Mark Watches ‘Wonderfalls’: Episode 1 – Wax Lion

In the first episode of Wonderfalls, WELL, THAT WAS A HUGE SURPRISE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start Wonderfalls.

HOLY GOD, THAT WAS GREAT AND THIS CAST IS GREAT AND GREAT EVERYWHERE.

  • I genuinely knew not a single thing about this show before I started it, aside from mumblings and a few folks here and there telling me that I needed to see it because of reasons. I didn’t even know of its existence in any conscious sense until last summer at LeakyCon, when one of my editors, Kaci, recommended it with so much vigor and love that I knew I had to eventually watch it. And now I get to! Amidst all of the other Bryan Fuller shows!
  • On that note, I have not decided whether or not to give Hannibal the Mark Watches treatment just yet. Silence of the Lambs was the first live-action film I ever saw in the theater and has a lot of importance to me; I’ve also grown up with the Hannibal Lecter books/films, so despite that they’re all problematic, it’s something I’m very familiar with, so I have a ton of interest in seeing the show. However, I generally have a policy of not starting a show for Mark Watches that is currently airing because then I’m adding more work for me in the future. This came about after finishing Doctor Who and catching up to it in real time and discovering how stressed it made me to have people expecting me to complete reviews in real-time, too. (I’m about to finish all my bonus Mark Watches commissions this week, and that’ll free up time so I can catch up on part 2 of series seven of Doctor Who and get reviews up! Huzzah!) So, here’s the deal: If Hannibal unfortunately does not get renewed for a second season, there’s a high possibility I’ll cover it later this year just to complete all of Bryan Fuller’s shows. If it is renewed, I’ll wait.
  • EDIT: I wrote this review around 10am on Thursday, May 30th, and by 4:30pm that same day, Hannibal got a second season. So whoops! I had no idea. So, for now, I’ll hold off on possible reviews of the show, though I may watch it on my own.
  • SO, LET’S TALK ABOUT WONDERFALLS. If you follow me on Twitter, you got to experience some frantic and squeal-worthy Tweeting of mine because SO MANY AWESOME THINGS HAPPENED IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES. Lee Pace??? TRACIE THOMS, WHO IS MY FAVORITE JOANNE FROM RENT? THAT FIRST SCENE WHERE THE LION TALKS? Holy god, what have I signed up for?
  • Initially, though, I was struck by the similarities between Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me. However, I think this was more of me discovering what Bryan Fuller’s style and taste is like! Since I’d only seen Dead Like Me, I wondered what his oeuvre might be like. And here it is!
  • Honestly, think about it: The main character is a disaffected young woman who has a cynical and grim view on life. She chose to work in a low-end job that she openly despises. She has little to no direction in life and this doesn’t bother her. However, she is forced to re-think her life when some weird twist of fate introduces her to forces suggesting a destiny on the horizon. In terms of cinematography, there are a lot of cutaways, close-ups, and stylistic choices that this show shares with Dead Like Me. Even tonally, Wonderfalls combines drama with a sense for black comedy that feels very familiar.
  • And yet, this show is decidedly not like Fuller’s first show. This feels way more polished and complete than Dead Like Me, and even within one episode, I thought the show was more coherent and consistent. (That, of course, could change.) On top of that, Wonderfalls has this cheery sense of optimism and hope that I really love, one that differentiates from the bleakness we got on Dead Like Me. (Which could also change, too. I realize I’m just starting this show.)
  • CHARACTERS. SO MANY CHARACTERS, Y’ALL.
  • There’s Jaye, played by the wonderful Caroline Dhavernas, who I have only seen once on an episode of Law & Order. I’m biased in liking her character because I did a long stint in retail, and her bitter hatred is my bitter hatred for that environment. I did tell a few stories during my reviews of Dead Like Me, but this pilot certainly reminded me of why I don’t think I could ever return to that world. People are awful, entitled, selfish, and unsympathetic, and two-and-a-half years in retail will prove that to you day after day.
  • We only get glimpses of her family, with the exception of Sharon, so I got the sense that the Tyler clan is middle- to upper-class, university-educated, high strung, and all kind of annoying in their own way. There’s only one scene with the father and Aaron (MORE LEE PACE, PLEASE, AND PUT HIM ON AN ELK NEXT TIME), and a brief introduction to Jaye’s mother’s characterization. She’s kind of like a more serious version of Lucille Bluth, isn’t she?
