There’s really no other way to say this: mix the adolescent drama and occult undertones of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the rotoscoped animation stylin’ of A Scanner Darkly. Congratulations, you’ve got Kingdoms of Grace. It’s here, it’s ten episodes in (each about ten minutes long), and it kicks some serious ass.
Written by Nastasha Baron and co-directed by Baron and Tom Raycove, Kingdoms of Grace stars Kelly Donohue as Sierra Grace, the agnostic heroin-smoking heroine who just so happens to be chosen by God to save the world in the impending war between the forces of Good and Evil, and Andres Londono as Thomas Stone, the dreamy Orlando Bloom-ish man of God who is charged with protecting her.
I never fall for a show like I fell for Kingdoms of Grace. The first episode offers a taste of what to expect from the rest of the show: it begins with astonishingly animated ass-kicking, delves into lots of religious mysticism (anything about the Spear of Destiny wins points with me), resumes with the ass-kicking, and leaves me wanting more. While the scenes revolving around the college campus often tend to be a little bit trite, I must admit that the schoolgirl war-in-the-shadows thing worked brilliantly in Buffy, and there’s no doubt that it works in Kingdoms of Grace.
Of course, any writeup of Kingdoms of Grace would be incomplete if it didn’t talk about the visuals. The show is generally composed of rotoscoped animation – do yourself a favor and opt out of watching the rotoscoping “explanation” on the Kingdoms of Grace‘s flash-based website – though certain scenes in each episode, generally ones focusing on Sierra and Thomas, will switch to a hybrid shot where the characters are depicted live on an animated background.
While the animation itself feels a little stiff at times – each character’s physical joints are rather awkward during certain shots – the overall atmosphere is downright breathtaking. Each scene is full of a foreboding shadow that makes the few brightly lit scenes – especially the ones that depict a “normal” college interaction – seem almost naïve and surreal. If the animation catches you at all, definitely stop by the “Creative Team” section of the Kingdoms of Grace homepage and read about the animators who pulled it off.
The other staple element that makes Kingdoms of Grace stick is the music. I won’t lie – I’m not a fan of anything that makes me think of high school hormones, but the tunes that show up in Kingdoms of Grace – mostly kind of introspective rock with a little dash of electronica here and there – do wonders to set the mood. There are shows that use music to set the mood, and then there are shows that use music to define the mood – Kingdoms of Grace is definitely the latter.
When it comes down to it, perhaps the only quibble I have about Kingdoms of Grace is that it’s only ten episodes long, and the last episode came out mid-December of last year – substantially longer than the time gap between each of the previous episodes. Here’s to hoping that the show isn’t stuck in development limbo, and that we see it come back for a second season sooner rather than later – or, even worse, not at all. Go check out Kingdoms of Grace while you still can.
Ed. Note: We talked to the creators of the series and they are in the process of preparing the series for a sale to TV as six half-hour television episodes. This means that the fate of the web series is uncertain at this point, depending on what the specific television network requires. The new longer-format episodes are said to have even more polished animation and visuals. As of now, the ten web series episodes are still watchable at kingdomsofgrace.com.