Monday, January 23, 2017

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series - Rio Sangre

Vampires go to jail.

Just last episode, I was lamenting the fact that Eiza Gonzalez's Santanico Pandemonium, formerly a goddess to Culebra vampires, has barely had any presence in the third season of From Dusk Till Dawn up to this point. Now here she is, making her triumphant return. While I assume Gonzalez was missing from the season because she was busy filming Edgar Wright's movie Baby Driver, it is explained that Santanico has been missing because she was busy gathering together the scattered body parts of the villainous vampire Carlos Madrigal (Wilmer Valderrama), a character who was defeated and chopped to pieces in the season two finale 'Santa Sangre'.

In 'Rio Sangre', Santanico stitches together Carlos's various parts and revives him with blood, sort of making him a combination of a Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula - no matter how Christopher Lee's Dracula was defeated in those old Hammer movies, they'd always find some way to bring him back, just like they've done with Carlos here. I can't exactly say I've missed Carlos this season, but it has felt a bit awkward not having him around, he was such a large presence in the previous seasons.

I can't say I trust Carlos, either, but Santanico is convinced he'll be a strong ally in the fight against Queen of Hell Amaru (Madison Davenport), who wants to unleash Hell on Earth. Carlos has been spending some time in Hell between the end of the season two and his resurrection here, so he knows just how bad Hell on Earth would be.

Carlos's plan to defeat Amaru is also something straight out of a movie featuring an iconic horror figure, in this case Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The plan to defeat Freddy in that film involved locating the supernatural dream stalker's earthly remains, which were hidden away after he was killed in an act of mob justice, and splashing holy water on them. Similarly, Amaru was killed by the Culebra ruling class, the Lords, and her remains hidden away by Lord Venganza Verdugo (Ana de la Reguera). While Amaru's spirit inhabits the body of a character we used to know as Kate Fuller, her bones are still in Venganza's possession, and through those bones she can be defeated.

Venganza is in hiding in a Mexico prison that houses both humans and Culebras, so Carlos leads a select group of our heroes there - Santanico, career criminal Seth Gecko (D.J. Cotrona), his vampire brother Richie (Zane Holtz), vampire Scott Fuller (Brandon Soo Hoo). They're followed by a villain who seems quite appropriate for the setting, since you're always hearing about prison tattoos. He is Geno Segers as General Tatuaje, a fellow covered in ink (even his name means "tattoo") that he can transfer to someone else by touch, and when his tattoos leak over onto that other person, he takes over their mind. He can control a whole army this way, and does end up doing that, taking over the minds of several prisoners and sparking a riot.

The prison infiltration shenanigans make for some fun caper moments, with the climactic riot providing some cool fisticuff action. One person who I have been very impressed with in the fight sequences this season is Brandon Soo Hoo, who pulls off the choreography like a pro. This kid could become an action star if he wants to.

You know, now that I think about it, "Seth Gecko vs. vampires in a Mexico prison" could have been the plot for a cool sequel to the original 1996 film that this series is based on.

Meanwhile, the rest of our heroes - Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia), demon hunter Burt (Tom Savini), vampire Sex Machine (Jake Busey) - are seeking the help of another Ranger, Gary Willet, in locating the underground tunnels that will lead them to Amaru. This B plot wasn't as interesting as the prison stuff, and Burt and Sex Machine didn't accomplish much other than smoking some marijuana, but it was nice to see Robert Knepper joining the show's cast as Willet.

'Rio Sangre' was written by Carlos Coto, who previously wrote the episodes 'Mistress', 'The Take', 'Opening Night', 'In a Dark Time', 'Bizarre Tales', and 'Head Games', and directed by Eagle Egilsson, who directed the episode 'Fanglorious' earlier in the season. These series veterans turned out a decent episode, one that sort of gets the show back to status quo by adding Santanico and Carlos back into the mix, and it wraps up with a great cliffhanger ending that leaves me anxious to see what will happen next. When it comes to episode quality, season three has a been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and this was one of its higher peaks.

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