Originally on PopSyndicate:
Sanctuary: An original web based show turned primetime. Stars Amanda Tapping as Helen Magnus, scientist studying the extreme and Robin Dunne as Zimmerman the psychologist who people say sees too much.
It was quite gracious of SyFy to pick up the web series Sanctuary and try to give it a home on their network. Unfortunately, they either only wanted people to watch the show live and not let them enjoy the ability to go back and watch it closer or they were unsure about the series because it took me four tries to watch the show. The first couple of times it aired, I was otherwise occupied and tried to use the glorious DVR to watch, and SyFy ruined that by having “signal issues”. To the detriment of the show, it only allowed me to see the first 20 minutes each time, the twenty minutes that are easiest to promptly forget. I want to apologize for taking soo long for this, but I literally just watched it. I am going to avoid making references to the web version since I did not get a chance to check them out prior to the show being picked up.
The show starts off somewhat like a twisted cop drama. A pan of the city over a bit of tension inducing music, followed by a couple of murders. Instead of bullets, its from a tentacle coming out of a small child. The we cut to forensic psychologist Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) who is in a restaurant making detailed deductions about the dish he was just served, he is paged and heads to the scene. Upon arriving he scopes out the crime scene and butts heads with straight shooter cop Kavanaugh (Kavan Smith) over the existence of the boy at the crime scene. As if he is in a videogame, Zimmerman’s enhanced perception is shown as if the image is highlighted in a glow. He sees the boy outside but is halted in his chase by Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), who hits him with a car.
While out he has a dream about what appears to be a giant bug attacking him as a child. Kavanaugh had made comments about Zimmerman being demoted from a government agency due to the oddness of his theories, which keeps being repeated throughout the episode as very thin foreshadowing. A witness identifies a “shooter” falsely which drives Zimmerman to question everything about the case and walk out into the rain where Magnus is waiting. In an alley an ominous bald man appears in thin air named John (Christopher Heyerdahl) who proceeds to murder a hooker after asking her for the location of Sanctuary.
Next the viewer is treated to more backstory for Zimmerman, an interlude between his cute but condescending ex-girlfriend who came to make sure he was not one of the victims and pick up the rest of her belongings. More token protagonist with nothing to lose fare, prompting him to contact Magnus and check out the Sanctuary. Ominous John tries to enter the premises with his neat little teleportation-esque power and is stopped by an electromagnetic field. He is seen to cough in what appears to be an attempt to portray him as terminally ill.
Cut back to the inside of the facility and we see Magnus giving Zimmerman an overly long tour. The effects are pretty good for the budget, but the viewer who chose to watch SyFy on a Friday night already has a good idea what “surprises” Zimmerman has in store. We also get to meet a couple of scary looking creatures with hearts of gold who help out the protagonist later. One of the recurring issues with this premiere (and less likely with the web version due to time constraints) is that SyFy has a big issue with crappy filler. This premiere should have been and hour or less. The four webisodes it was based on would have made it about an hour tops.
Normally two hour premieres are a great way to suck the viewer in, but it was somewhat taxing even without the technical difficulties to make it through the first hour. It takes about that long to introduce the daughter of Magnus (Emilie Ullerup) and Foss (Ryan Robbins), the characters that do a much better job of keeping you interested. Its one thing to enjoy Tapping in her time at Stargate, its another to wade through the accent she has on this program. At this point I’ll skip ahead a bit, they catch the boy and only Zimmerman is able to tame the beast. Evil John tricks the daughter into taking him to the facility then fools Foss and has him turn off the EM field off so he had teleport around.
After he grabs Magnus’s daughter and puts her in danger we get more Magnus backstory, she was knocked up by John the Ripper and is really old due to something in her blood. John uses the daughter to persuade her to cure him, but she tricks him and he appears to dissipate. Zimmerman and scary character with a heart of gold save the girl. More backstory reveals Magnus saved him from the monster as a boy, and Magnus is 157. While it has its quirks, the follow up episodes may not have the pacing issues and will probably work much better. I have not been able to catch a promo for the new episode, but after an up and down premiere, I still have hope that the series has gotten the hard part out of the way and will improve.