Last year I wrote two reviews in which I gauged some of the problems inherent to the web series format.
Cataclysmo and the Time Boys could have been a fun little exercise in sci-fi camp if it didn’t have all the episodic time in the world to keep meandering into wearying nonsense. Artifact, on the other hand, needlessly apes big-budget film and TV dramatic intrigue with limited financial means, and the results are painful. Perhaps its issues aren’t entirely endemic to its format – countless indie features do the same sort of derivative thing – but it doesn’t seem like having the ability to parcel out its action in bit-sized samples would at all help it to achieve awareness of its insufferable self-seriousness.
Canadian web series The Ennead possesses both of these fatal flaws.
As written, directed, and produced by Terry Miles (who’s also behind the fantastic filmaka web series Admuse), The Ennead attempts to create a fantastic dramatic premise as complicated, mysterious, and “important” as something like Lost, something that will hook viewers into continuously and ravenously watching its weekly five minute or so episodes. But such premises are tough to pull off in the short episodic format, and the show meanders and broodingly intones itself into apathetic boredom.
The story concerns a group of young, pretty hipsters who wake up one day in the woods minus their memories but plus some cryptic objects in their pockets. Initially uncertain of how they might be connected, their amnesia gradually subsides as brief flashes of the past come back to them on their journey out of the forest. Through indecipherable narrative logic it is discovered that these five people might be Eternals (of Egyptian decent?), superhuman beings who must prevent the end of the world.
The idea seems too ambitious for the budget and The Ennead’s dialogue is embarrassingly inept, spoken by almost self-satirically wooden actors. But the show’s real Achilles’ heel is its slavish reliance on its web series structure, as if being able to divide an incoherent story into short cliffhanging increments can salvage an ill-conceived script performed by actors without charisma.
By the time the basic foundation of the plot is spelled out in an emotionless monotone by leader The Captain (Steve Thackray) in episodes 5 and 6 – something about a comet and a “religious military dictatorship” formed to stop the Eternals – no number of webisodic ellipses can make us care about where this Dan Brownian yarn will possibly spin to next.