The Bar Loves "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series"

So, Netflix recently released Season 3 of FDTD and I ignored it as usual because the original films did nothing for me, and I couldn't see how or even why they would translate those films into a show.  But then, I remembered Brandon Soo Hoo was supposed to be on the show.  I found out he's a member of the main cast and has been for all three seasons thus far.  When you think of how rare that is for Asian Americans in Hollywood, I decided to give it a try.

I got hooked right away; I binge-watched like a crazed junkie for days straight, and am just now restarting Season 1.  For one, Quentin Tarantino has nothing to do with the show, which puts it squarely in the hands of Robert Rodriguez, who came up with the original story in the first place.  The series expands on that story, evoking Mesoamerican mythology and thus giving us a much more interesting version of vampires (and later on, other demons and gods).  The story is set in the deserts of Texas and Mexico, the dialogue has a lot of Spanish in addition to various Mesoamerican languages and dialects, and the soundtrack is bangin', featuring both tracks and actual appearances by Rodriguez's own band, Chingon (you remember them).

Most importantly, FDTD boasts a mostly brown cast.

In an age where it's hard to get people to notice a show and then watch it faithfully (much less write about it), one of the smartest things a showrunner can do is make sure the cast is as diverse as humanly possible.  The inclusion of Brandon Soo Hoo has not only got me watching the show, but also blogging about the show and telling all my friends and relatives.  I can't stress that enough. 

At first I was cynical about Soo Hoo's character, the equally cynical and smart-mouthed teenager Scott Fuller.  I didn't feel the writers were giving him enough to say and do, but I blame the original film, off which Season 1 is based.  The movie did this character no favors, and I think the writers had to find a way to work with that.

Also, as with the movie, there were these annoying lapses in judgment where the writers felt the need to constantly point out/remind the audience/call attention to the fact that Scott Fuller is Chinese, whether through his adoptive sister bringing up the fact he's adopted (no duh), or some asshole hurling racial slurs, or someone making comparisons between him and Bruce Lee, or having to correct someone who nicknames him "Tokyo Drift."

Writers...stop doing that. You don't need to explain the character's "Asianness" to us.  You don't need to apologize for casting an Asian American, because that's what you're really doing when you keep bringing it up every five seconds: you're pleading with White fandom not to have a meltdown. 'Cause let's face it - the folks with melanin? We don't care.  You had us at "cute Asian guy".  We don't really need any "explaining" beyond that.

Luckily, once the Season 1 storyline was resolved, that nonsense stopped.  By Season 2, Scott Fuller character is drastically upgraded and revamped and turned into one hell of a bad-ass.  Like, I didn't know Brandon Soo Hoo had skills like that.  And while I knew he was a talented actor with so much promise (and a hopefully bright future), his performance, his facial expressions, his ability to connect with another actor so meaningfully with just his eyes, left me in speechless awe.

As I mentioned earlier, he's been on the show for all three seasons, but his Facebook page is quiet, the number of fans are far too few, and if you Google him, almost nobody's interviewing him, there are no adoring fansites dedicated to his character, and why you pause to consider how blindingly cute this guy is, why aren't more people talking?  And by people, I specifically mean POC - how come nobody emailed me???  Did y'all just not know about this?

***



***

Brandon Soo Hoo was absent from quite a few episodes at first, but since the show is predominantly brown, I was forgiving.  How couldn't I be, when I had Jesse Garcia and his intense amber eyes?

Garcia portrays Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is a descendant of the otomi, an ancient bloodline immune to the venom of culebras, the serpentine vampires who are central to the show's mythos.  He's a natural born demon hunter, a gifted fighter, a shrewd strategist, and a cowboy all the way.

I cannot express how much I'm loving the fact that the role of the rebellious vaquero was given to a sun-kissed brown dude with no fucks to give.

Though Garcia is a main cast member without top billing, as far as I'm concerned this is his show.  Ranger Gonzalez is the true protagonist of FDTD.  You can see the weight of the show on his shoulders, which tells me Garcia is well aware of the implications of his role.  So if we do get a Season 4, it would help the show greatly now and in the future to shift its focus squarely onto him.  We need to know more about the otomi.  There's still so much mythology and indigenous history to tap into.

Like Soo Hoo, Jesse Garcia is an excellent actor; it's extremely frustrating to go searching for his other works only to find a very short list.  You can tell these two really poured everything into their characters.  This show obviously means a lot to them both.  When portraying Gonzalez, Garcia immerses himself completely - with every look, every gesture, every rasp of his voice - so much that I can't even imagine him playing anyone else.  I don't want to.

***



***


Of course, Soo Hoo and Garcia aren't the only two reasons this show needs to be renewed.

