Thursday, January 30, 2014

STATE OF SYN A New State (Staite?) for TV

Article first published as STATE OF SYN A New State (Staite?) for TV on TheTVKing.

Television is in a transitional period. Young people are flocking away from the traditional cable model, cutting the cord and finding their programming online. At the same time, a variety of new content providers are seeking to bring original work to the masses in fresh ways. Without the limitations of the old model, there's a lot more room for experimentation and new perspectives, moving outside the box classic dramas and sitcoms seem stuck in.

Recently, Hulu launched the original series State of Syn, the first eight episodes of which are available on their site now. Set in 2043, it shows us a world where technology has developed into a primary focus of life. The rich have built a wall between themselves and the poor, yet those less fortunate still make time to go clubbing and try the latest fad, which is addictive tech altering their brain like a drug. It's a bleak picture of the future.

Enter into this world Annika Drake (Jewel Staite, Firefly), a young woman who can taste sounds and feel colors. Her father is the brain behind the latest developments, but his business partner, Aslin Kane (David Hewlett, Traders), has perverted his knowledge. Can Annika discover what is going on and stop it before Kane controls the world?

Each episode is only 6 or 7 minutes long, closer to a web series than the programs most of us are used to. What this means is that the initial batch of eight feels more like a pilot than a season. It introduces us to a group of characters, sets up the premise and world, and deals with one immediate problem. It doesn't resolve many of its threads, leaving the door open for much more story.

What is there is good, and I'm eager for more at the end. There is a lot going on, with different factions, including the Preacher (Rainbow Francks, The Listener), who have their own motivations. It's hard to know who to trust, and while there isn't time for much character exploration yet, it definitely feels like there is depth to the roles. Plus, it's interesting to see yet another dystopian version of the future, with unique developments that are intriguing.

The most jarring thing about State of Syn is that it appears to be a motion comic, with photos of the actors set in a CGI world. There's a lot of movement from panel to panel, so it's not boring, but the characters themselves are mostly static. If you've watched such a medium before, as some graphic novels these days are released in this format, you may be fine with it, but for the rest of us, it takes some getting used to.

The thing is, though, you can get used to it, even for those completely inexperienced. I watched the season in two batches, and both times I felt myself really drawn into the story. This style does allow for some cool visuals, and it fits the type of adventure that's portrayed. It's not exactly a mainstream conceit, but I think this could gain more popularity, especially with the 3D feel in a 2D presentation.

Some of the dialogue is cheesy, and Kane himself seems like a comic book villain. However, this matches the tone, so it doesn't seem so hokey. If you already feel like you're reading a comic, tropes of the genre aren't so unwelcome.

Overall, I enjoyed State of Syn, and while I don't think its appeal is broad enough to crack the new television arena wide open, I do think lots of people will like it if they take the time to check it out, probably more than would expect to. It'll serve comic book lovers, to be sure, but it should also be good enough for fans of sci-fi who crave the moral debates over technology and its use. By casting a bunch of Stargate: Atlantis vets, State of Syn is smart, as perhaps some of those fans will give it a chance.

State of Syn is available now on Hulu.


  1. I see a connection between Almost Human and State of Syn.

  2. Absolutely. Especially with the Wall.


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