Reprisal premieres December 6 on Hulu.
By Chris Flanagan
Reprisal, Hulu’s latest venture into scripted programming, is a familiar yet complicated tale of revenge that uses a unique world and population of characters in order to set itself apart from similar stories that have come before it. Its plot centers around Katherine/Doris (Abigail Spencer), the sister of a major gang leader, Burt, who is wrongfully believed to have betrayed the family and is supposedly killed for it. Having not died, she spends the next decade slowly working her way back into the world that spurned her in order to topple her brother’s empire from the inside out.
What makes Reprisal so interesting is not so much its story but its setting which is comprised of a hybrid of throwback hot rod and biker gangs with names like – The Vipers, Cleavers, Brawlers, Ghouls, etc. – all operating in an age of flip phones. It’s a strange concept, to say the least, but the aesthetics are undeniably beautiful as the people within this world resemble what it would look like if the cast from Grease were all professional criminals after they graduated high school. This is one of the show’s main strengths as the entire production helps forgive any shortcomings with the script or pacing which are deficient at times. The cast such as Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld), Mena Massoud (Aladdin) and Madison Davenport (Black Mirror) all do a good job with their respective characters, each having something holding them back from achieving what they truly desire in their lives – again, a trope that we understand very well – but as the show progresses each of them are able to stretch somewhat beyond what has typically stunted similar character’s development by offering surprising narrative turns when least expected.
One of the main issues that served as both a blessing and a curse for Reprisal was within its pacing. Each of its 10 episodes spans almost an hour and as I approached the halfway mark of the season I came to the realization that its narrative path had prevented the pace from moving quickly, opting for a slow-burn to its story. For the most part, this still was able to offer a compelling story within each episode but I couldn’t help but feel that if sped up just slightly that the show would’ve been significantly better. Its pacing also did little to disguise issues with the script that would sometimes stall or have senseless dialogue that could’ve easily been edited but the cast was able to help elevate it to a serviceable place that was neither strength or a debilitating weakness.
Overall, Reprisal is nothing new in terms of a drama centered around characters seeking redemption and revenge, however, what it might lack in originality it more than makes up for in its ability to create a unique world filled with a version of throwback criminals operating in a semi-modern era that can’t help but catch the viewer’s eye. While familiar, Reprisal’s story still offers enough to entertain throughout its 10-episode run and offers a slow burn that continually builds to a satisfying conclusion. It will keep you guessing in moments while simultaneously being predictable in others but it nevertheless delivers as a decent watch that can be accomplished over a weekend.
I give Reprisal a B+.