Sunday, February 20, 2022

REVIEW: 'From' - Boyd Risks Everything to Save the Strangers Who've Crashed Into Town in 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'

Epix's From - Episode 1.01 "Long Day's Journey Into Night"

The Matthews' family road trip takes a horrifying turn when they are detoured to a small pastoral town from which they cannot leave. When their family RV crashes, Sheriff Boyd Stevens and other residents rush to save them before the sun goes down.

"Long Day's Journey Into Night" was written by John Griffin and directed by Jack Bender

This is an eerie, unnerving premiere. It sets out to terrify with inexplicable mysteries. It immediately comes across as a world with its own distinct set of rules. The opening sequence is all about the residents of a rural town rushing home before dark. The sheriff walks the streets to ensure everyone makes it inside. Tragedy still strikes. All it takes is the manipulation of a child. That reveals the horrors that take place in this community. It presents agency for all of them to get inside at night. That offers no guarantees of safety though. The creatures that lurk outside are eager to get in no matter what. Once that happens, only mutilated bodies are left behind. That's the visceral reaction the town copes with as a result of this danger. They can no longer say that they've gone months without an incident at night. And then, the situation only intensifies further with the arrivals of two new groups. The Matthews family are on a simple road trip. They present as a normal, average family. They get on each others' nerves after spending so much time together. And yet, they are fundamentally loving and nurturing to one another. Jim gets lost. He needs to ask for directions. It's an innocent action. The people in town know the insidious fate that now befalls these newcomers though. Boyd seeks to handle that responsibility. Of course, he figures that the family needs to experience the inescapable maze of this community in order to realize what's going on. That's frustrating because it prevents the characters acting as the audience's surrogates from actually being told why this town is unique. Instead, that's all left to the thrills and terror of anticipation. It places the family in peril. They are involved in an accident when another car comes barreling down the road. The town must rally to save these strangers they know will be trapped here now as well. They simply didn't get to welcome them the way they had planned. Instead, they are constantly being thrown into new danger. That's how most of the story is driven. It simply doesn't spend any time to slow down and detail some of it. That's an issue here. It probably will be explained at some point. The rules have to be set in order for the audience to understand the weight of the various actions.

It's just expected of the audience to be afraid on behalf of Boyd, Jim, Ethan and Kristi who are trapped in the overturned RV when the sun goes down. Boyd looks out the window and sees the creatures starting to surround the vehicle. It's an eerie image given the carnage involved during the previous night. The town is burying two of their own - including a child. They aren't given the ability to process that aftermath because they are quickly thrown into new drama. That includes running to the rescue of the Matthews family. But horrors exist within this town long before the sun goes down. Tobey caused the crash and made it to town to tell Boyd what happened. He is taken to the clinic for treatment. While there, he is murdered. That feels like a twist simply to suggest that this community doesn't abide by the rules Boyd has put in place. That was already hinted at with the tension between him and his son. But it's also the show revealing itself as brutal and gruesome without earning those shocking details. That's basically all we know about the woman who commits this murder. She cares for the patient given how busy everyone else is at the moment. But it also proves that no where is safe. Tabitha, Julie, Kenny, Ellis and Father Khatri are all running for their lives by the conclusion as well. It's all because someone forgot to remove the car spikes from the road. Of course, that should have been the first action taken once it was clear the RV wasn't coming back. It's also questionable why the tires have to be blown out in this town. One vehicle is clearly still operational. That's true until that climatic moment. It leaves the Matthews family completely in the dark on purpose. They don't understand what they need protection from. They want to stay safe as a family. They can't bare losing anyone. That may be the doomed fate for someone. That seems unlikely. If the show was going to kill off a major character to clarify the narrative stakes in its first episode, it seems nonsensical to turn it into a cliffhanger. That simply feels unnecessary. And so, it's a story about placing these characters in peril without the conviction to do anything that harmful to them right away. That may change. But the rules definitely need to be better spelled out in order for the audience to understand the scope of what this show is trying to do.