Sunday, 16 February 2020

TV review: October Faction, Netflix (2020)

I was sceptical about this series and initially watched about 20 minutes of ep 1 then stopped because I found the acting stagey and inauthentic. After I came back to it on another day I was engrossed. I absolutely loved this miniseries, which runs to 10 episodes, and the following tweet shows that others had the same reaction.

The supernatural is so compelling to humans, and always has been. Last month, for example, I went to see an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales dedicated solely to Japanese supernatural figures as depicted in art over the centuries. There is something universal in the quest to explain the world in a way that chimes with our senses, our feelings, and our minds. Such simple everyday things as birth and dreaming provide, it seems to us, evidence of life beyond the material existence, an existence that can bore and frighten and confound us.

‘October Faction’ has some really good performances. There are four main leads. Tamara Taylor and JC Mckenzie play Deloris and Fred Allen, a married couple who belong to a shadowy, powerful organisation called the Presidio. Their children, Vivian (Aurora Burghart) and Geoff (Gabriel Darku is especially good) are twins aged 17. The family has just moved back to upstate New York after a posting in Osaka, and Viv and Geoff are enrolled in the local high school.

While in town, Deloris and Fred come across supernatural activity that alarms them. A warlock named Alice (Maxim Roy) appears, upsetting the Presidio, but things are not how they seem and with the help of Viv and Geoff, Deloris and Fred begin to ask questions about their lives that they had never had cause to ask before.

I can’t say much about the plot due to the risk of revealing essential elements to people who haven’t seen the series yet and who might want to, but a general observation can help readers of this post understand the kinds of issues this series deals with.

Fantasy helps creative people who want to tell a story because it allows them to make distinctions between people that are meaningful for the audience without resorting to reality. This is useful because reality can be messy, and can unearth undesirable emotions in people depending on which group they belong to, emotions that can trigger ennui. Fantasy lets you discuss such things as prejudice and discrimination at arm’s length, as it were, and to confront personal issues with a clear mind. It gives you a fresh pair of eyes.

In ‘October Faction’, additionally, there are secondary themes around bullying and homosexuality that add drama. Anwen O'Driscoll as Cathy, a girl who befriends Viv, and Praneet Akilla as Phillip, a boy in whom Geoff takes a romantic interest, help the filmmakers provide depth to two of the leads.

There are other themes explored in this drama, such as heritage, authenticity, our ties to the past, and the meaning of a good life. I was thrilled by the action at many points, especially near the end, so I have to congratulate the makers of this series for a job well done. Who said America isn’t great …

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