Reprisal: TV Review

Cover art by Joy, on Instagram

by Frankie Fanelli

This review covers a series rated TV-MA and may not be appropriate for all readers.

One of Hulu’s newest releases, Reprisal, is a time-period vague, noir crime show that follows Doris Quinn (a.k.a. Katherine Harlow) as she sets out to get revenge on a gang that tried to kill her and then left her for dead some years before the show actually occurs. And if all of that already sounds confusing, you don’t even know the half of it.

Abigail Spencer of Mad Men fame perfectly portrays the bad-ass Doris Quinn / Katherine Harlow, a woman who is a polite, tea-sipping homemaker who also isn’t afraid to be slapped by a mob boss or to shoot someone in order to get what she wants. Most of the scenes where she takes center stage are pretty straight forward: she married Tommy Quinn, knowing he is ill and close to dying, in order to use her inheritance to get back at her brother, the leader of the gang that tried to kill her, and to inherit the restaurant Tommy owned, much to the chagrin of Detroit crime boss “Big” Graham and Tommy’s son.

Visually the show is really beautiful. The show is essentially in a noir style, with a lot of components that seem to be a mix of the 60s and the 80s though we never find out exactly when it’s set. Neon lights and synth music are seen in the same scenes as pin-up fashion and beehive hairstyles, which lends to the show’s effect of sort of being suspended in time. This is something I really enjoy seeing in shows because it allows the set design and costume design to be really fun and unrestrained, and it really seems like anything could happen in a show with no defined time period or level of technological advancements (i.e. both cell phones and vintage knob-controlled television sets appear in a scene that takes place in a living room). There is a multitude of shots where the character’s silhouettes are dark against a background of technicolored neon lights in the first episode alone, and personally I can’t get enough of them.

However, there were some scenes in the first episode that I had to watch two or three times in order to figure out exactly what was happening, so it took me a solid hour and a half to make my way through the 56 minute pilot episode. There were flashback scenes where characters seemed to meet ends that were impossible to come back from, yet there they were back in present day without a single scratch or scar. Not to mention the storylines involving gangs and crime bosses who didn’t seem to understand their own policies or operations, and use violence more for entertainment and shock value than an actual means to an end. 

In summary, when the plot of the show is so convoluted and confusing it leads to all of the cinematic flourishes eventually serving more to annoy than entertain. The end of the pilot ultimately left me with more questions than answers, and though I was hopeful that the remainder of the 10-episode season would be able to work itself out into a coherent narrative, the first episode left me so perplexed that it seemed daunting to even try to make it that far.

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