Something strange is happening in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Ben Strang’s episodic series, Beast. Standing on the shore is Daniel (Elijah Mayo), a young boy observing the strange bobbing motions of a lone buoy and hearing even more unusual sounds accompanying it. In Daniel’s hand is a map of the bay, marked with an “X” at every spot along the water he’s searched.
Searched for what? Not long ago, Daniel’s father went missing in his boat and is now believed dead by all the grown-ups. Mr. Barkley (Jay Potter) was one of the men searching for him, and continuing the search has proven futile. He tells Daniel, it’s over.
At home, Daniel is scolded by his mother Michelle (Chantal Nchako), for spending too much time at the bay, instead of packing his belongings as they are in the process of moving away. Deep down, Daniel believes his father may still be alive or at least has his suspicions about what really happened to him. And why is the series even called Beast?
“… Daniel’s father went missing in his boat and is now believed dead by all the grown-ups.”
Beast is a multi-episode series that will, presumably, answer a lot of questions over time, while slowly unraveling the mystery of the bay and fate of Daniel’s father. This review is of the first episode only. Writer/director Ben Strang not only sets up a good mystery establishing all the key players but makes excellent use of his bayside location. Water, boats, docks, and the harbor village are all accounted for and look good.
What’s missing in the opening episode, though, is a means to connect the audience with Daniel’s plight. There is nothing present to connect us emotionally with the story and compel us to stick around for the upcoming episodes. Beast is the story of a boy whose father goes missing, and a mother who wants to run from tragedy. This simple storyline is all there is to the first episode. How meaningful was the relationship between Daniel and his father? What is the depth or strength of that father/son connection?
Michelle lost her husband. Were they in love? Did they fight often? Notice, none of these questions has to do with the overall mystery. It merely establishes why I want to follow these characters. A competent pilot always teases at the end not only where the story is headed, but why you absolutely have to see what happens to our new friends next. It needs an intense cliffhanger.
The lack of a “cliffhanger” ending doesn’t ruin the overall story of episode one. You have other episodes that could potentially answer them in detail. It’s just a great way to force your audience to stick around for the next. Beast’s beautiful location, good acting, and a solid mystery are just enough to get us to the next episode.
"…makes excellent use of his bayside location. Water, boats, docks, and the harbor village..."