  • Anyway, most of “Wax Lion” deals with their past animosity and how the inanimate objects help Jaye counter that. Like Dead Like Me, I am not expecting any reveal that will tell me why this is happening. I’m assuming this is just the fantastical element of the show that I’ll have to accept, and I’m fine with that. These objects all seem to want to get Jaye to help people around her. They help her return a stolen purse to its owner (who isn’t very happy about this), as well as get Jaye to accidentally orchestrate a meeting between Beth and Sharon. And this show already has a lesbian main character! In the first episode! And it’s discussed, and THIS IS SO GREAT. Plus, the writers don’t center this experience around Thomas, which I started to expect until that wonderful scene near the end between Sharon and Jaye in Jaye’s trailer. Sure, we do get to see how Thomas’s heartbreak is manifested, but the real story here is how Sharon’s coming out to Jaye helps the two sisters get closer. THIS IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT TO ME.
  • We’ve also got Eric, the cutie at The Barrel who clearly is into Jaye, though I think she’s smart not to start a potential relationship with someone who just got out of a marriage. Jaye’s close friend Mahandra works there, too, and SHE’S SO FANTASTIC. What I enjoyed about this pilot is the fact that it openly has Jaye address her perception of her own sanity after multiple inanimate objects talk to her. Jaye has such a good friendship with Mahandra that she can be honest about such a thing, and Mahandra doesn’t judge her at all. I really adored how that whole back-and-forth scene went where Mahandra didn’t make Jaye feel weird about animal figurines talking to her. That’s a good friend right there.
  • So what does this bizarre change in Jaye’s life mean for her? Her family largely views this as yet another dramatic “episode” in her life of continual disappointment. Trust me, as a son who had to drop out of college, I know the disheartening feeling of making your parents disappointed. Unfortunately, Jaye’s near-nervous breakdown is based entirely on something that is actually happening, and her family simply can’t believe that she’s being genuine. Plus, the messages she gets from these objects are relentless, annoying, and mostly nonsensical. What the hell is she supposed to do???
  • As Jaye does what the lion and monkey tell her to do, she discovers something weird about herself: She doesn’t combust into flames or rot away when she does something nice for someone else. Granted, she does get punched by a suspicious and bitter mother who accuses her of helping get her purse stolen. That definitely doesn’t make her feel better. But once she gives her sister a chance to be open and honest about her sexuality, she realizes that there might be a way for her to be… well, different. It’s a small possibility at this point, but it’s still shocking to her. That’s the importance of the scene where she says she doesn’t feel dirty after saying she loves Sharon.
  • This was a damn charming pilot and a fantastic introduction to the surreal world that Jaye is going to experienced. I love the idea that there’s a fantasy amidst such a realistic portrayal of tourism and retail, and I’m excited to see more of this.
  • Oh, and more Tracie Thoms and Lee Pace. Lee Pace.

Mark Links Stuff

– The Mark Does Stuff Summer Tour is happening soon! Check out the posted dates, suggest new ones, help bring me to YOUR TOWN.
– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
– Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
– Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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2 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Wonderfalls’: Episode 1 – Wax Lion

  1. Steven Ferrand says:

    Hannibal is so good and I’m so happy it’s getting a second season. Maybe you could review the season as a whole instead of reviewing each episode.

    As for Wonderfalls, I wasn’t blown away by this first episode. I think it’s mainly the premise which isn’t nearly as interesting as Dead Like Me. I did like the characters and the actors, mainly Lee Pace and Caroline Dhavernas, so I will definitely stick around for the season.

    There was one scene I loved. Jaye and Sharon are arguing and Sharon storms off to her car. In the car she angrily yanks on the seatbelt which locks up and doesn’t come down so she has to slowly and calmly pull it down. I thought it was hilarious.

  2. Rikki says:

    I love this show so much. I can’t remember when I became a fan of it (I think it might have been after Fuller was on Heroes but before Pushing Daisies) but identified so much with Jaye (especially the part about over educated and under employable) despite being from a completely different socioeconomic and ethnic background. I love that she doesn’t fit in with her family and that she purposely lives her life in a way that is annoying to them (though it is rather childish).

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