Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
Twisted is a show about a kid who killed his aunt going back to his hometown so he can attend school.
The best primetime soaps all have one thing in common: a strong focus. This could be a goal for the main character (retribution on Revenge) or it could be a mystery (why did the narrator kill herself on the first season of Desperate Housewives). The scandalous lives of the characters would go on separately but the narrative is strengthened by this common focus. The quality of Revenge was hurt when it lost sight of it's focus. Desperate Housewives struggled after the first season as it couldn't find a mystery as captivating as the first one. There is also the danger that the focus will overwhelm the series, as the love story between Olivia and President Grant occasionally do on the procedural soap Scandal. When it's done right, the season will be a thrill ride that captivates viewers and helps to excuse the soapish elements. There's nothing wrong with being a soap opera except for it's reputation. If you can get people to look past the soap opera nature of the program then you'll have a bigger audience than just the diehard fans of the genre. Desperate Housewives, Revenge, Scandal, and Grey's Anatomy are all living testament to the power of a good, strong focus. It makes sense that Twisted is going to have a focus of it's own in the murder of Regina Crane, the high school student. It's going to be the hook that gets people to watch, the narrative that drives the series, the vehicle to develop the characters and their relationships. It's what promises to have the most twists and turns, the added entertainment value that justifies people checking into this soap. As for the premise itself? It's pretty twisted, all right. The protagonist (or antagonist?) of the show is a convicted killer who murdered his aunt for a mysterious reason. He's trying to integrate himself back into his old hometown even as everyone suspects him for being a sociopath. His two former childhood best friends have to deal with his presence as well as facing his past. The murder of a high school student who was hitting on him casts doubt on whether he's reformed. Twisted has some problems in it's pilot but it does have a pretty fascinating concept that could turn out to be compelling if executed right. The themes of the show could make this a good soap as long as the plot doesn't take over. A show should have a strong focus but it should use it to explore the central questions asked in this pilot. If it become all about the mystery then that exactly is the point of it all? Twisted could go two ways: it could become convoluted as the writers try to fit in as many jaw-dropping twists as possible or it could become an exploration of a killer and society's reaction to his mere existence. The former is likely but the latter is what would separate Twisted from a fun soap to a great television series.
Twisted is a show that doesn't try to walk away from it's own deformed nature. The show concentrates on three characters: a killer and his former two best friends. The two friends have drifted apart from each other while the killer languished in jail. The killer is presented as charming as possible. It's like the series is giving him the personality to make you doubt that he's actually capable of hurting a fly. At the same time, it's acknowledging that he killed his aunt. We might not know why but this is a man who is perfectly capable of killing another human being. It's unnerving how nonchalant he is about the whole situation but it's likely because he's had years to accept what he's done or because he's actually a sociopath. He does take ownership of the nickname handed to him. Avan Jogia manages to be likeable and creepy at the same time. That's no small feat from any actor. It's hard to tell if he's a protagonist or an antagonist. If the latter then Twisted joins the likes of Dexter, Homeland, and The Americans in putting characters we're supposed to root against as the ones we actually root (somewhat) for. If he's actually an antagonist then he's very cleverly disguised as a potential good guy. That's the best part about Twisted at the moment: I have no idea whether Danny is supposed to be good or bad. I'm clearly supposed to like him but there's villains out there who become fan favorites for a reason. There's even shows where the antagonists are more likeable than the heroes. Twisted is doing a good job right now of twisting (sorry for the pun) the viewer's perception of whether a character is a protagonist or an antagonist. On the one hand, you want him to be innocent. You want him to have a good reason for having killed his aunt. On the other hand, there's a lot of evidence suggesting that he's not only a sociopath but he killed Regina. Is the necklace he's holding at the end a red herring? It might be. It might also be preparing us for the revelation that he killed to protect the secret of his motive. A brilliant set-up by the writers. Well, almost. There is a lot of good questions about the protagonist but the plot pacing needed work and the rebonding between Danny and his two former best friends felt a little bit rushed. A little more time spent on character development and relationship building could have led to a stronger pilot.
The main characters on Twisted are a mixed bag. The strongest character is Danny. He's likeable, charming, and creepy at the same time. He might be guilty of killing Regina. It depends on how committed the series on how deformed they plan on making this series. His portrayal and writing has just the right balance to make our feelings towards him conflicted. He has two female best friends. The first, Jo, became a social outcast after the murder. She has held on to a lot of anger which is why it's so confounding how quickly it disappears. The relationship between the two might not have been completely repaired but they do seem to become friendly awfully quick. Oh, sure, she resists for a bit but her defenses wore down faster than they should have. It doesn't help that Jo is basically the typical social outcast. The only difference is she has an actual reason for being one rather than rebelling against society norms for the sake of it. The other best friend, Lacey, has become the popular mean girl with superficial tastes. She's basically that person with the only edge being the past she being friends with a killer. I guess it's interesting to see how she felt the need to confirm in order to survive and it does set up a contrast between her and Jo. It would have been nice to see the two developed beyond their stereotype and connection with Danny's murder. Right now, the best friends need work so they can stand on their own against Danny.
The show has it's fair share of main supporting characters. We get to know a lot of people in Jo's social circle. Her best friend, Rico, is basically a weird kid who concentrates more on his studies than life around him. He's introduced as being more worried about a quiz than the fact that a killer has just enrolled in his school. He's basically the umpteenth iteration of a nerd but Ashton Moio does a good enough job to make him endearing. We get to meet Jo's mother, Tess, who largely wants her daughter to put the anger of her past behind her. Her father, Kyle, is the town sheriff who clearly doesn't trust Danny. There's a reason that Danny is the number one suspect in Regina's case. It's not just because of his past but because Kyle doesn't trust him. The final remaining main supporting character is Karen. She used to be at the top of the social scene until her son, Danny, killed his aunt. It's an interesting take on the fallen queen of the town's social scene that hopefully gets explored in the next episode. Overall, the side characters are okay but only their basic selves are established. Here's hoping that they get developed more as we go along.
I have to admit that I liked Twisted. It did a good job in getting me to like Danny while at the same time being completely wary of him. Is he a killer? I hope not...but there's a part of me that desires it because it would complicate the audience's feelings towards him. The actual plot needed some work as some of it felt rushed. The male main character, Danny, was developed with a good balance but the two female main characters feel a bit flat at this point. The side characters are currently at their basic selves and need to be fleshed out more in future episodes. Twisted starts off on the right foot but it needs to watch it's step if it wants to become a must-watch soap rather than simply a fun way to spend an afternoon.