Wilmer Valderrama is one hell of an actor.  As the suave, suit-clad culebra Carlos, Valderrama is terrifying, charming, enigmatic, and whimsical, all at the same time.  He brings so much swagger and poise to a character of innumerable layers.  By the end of Season 3, I was mindlessly, breathlessly in love with him.

Though he's Colombian-Venezuelan in real life, Valderrama portrays a Conquistador who was turned some 500 years before the beginning of the show.  It is Carlos who manipulates the Gecko Brothers into doing a bank job which brings them into the world of culebras.

Carlos is an exceedingly complex person, being both friend and traitor to everyone around him.  In three seasons we see him at his highest and lowest, yet Valderrama somehow never diminishes the character's dignity.  He also channels a certain pensive caballero mystique, which elevates not only the character, but the whole show.  He gave a truly enthralling performance, and I hope he and Robert Rodriguez continue working together. There's no reason why they can't (just like there's no reason not to renew FDTD) since the El Rey Network is Rodriguez's network after all (way to hustle, bruh).

***



***

Parting Thoughts

FDTD needs better female characters, and better casting choices for those characters

It's no accident that there aren't any women listed above. There was no one worthy of gushing over.  I get that the original film was set in a strip club, and I get that the point of Season 1 was to reboot the whole story.  But the nudity and excessive bimbification of women got old very old quickly, and thankfully was mostly gone by Season 2.

I also gave the side-eye to the Beckification of the Mesoamerican women on this show.  Y'all, "Mesoamerica" is basically Mexico and Texas; these are supposed to be Mexican women (whom I'm surrounded by on a daily basis here in Houston), yet the women on the show did not reflect their diversity.  They were all fairly bony (flaca), pale, and mostly dark-haired.  No curves, no glorious brown skin, no signature red or gold highlights, and none of them under five feet tall.

The two prominent exceptions were the culebra Ximena (Emily Rios) and the human Manola (Gabrielle Walsh), who had some curves and some darkness to them.  They were also strong, fearless women.  They were also killed off pretty quickly, when neither one actually needed to die.

Becky and the Gecko Brothers

I'm willing to accept that Scott Fuller's sister Kate and los hermanos Gecko are canon characters from the original film.  But to be honest, trying to keep them throughout show was a mistake.  They were basic.  The actors' performances vastly paled in comparison to those listed above.  Kate almost single-handedly ruined Season 3; she was not compelling, and the storyline they gave her was far beyond the actress's abilities.

Los hermanos Gecko also helped in that department; the actors' portraying the brothers have no swag.   Their storylines should've been phased out in Season 1, so that they could be wrapped up early in Season 2, latest.  I lost count of how many times I could see and hear where the writers were struggling to keep them not only relevant to the story, but front and center.  They didn't need to be front and center.  This is not their show.  This is Freddie Gonzalez's show, and the writers were at their best whenever they put him front and center.

And speaking of...

I also didn't see why Gonzalez couldn't have a bronze-skinned, fat-bottomed, gut-toting, no-fucks-giving Chicana wife who knew more about culebras than he did, and who could've been sent to protect him (since they insisted on writing him as married).  They gave him the cliched fragile, stay-at-home White wife who's only capable of the most basic dialogue, and who later tries to divorce him and keep him from seeing his daughter.

Guys...this is this is 21st Century.  Please stop writing like you're back in the 1980s and 1990s when it comes to race and women.  Especially when you're on your own network.  Brown is beautiful.  Dark is beautiful.  Strength is beautiful. Short is beautiful.  This show is pretty good, but as with many shows, it could be ten times better if the writers just did right by the women and didn't pander to White fandom.

Comments

  1. I watched the first season then got busy and was lead to believe it was not renewed. I'll have to check out the last two seasons.

    I love Wilmer (my sister is obsessed with him) and he was also the reason I wanted to watch the show in the first place.

    He was also on Grey's Anatomy last year as the character's Stephanie's love interest before they killed him off. I was NOT happy about that.

    He also plays on NCIS as a regular this season AND executive produced Douglas Family Gold. And he does music.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am happy that I am not the only one who thinks that the weakest thing about this show is the Gecko brothers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GIRL. There were times when I felt the writers were just itching to write them out and have done with it.

      Delete
  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for recommending this series! I love that the cast is diverse. I absolutely love Wilmer's character as Carlos, his acting completely superb, and the same goes for Jessie and Brandon. I also completely agree with the female cast. Was it that hard for them to find more diversity for the females? They could have easily had one of the leading ladies a Chicana a Black woman , it would have made more sense honestly. Also I'm over the weak story of the Gecko Brothers, like been there done that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I honestly wasn't annoyed by the lack of sistas in this show, but if done right...I wouldn't object.

      Delete
  4. Once again...sorry I missed the comments!!! Blogger really had me thinking no one was saying anything.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

This blog is strictly moderated. Everyone is now able to comment again, however, all Anonymous posts will be immediately deleted. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, so try to stay current with the conversations.