Monday, 16 July 2012

SINBAD, 1.2 – "Queen of the Water-Thieves"

Monday, 16 July 2012

Sky1's new fantasy drama looks terrific, but Sinbad isn't engaging us with the lead character and his shipmates. I don't actually recall anyone's name beyond the hero (without looking up the credits), and it confuses me that episode 2 largely kept Sinbad (Elliot Knight) away from the rest of the regulars. This week, Sinbad and the crew of The Providence were captured by an island tribe of Water-Thieves, with Sinbad taking a liking to their autocratic leader Razia (Sophie Okonedo) while his friends were imprisoned and forced into a duel to the death. So it was down to Sinbad to try and win Razia's affections, while perhaps freeing the giant vulture she keeps locked up inside her lair. A decent enough basis for a story, but it all fell rather flat for me. There just isn't much spark to any of the dialogue, and the storyline did very little that hasn't been seen before. And why did Sinbad tell Razia about his grandmother's curse? If he's going to willingly tell the villains about his fatal weakness, he won't last long in this buccaneering lark!

It's early in the show's life, of course, but you'd think the writers would be more focused on making us care about Sinbad and get him interacting with his shipmates to built a rapport. Instead, we're already being dropped into humdrum situations you feel you've seen a thousand times before in this genre, with very little that's unique and thought-provoking to pull you through. I was hoping Sinbad wasn't going to be a show where ingredients have been cynically thrown together to find success (famous legend + hunky actor + gorgeous locations + excellent CGI = surefire hit), but that's what it feels like right now.

We really need a big rollicking adventure for Sinbad and his friends to go on, to make them connect with each other, and get to see the group dynamic at play. At the moment, I don't know who any of these people are, and don't buy into their adventure because, frankly, why should I? What's Sinbad's goal? Is it to return home with honour? How does he plan to achieve that exactly? Is it to just have his curse lifted by any means possible? Or is it to defeat Lord Akbari (Naveen Andrews)? Maybe it's all of the above, but it's all annoyingly vague where it should be crystal clear. I don't feel Sinbad deserved to be cursed, therefore I hate his grandmother, and because Akbari's already evened the score by killing Sinbad's brother his need for more revenge just feels strange. I guess Sinbad's brother had to die, to turn his grandmother against her own grandson and curse him, but it feels like the concept is tied into unnecessary knots. It really needed to be much simpler. Why didn't they just have Sinbad accidentally kill Akbari's son, forcing him into becoming a fugitive to escape Akbari's punishment, thus disgracing his family, and then get cursed in some unrelated way?

I wasn't too impressed with this episode, as you can undoubtedly tell. At least the location filming in Malta gives Sinbad a big-budget Game of Thrones feel, the digital effects by Primeval's Impossible Pictures are fantastic, I like newcomer Knight in the role, and it's clearly attracted some talented guest-stars, but it feels like the story and characters haven't been given as much attention. I don't think the writers were blasé about making this show, but it puzzles me that more emphasis hasn't been placed on ensuring we care about the Sinbad and company. The BBC's Merlin also had a shaky first series, but you were instantly involved with the characters, and that helped keep you watching despite some very poor episodes and iffy creative decisions.

Sinbad really needs to give us something to latch onto, beyond glossy visuals, because I can see its target audience growing bored quite rapidly. It needs more focus on character, better plots, snappier dialogue, a winning group dynamic, and palpable chemistry between the actors... is that too much to ask for these days?

written by James Dormer / directed by Andy Wilson / 15 July 2012 / Sky1