It was fun when it started, but it limped to a finale.
That’s my overall review of the Syfy homage to grindhouse cinema, Blood Drive. After last night’s final episode, the series’ producer announced that Syfy would not bring the show back for a second season.
And you know what? I totally understand why the show died a slow, painful death.
The original premise of Blood Drive worked like this. A woman searching for her kidnapped sister reluctantly teams up with a by-the-book cop to participate in a cross-country road race with a motley crew of sadists and murderers and deviants. And all across a 13-week sendup of all sorts of midnight-movie and drive-in-double-feature homages. It’s like watching a melange of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry alongside Mondo Trasho with Mad Max: Fury Road and Damnation Alley, tied with a live-action Wacky Races.
This show was sick, twisted, and totally deserving of its late-night timeslot.
And I wanted to review every episode and post recaps of the show and how the plotlines would work.
Unfortunately, the more I watched the program, the more I understood why it was doomed to fail.
First off, the race itself disappeared as a plotline halfway through the series run. The idea that these characters had to race through the vast wasteland of a post-apocalyptic 1999 went away after about episode seven, as the characters of Arthur and Grace focused more on taking down the evil corporation Heart Industries, the company that ran the Blood Drive road race as a reality TV series.
Meanwhile, some of the other road racers were either killed off episode by episode – Rib Bone, The Gentleman and the Scholar, a creepy clown – or, in the case of homicidal lovers Cliff and Nomi, they simply killed each other. Yawn.
There was also a plotline involving Arthur’s police partner Christopher, who was captured by Heart Industries and modified into a cyborg-human hybrid – who fell in love with a sexbot female named Aki – yeah, I’m not sure why I’m still typing this paragraph. Every time this plotline appeared in the show, I counted the moments until we could get back to the main storyline. And in some cases, there were some long counts. Like fingers and toes counts.
And the one breakout character in the whole series – Julian Slink, the foppish master of ceremonies who spent each episode torturing the racers like a sadistic puppet master – by the final episode, it turned out he was one of thousands of clones, each one more complicated than the last. Oh great. Thousands of clones. Didn’t The Venture Brothers do this as a deus ex machina storyline a decade ago?
I could also tell that the show’s future was limited by its broadcast schedule. In the beginning, Blood Drive received lots of television advertising, as well as a late night replay after its Wednesday 10:00 p.m. broadcast; it also received a weekend showing. But by Episode 4, the program lost its rebroadcasts, and if you missed the show on Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m., tough luck. I was able to set up a season pass on Apple TV to download the episodes, so as to not miss the programs, but by Episode 11 even I was having a hard time blocking out an hour of my schedule to watch the latest adventure.
And then, the final episode aired last night. Arthur and Grace, along with Julian Slink, arrive at Heart Industries to blow the building up and shut down the company forever. Meanwhile, Heart Industries’ diabolical leader – who, believe it or not, turns out to be Grace’s kidnapped sister – wants them all dead, as do Christopher and Aki, who … oh yeah, another Christopher and Aki plotline, I’m going to get some dinner.
In the end, Arthur kills Christopher, Grace’s sister Karma kills Julian, Aki mourns Christopher, Karma and Grace battle to the death, the Heart Industries building explodes, and the final scene features a naked, confused Arthur arriving at what appears to be an island prison.
Um… seriously? That’s how the series ends? That’s it?
Well, that was about as satisfying as onion-flavored ice cream.
Look, I totally get that the show was cutting-edge in terms of language and violence and nudity, heck it pushed the boundaries of television so far I almost expected that I would have to watch the final episode on a scrambled-pay-TV channel. And even then, was it even worth my time?
This has been a problem with recent genre television shows. I get really excited when a program debuts, then I watch the first two or three episodes and I suddenly discover that the show’s writing is totally meh, the acting is uninspired, and the final results are just unwatchable. Time After Time (the ABC series based on the beloved 1978 movie) was one example. And I put up with four seasons of Sleepy Hollow, watching that show go from an amazing first season to a fourth season that was one season too many.
So what do I make of Blood Drive?
An homage to grindhouse cinema is a great concept.
Too bad the best homage in this category was done by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez way back in 2007.
Oh well… I suppose I’ll find another genre TV series to get psyched about … until it too breaks my heart and either turns into hackneyed writing, or it breaks my heart and gets cancelled.
Or I could just watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit marathons on any one of a dozen cable channels.