From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”
Written by Robert Rodriquez
Directed by Robert Rodriquez
Airs Tuesdays at 9pm (ET) on El Rey Network
Robert Rodriquez’s 1996 cult classic From Dusk till Dawn is a flawed but ultimately surprising, fun, and witty gore-fest sendup of vampire movies. Surprisingly the TV adaptation, for Rodriquez’s channel the El Rey Network, is just as much fun as its source material.
From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, much like the movie, knows exactly what it is. This is not highbrow entertainment. This is pulpy cult gore at its best. One of the most enjoyable things about the movie was the surprising genre changeup halfway through the film. The show makes up for this lack of surprise by expanding on what we didn’t see in the movie, such as the Gecko brothers’ botched bank robbery, which we see flashes of here. All that being said, half the fun of the pilot comes from the execution. It’s an incredibly confident and tightly wound series opener.
Set mostly in the Benny’s World of Liquor store, with some flashbacks, the pilot feels perfectly claustrophobic and over the top; one of the things Rodriguez does best as a director is create an atmosphere. “Pilot” is creepy- that snake pit scene at the beginning of the episode will stick with this reviewer for a while. The episode also manages to be slightly sleazy, in the best way possible, and wryly funny.
It’s clear that even though the show is reimagining the film, the series has already started laying out its own mythology. Wilmer Valderrama’s character Don Carlos, Seth’s (D.J. Cotrona) boss, will clearly play into the story in a big way, and so will the mystery woman Richie (Zane Holtz) keeps hallucinating. Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez’s (Jesse Garcia) desire for revenge against the Gecko brothers could prove to be either one of the most interesting or most tedious parts of the show depending on how it’s handled. Revenge plots can often slip into monotonous territory and cause a show to slip up. Right now though, it’s working and it’s a completely understandable development for Freddie.
The pilot episode also benefits from some great performances. Don Johnson is a particular standout as Sherriff Earl McGraw. He doesn’t have tons to do in the pilot but his time isn’t wasted and he makes a great impression. His early scene in the episode, detailing the 237 real days he has left on the planet, is a particular standout. Holtz, though, might just be the best part of the show. He’s an incredibly talented actor, making Richie’s psycho intensity more deeply felt than expected and much more effective. His early scenes in the shop are some of the best of the episode. Just don’t call him crazy- “It’s rude”, after all. His and Cotrona’s chemistry is witty and a pleasure to watch, while Holtz bounces from scene to scene with so much energy that he’s a true delight.
From Dusk till Dawn: The Series’ pilot episode might be a retelling of the film, but it’s also great fun and shows a lot of promise. Great performances and gory and pulpy plotlines should lead to an enjoyable show.