie’s car. Donnie offers to give her a ride. During the ride, he begins hitting on Ryn. He pulls off the road, drinks from a liquor bottle and starts touching Ryn inappropriately. Donnie places Ryn’s hand right on his crotch. Then he jumps on top of her and starts kissing her very sloppily. From the outside of the car we see blood splatter on the windshield then Donnie’s body comes crashing through the windshield. She hisses and we see her arm drying out and starting to look scaly.

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Ryn makes her way through the forest and back to the docks and the Marine Research Center where some school kids are having a field trip. Ryn blends in with the kids as Maddie shows the children a “Fish shake” they use to feed the marine mammals. As everyone heads outside, Ryn lags behind to have a yummy fish shake.

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Outside, Maddie is introducing the kids to two rehabilitating sea lions. The sea lions are playful and friendly, waving at the kids until Ryn steps outside then they start roaring aggressively. Then Ben shows up and Ryn hisses at him.

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Ben gently talks to Ryn, saying he is Ben. She says “I am Ryn”, the first time she has talked for Ben. Ben notices her arms, much drier and scalier. Ryn is also coughing a lot. Ben calls the doctor, who, by now, must be wondering if Ben is nuts since the doctor has yet to see this girl. While Ben is on the phone, Ryn starts convulsing. She crawls on her belly out the door and onto the dock and into the water.

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Ryn sheds her clothes and also her skin! Spikes protrude from her arms, her teeth become jagged. A large fin rips through her back and her legs fuse together into a tail! Ben comes back into the room and Ryn is gone but on the underwater cameras, he can see her in her natural state. All the while, the sea lions roar. Ben runs out of the Marine Center and dives into the water with a flashlight. Ryn charges at him knocking the light from his hands. They struggle fiercely but Ben is able to grab a pole from the dock and push her away. Ben climbs out of the water and collapses on the dock. The doctor arrives and is tending Ben’s wounds, thinking it was a sea lion attack. Ben wakes up and runs to the water. There is no sign of Ryn.

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Ben goes to Miss Hawkin’s shop and she reluctantly lets him in. He tells her the story of what he just witnessed. Miss Hawkins points to the gouges in Ben’s neck. “In the water — in their natural state — they see you as prey. Their instinct is to kill. Humans never understood that. It caused a lot of misery”. She continues “Your family’s history is bloodier than you know. Your ancestor lost his mind, obsessed. He and his shipmates slaughtered those beautiful creatures in cold blood. Genocide. That’s your legacy”.

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Ben leaves the shop with a book on Mermaids. The illustrations within show the horrific mutilating of the creatures.

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Maddie is serving breakfast to her dad when he gets a call. Donnie’s body has been found. The North Star heads back to sea, this time with Ben aboard. Back at the Naval hospital, Chris is unconscious in a bed. At the North Star, they pick up a signal of something large. With harpoons in hand, the crew watches as something heads up to the surface.

What This Means For The Future:

The humans of Bristol Cove may wish they never heard of a Mermaid. Next up: “The Lure”: The crew of the North Star discovers a device attached to their ship and Ryn hides out at Miss Hawkins.

Final Thought: It’s been awhile since we’ve had an aquatic science fiction/fantasy on TV. In the sixties, there was Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. The seventies had Man From Atlantis. SeaQuest DSV ran for several troubled seasons in the nineties. And my favorite, Surface, ran for just one season in 2005. That show was about a new breed of marine species that are discovered and is threatening the world. It featured a friendly young sea serpent named Nimrod who instantly stole viewers hearts.

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Siren is much closer in tone to Surface with its frightening Mermaid species. The show is a winner on all levels in my opinion. Much more cohesive than Freeform’s recently canceled Beyond sci-fi.

The cast is well chosen, especially the lead, Alex Rowe, a bad boy looking type whose character, Ben Pownall, makes for a natural born hero who shuns the politics of family in favor of rescuing injured marine life. Eline Powell who plays Ryn has a nuance that carefully walks a balance between innocence and cold-blooded creature. Much of her acting is seen through her face — the eyes that flit around with both a sense of wonder and curiosity yet display a sense of fear and mistrust of the surface dwellers around her…all the while giving an air of intelligence, a rapid ability to learn and adapt to the world above. She seamlessly transitions from frightened waifish girl to vicious predator. You identify with her plight one moment then recoil in horror the next as the predator within lashes out. The makeup and effects are top-notch and the transformation from Mermaid to human…which could have been done with a silly magic trick…is done in a totally believable fashion. Finally, the Siren song is done as an ethereal background sound rather than having her belt out the songs like she were the Little Mermaid. I highly recommend watching this fresh and entertaining fish tale.

Rating: 10/10

Siren airs Thursdays at 8:00 on most Freeform stations. Check your local listings.

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