Airing Thursdays on SyFy; watch it On Demand!
SUPERSTITION: SEASON ONE Episodes 1-5 (2017)
Created by Mario Van Peebles & Joel Anderson Thompson
Directed by Mario Van Peebles (episodes 1, 2, 3, 4), John Harrison (episode 5)
Written by Mario Van Peebles (episode 1), Joel Anderson Thompson (episode 1), Laurence Andries (episode 2), Brusta Brown (episode 3), John Mitchell Todd (episode 3), Teresa Huang (episode 4) Christopher Hollier (episode 5)
Starring Brad James, Robinne Lee, Demetria McKinney, Morgana Van Peebles, Tatiana Zappardino, Mario Van Peebles, Nick Hagelin, Ric Reitz, David E. Collier, Sarah Robson, Cindy Sherwood, Axel Roldos, Joaquin Montes, W. Earl Brown, Jasmine Guy, Myles Truitt, T.C. Carter, Johnny Ray Rodriguez
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While SyFy is getting a lot of well deserved praise for HAPPY!, they have another new series going on at the moment with a lot of heart, some decent ideas, and a fine handling of all things creepy. SUPERSTITION is a series that deals with familial relationships and tradition, and spices all of that up with a family of mystics fighting an eternal battle between good and evil.
Writer/director/producer/star Mario Van Peebles is Isaac Hastings, the patriarch of this Hastings family. With a house shielded from most dark forces, the Hastings family run a mortuary and funeral home, while protecting the small Georgia town from creatures called Infernals. Isaac is an immortal warrior who has fought the Infernals for ages. The series begins with Isaac’s son Calvin (Brad James) returning from his stint in the military. Coincidentally, an evil creature called the Dredge (DEADWOOD and PREACHER’s W. Earl Brown) also comes a knocking to the Hastings’ house eager to cause all kinds of trouble for the family. This is just the beginning of Calvin’s road to stepping up as the patriarch of the Hastings family and continuing the battle against evil has father fought for so long. Along the way, Calvin learns that while in the military, his ex-girlfriend now sheriff Demetria (Demetria McKinney) had had a daughter Calvin never knew he had named Garvey (Mario’s daughter Morgana Van Peebles). Along with matriarch with ancient Eqyptian powers named Bea (Robinne Lee) and an occult expert/mortician who is a little too NCIS Pauley Perrette for my tastes named Tilly (Tatiana Zappardino)—they all fight evil together as a dysfunctional family.
Before I get into specifics, I’m going to do a brief description and initial thoughts on the first five episodes. The pilot was pretty solid, introducing the lead characters, conflicts, and the big bad. The ending of the opener is a doozy, leaving the family with all kinds of turmoil to deal with as a lead character is killed. While some of the actual superstition aspects are heavy handed, it serves as a nice foundation for the series. Overall, I think the pilot does what it needs to do and that’s introduce investment in the Hastings family and their commitment to protect this small town which seems to be the nexus between the real world and an all encompassing evil.
Episode two, “The Dredge” is exposition heavy, but does answer some questions left dangling with the pilot. While there are some major revelations involving Isaac, his power, and his past, along with Calvin having some issues of his own, learning that he has a daughter he never knew about. Still, the way this episode ends is less of a celebration of a family reunited, but a double loss of a major character thought dead in the pilot. This felt a bit redundant in the grand scheme of things. I understand that exposition was needed in order for Calvin to find out about his destiny, but having a character die, then rise from the dead, and then leave again felt unnecessarily rollercoastery.
“Half Truths & Half Breeds” introduces a new character, a cowboy named James (Joaquin Montes), a halfbreed with Infernal powers indebted to Isaac. I wasn’t a fan of Montes in this role. It felt a bit cliched and his dynamic with Calvin just didn’t really work. There was some nice action in this episode and the introduction of a demon goddess that most likely will factor in to the storyline later. Overall, a rather tepid episode.
Episode four is called “Through the Looking Glass” and I hope future episodes are more like this one as it both deals with some wonky superstitions (this time, it’s dying in front of a mirror actually traps one’s soul) and pushes the story forward with some development between Calvin and his estranged daughter Garvey. There is some otherdimensional fun filled with emotional investment and while the episode ends with some contrivance-riddled deus ex machina, it still delivers on some supernatural fun.
The last episode I watched was called “Tangled Web” guest starring A DIFFERENT WORLD’s Jasmine Guy as Aunt Nancy, a “friend” of the family with sketchy motivations for the Hastings family. This one has some cool witchcraft going on with spiders in a jar communicating through their webs. In many ways, Guy is channeling Jada Pinkett’s Eartha Kitt impression from GOTHAM, but her character feels essential in adding some flavor to the cast. This episode also sees Calvin develop his role in the family and settle some past guilt he has about his brother who was killed during childhood.
What I like about the show is that it has a strong focus on family overcoming obstacles together. I also like the idea of passing responsibility from father to son and the importance of fatherhood in this family. Produced by Mario Van Peebles, it really feels like this is somewhat autobiographical with Mario playing a version of his iconic director father Melvin Van Peebles, and Calvin playing a younger version of Mario raising his actual daughter Morgana Van Peebles as Garvey. Because of this, this series is more potent in wholesomeness than one would expect from a supernatural series.
It’s not a perfect series. I think that as decent the acting is, there needs to be some kind of shakeup to spice things up a bit as the final scene where everyone hugs is going to get old quick. I like the supernatural elements and hope they continue to focus on old superstitions, as they really do add an air of danger. The fifth episode threatens the return of a key character, which hopefully will inject some more zest to the series. Brad James’ Calvin is a decent lead for this series, but as with the rest of the cast, really suffers from over-wholesomeness. Hints that he had a rough time while in the military suggest a bit more of an edge to this character and I hope this shows up soon.
I will be watching the rest of this first season of SUPERSTITION as I feel this series has some potential. The series doesn’t fall into the trappings of a “monster of the week,” especially with it’s commitment to developing these characters and focusing on the strength of the family. If you’re looking for a new series to get into teeming with fun supernatural elements and brandishing a genuinely wholesome attention to family, SUPERSTITION will definitely fit that bill.