Black Women Run The Sea In Freeform’s New Mermaid Thriller, ‘Siren,’ Which Has A Promising Start (Review)

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March 29th 2018

Freeform is continuing to pull out new series this season, and its latest output is the network’s most interesting thus far.

The series stars Eline Powell, Alex Roe, Rena Owen, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Ian Verdun and Sibongile Mlambo, with the last three being actors of black descent.

In Siren,  the coastal town of Bristol Cove, known for its legend of once being home to mermaids, is turned upside down when a mysterious girl (Powell) appears and begins wreaking havoc upon the small fishing town. Using their resources, marine biologists Ben (Roe) and Maddie (Evans-Akingbola) must work together to find out who and what drove this primal hunter of the deep sea to land and if there more like her out there.

The show has a promising star by centering black women in the tale, both in the water and out of the water. Sibongile Mlambo’s Donna, a “mystifying and deceptively powerful mermaid” has little to no dialogue in the first episodes (as does Eline Powell as Ryn, the series' headliner) as the storyline builds out, but still manages to be a scene-stealer to set up her storyline for the rest of the season. Evans-Akinbola’s Maddie, a talented biologist.  The show’s diversity is its strong point, including Ian Verdun’s Xander as a skilled fisherman.Typically diversity is lacking in YA-tinged tales like this, but Siren proves not only that it is doable, but that it can be done well.

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

Set at a an expert pace, the three of episodes of the season provide heavy exposition while not moving at a breakneck pace. In a way that we’ve seen with Fox’s The Gifted and other related tales, Siren expertly portrays the dichotomy between the majority and the “other.”

Don’t think that Siren is fun and games though. It has its soft moments, but the mermaid series is a thriller which in several instances even becomes violent. The result is a new, fresh approach to a sort of tale that has been done numerous times and television and film. While touching on timely societal issues like the human impacts on the environment and sexual assault, as well as the introductory, subtle hints of plot points like sexuality and monogomy, Siren proves to be different and unpredictable in a world where a lot of the content we digest seems to be the same.

In some moments, the show does go a bit too dark for some, but recognizing it as a thriller and not your typical drama will help if you think the show needs more lighthearted moments -- not to say that it doesn’t, but there are some laughs included here as well.

Once the show really hits its stride, Siren has massive potential, and hopefully it will continue to do right by its black characters.



Siren premieres March 29 and will air weekly on Thursdays. 


Trey Mangum is the lead editor of Shadow & Act. You can email him at trey@blavity.com & follow him on Twitter @TreyMangum.

by Trey Mangum on March 29th 2018
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