To review something is, at least in some ways, to spoil it. You simply cannot talk about the quality of Art without at least giving away part of its secrets. There is pretty much constant debate over how much a reviewer should spoil, and at which point the review needs to add in the dreaded "spoiler alert." We’ve been arguing over spoilers since there was art. Somewhere some caveman got his head split in because he gave away the ending to the newest wall painting.
As a great consumer of visual art and a reviewer. I try to stay as far away from spoilers as I can. Before I watch a show or a movie, I read nothing, I watch nothing, I try to keep my knowledge about the work to as close to nil as possible. As a reviewer, I shy away from spoiling all but the simplest of details.
And yet there are times it is exceedingly difficult to give the reader an idea of the quality of the Art without giving away a large portion of its secrets. So it is with Intruders. Consider this your alert.
Intruders reminds me a bit of Orphan Black in terms of its central mystery being so important to the very essence of the show. To give away that the main characters in Orphan Black are clones is to spoil something pretty major and yet it would be merely impossible to discuss the show without mentioning its clone-centric nature. It is what the show is about. It is also something that is revealed very early in the series and while the who, when, and why they became clones remains a deep mystery, I would argue that a reviewer is very much justified in spoiling this central conceit.
Yet I remember when Season One came out on DVD there was Internet Rage over the fact that they gave away the clone business on the cover. Such are the perils of reviewing in our Internet-drenched age.
Similar to Orphan Black, Intruders has a central premise cloaked in a mystery that is almost impossible not to spoil if one wants to review the show. Intruders is a paranormal thriller in the vein of The X-Files (which is no surprise as it was created by Glen Morgan who wrote many of that series' episodes) about a secret society that figured out the secret to eternal life. No, they didn’t find Jesus or any other religious figure, but centuries ago they discovered that when you die your soul eventually finds its way into another body. The catch it that the other body has its own soul and it's not particularly thrilled to be sharing it.
This secret society, called Qui Reverti, has figured out how to bring out this other soul, stamp down the first one, and essentially live out a really long life through the bodies of others. Alright, that’s as far as my spoilers go. They develop that really rather intriguing concept out pretty far, and there’s plenty of mystery to discover as the season develops and presumably much more when we get a second one.
The myth-building gets overly complicated, confusing, and a bit ridiculous. There are large swaths of it that don’t make any sense and I’m not sure the math adds up. For example, if every dead person’s soul inhabits a currently living person how many souls do we each have, and does it keep getting more crowded as the years pass?
Our main story deals with Jack Whelan (John Simm playing an American, something we’ll have to get used to with these BBC America-produced series, I suppose), an ex-cop-turned-writer whose wife Amy (Mira Sorvino) starts acting really weird - like "suddenly develops a fondness for jazz and can speak fluent Russian" weird. Another character, nine-year-old Madison (Millie Bobby Brown - another Brit playing American) starts acting like a violent, vulgar old man.
I’ve already spoiled the reasons why for these strange changes, but the hows and the details take the entire season to explain, with mixed results. In addition to those three characters is James Shepherd (James Frain) a dark, brooding, and mysterious man (would you expect anything else from Frain?), who seems to be involved in bringing these souls back to life and sometimes executing them.
Intruders is the sort of show thats thrilling to watch but doesn’t really hold up once you start really thinking about it. In the midst of each episode, I was enthralled with the mysteries, the violence and dark mood of it all, but under the gaze of my reviewer's eye, I realize it's all held together with strings, glue, and duct tape. There just isn’t a lot of substance, or comprehensibility once you dig past its (admittedly) very creepy surface.
That surface is really well made and a lot of fun to watch. The acting is very good, and Glen Morgan certainly knows how to create a dreadful, creepy sort of mood. It's an intriguing premise and while it was obvious the writers hadn’t really thought through all of the details of that concept, it still kept me on edge through its full eight episodes. A second season has yet to be confirmed, but if and when it is, I’ll be right there ready to watch.