Synopsis: Follows a motor-mouthed outsider offered a chance at a better life, but only if he can successfully deliver a mysterious package across a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Episodes Watched: 10/10
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Stephanie Beatriz, Samoa Joe, Will Arnett, Thomas Haden Church, Neve Campbell, Tahj Vaughans, Chelle Ramos, Michael Carollo, Jamie Neumann, Diany Rodriguez, Jared Bankens, Angel Giuffria, Mike Mitchell, Richard Cabral
Directors: Bill Benz, Maggie Carey, Kitao Sakurai, Jude Weng
Writers: Michael Jonathan Smith, Irving Ruan, Grant DeKernion, Alyssa Forletier, Alison Tafel, Becca Black, Shaun Diston, Francesca Gaile, Jacqueline Gailes, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
In the lead-up to Twisted Metal, I didn’t think there would be enough meat on the bone for a good adaptation of the long-running PlayStation franchise. The games are about car combat. The most recent success of The Last of Us can be attributed to how good the story of that game is anyway. Although not trying for the same dramatic story or prestige as that series, Twisted Metal is another win for PlayStation Productions thanks to likable and lively characters and a commitment from all involved to bring this wild and violent world to life.
There’s not much Twisted Metal lore to build upon from the first, second, third — any of the games. There are, however, a lot of crazy characters and vehicles. This is where the creative team involved in Twisted Metal has smartly put their efforts into adapting the video game. It’s a post-apocalyptic world. Twenty years prior, all the computers shut-down and the rich threw the poor of their wall-off cities to fend for themselves. How? Why? Nothing matters. All we need to know is that our lead, John Doe (Anthony Mackie), is a “milkman” who delivers things from one city to another while fighting off would-be bandits and others in America’s now even more violent and gun-happy streets.
After dropping off a package, Doe is mysteriously invited into the city by Raven (Neve Campbell), who offers John the chance to join New San Francisco’s inner walls forever. All he needs to do is pick up a package from New Chicago and deliver it to her in ten days. He decides the journey will be dangerous and lengthy but worth the effort.
John Doe is introduced to us as a wise-cracking driver with love for his car nicknamed “Evelyn.” And Mackie is doing his most likable work yet with the character whose amnesia-hidden backstory is slowly peeled back towards the show’s back end. However, the show begins to hit its stride with the introduction of Stephanie Beatriz as Quiet, who has an infectiously likable chemistry with Mackie. The two quickly show they’re the heart of this show with relatable human stories and troubles amidst all of the crazy characters and wild action. John Doe, the loss of his family and memories, and Quite dealing with the loss of her brother and traumatic events earlier in their lives. A scene in episode four where the two hide out in a cinema and watch a movie together was a highlight in building the relationship and making me care about these characters in the second half of the season.
To my surprise, and many others, I’m sure, the violent clown on the poster and trailers, Sweet Tooth, isn’t the main antagonist of this series and instead acts as a B-tier protagonist with his own story. Played by AEW wrestler Samoa Joe on set and voiced by Will Arnett, Sweet Tooth bumps into John Doe and Quiet early in the show but then spends the rest of the show rampaging across America in a tandem story. His segments in any episode are always the most bloody, ridiculous and entertaining as Sweet Tooth explains his logic of the world to his “fans.” And Samoa Joe does a great job bringing Sweet Tooth to life, dancing around and more in a very physical performance.
Pursuing John Doe and Quiet across America and making their cross-country journey a problem at all turns in Agent Stone, played by a stern Thomas Haden Church and his group of would-be Police Officers. They think they’re returning law & order to the world, but their way means Agent Stone is the judge, jury and often executioner.
Nearly every episode features some guest character, with some of them re-appearing for the finale, but they’re all great additions that only help flesh out this more pulpy Max Max-like world. John and Quiet meet a group of survivors living in trucks, John’s ex-girlfriend and more along the journey to New Chicago.
As gory as Sweet Tooth swinging a machete can look, some of the car action isn’t as special. At times the cars look plastic-y and very obviously CGI as they skid around corners unnaturally. At other times, the vehicles are real, and the series has some solid real-car action. It’s a pity that an obvious budget constraint holds back some of the integral action scenes, especially given that Twisted Metal is a game about car combat.
Everything is left squarely in place for a second season which should up the car-nage even more, and I’d love to see it happen. Twisted Metal’s vibrant world and characters were a lot of fun to hang around, although I would only want to meet some of them—you can keep Sweet Tooth. In the hands of other actors, this series may have been a mess, but being led by Mackie and Beatriz, along with the strong supporting cast, Twisted Metal more than expands upon the source material; it grounds the series’ ridiculous characters into a world that somehow makes sense.
Twisted Metal is now streaming on Stan, with all ten episodes available to watch.