A Review of Armageddon Productions' Latest TV Blockbuster
by Steve Cook
The last few weeks have seen this brand new, multi-genre series burst onto our screens amid a great deal of hooha among lovers of fiction everywhere. Insiders say it is planned to run until the fall of civilisation as we know it or the writers run out of implausible plot twists, whichever comes sooner. Although some point out that civilisation is only likely to fall after we have gotten around to actually building one.
The first episode, “Red Herring” promised much, yet subsequent episodes failed to deliver as the plot quickly lost its way. By the end of last night’s episode – the fourth, entitled “Hypocrisy Overload,” – there was little sign that quality will improve anytime soon.
It should be said however that “The Shattering” is nevertheless a considerable improvement on the execrable mini-series “Syria: Rise of the Fibbers” which was taken off air prematurely due to problems with the script and lack of public interest, although a small hard core of devoted but disappointed “Syria” fans (Kerrie and Obama Cheney of Warmongrin, Nebraska) have defied common sense and mounted a determined campaign to have it reinstated.
The new series, which crosses genres in a clumsy mix of political thriller, slapstick comedy, science fiction and pure fantasy, includes among its cast the ubiquitous John McCain (“Honey I Shrunk the Country”, “The Senator’s Brain is Missing” and “Conan the Diplomat”) who is famous as the inventor of the oven chip and for having no sense of personal embarrassment or charisma.
In “The Shattering” McCain’s character manages to look even more vacuous than George Bush Jr (“Rogue State: The Empire Strikes First”, “Demolition Loony,” “Weapons of Mass Fabrication”) as he depicts a man obsessed with impersonating a statesman. When his attempts prove futile and he fails to convince anybody that he is not in fact quite dim and/or made of cardboard, he takes out his frustration on a large Eastern European country.
Crossing the vast, benighted wastelands of the Evil Empire, he travels to the very borders of the Neighbouring Evil Empire (also known as Russia) equipped only with a TV crew and a copious chequebook. He arrives at the City of Kiev, world famous for its chicken dinners and being a Complete Mystery to everybody west of Poland. There he chances upon some simple local folk who while away their time dreaming of the exalted ascendance to “Union With Europe,” which is a sort of mythical Nirvana found in several works of fiction such as political speeches but which the hard-pressed people of the country have mistaken for reality – as opposed to everybody who has already attained Union With Europe who have discovered that it is not so much akin to Nirvana as a derangement of the prefrontal lobes and are dreaming of un-attaining it again.
The local folk are minding their own business, voting for corrupt politicians and being defecated upon from a great height in the manner of simple folk everywhere, when McCain catches them unawares by hitting them with platitudes, which – also in the tradition of simple folk everywhere – they completely believe and accept without question, especially as he looks very American and, more importantly, not at all Russian. He manages with surprising ease to get them really worked up to a point where they ransack their parliament, bring down the corrupt government and replace it with gangsters according to tradition, then wait expectantly for everything to be miraculously All Right.
While all this is going on, an all-too-familiar sub-plot is unfolding: some mischievous orcs have been busy burrowing into the fabric of society at the behest of the Merchants of Fear who work for the Dark Lord of the Evil Empire. This is not the Neighbouring Evil Empire, you understand, which is run by a large talking bear with sinister charisma. Neither is it the Evil Empire A Bit Further Still to The East, which is commanded by the so-called Inscrutable Descendants of Mao whose names no-one can remember and are busily taking over the world without using any charisma at all. This is the Evil Empire in the West (plus Israel and Saudi Arabia a bit as well) which has for many years been fooling people into thinking it is actually quite nice mainly by the cunning device of lying – plus hypnotic spells subliminally implanted through ipods, p-pods, brillo-pads, the world wide web or indeed anything else that comes in handy.
These orcs, otherwise known as “agents” of the CIA (Centre for International Anarchy), work for the Evil Empire in the West, which is run by Satan who is currently in hiding inside a President They have slyly released the deadly Rothschild-Soros Virus into the economy, which has caused a chain reaction of everybody getting poorer and returning back in time to the Middle Ages, followed by a natural progression to blaming the government for everything (and being corrupt, the government has laid itself right open to that one!) followed by setting fire to bystanders. This leads inexorably to Fascism, which everybody welcomes with open arms (except the non-fascists who are still hoping for ascendance to Union and everything being Magically Better).
It is at this point the plot becomes convoluted and confusing with various characters appearing and saying and doing things that make little sense in the traditional manner of similarly implausibly plotted and somewhat demented series such as “Lost”. One finds oneself instinctively wishing one could skip to the final episode in which all the apparent nonsense is brought neatly together so that it actually makes sense (or not as in the case of Lost) such as everybody discovering they have all been dead since the beginning of the twentieth century and are actually living in a Matrix-like world controlled by sinister men in shades who command advanced magical algorithms that allow Satan to know what everybody is doing at any given moment.
The series does present some interesting battle scenes, although it is unclear as to who is fighting whom or why but part of the reason probably lies in the fact that the virus has brought out of their crypts legions of un-dead Nazis whom everybody had forgotten about since World War Two. These rise from their graves in a dark underworld known as the “Subculture”, and, having had their brains dissolved, are now elaborately tattooed with runic symbols.
The undead Nazis then proceed to do the only thing anyone can do in a time of national emergency when the fate of millions hangs in the balance: they run amuck, playfully beating up anyone with any bright ideas. This is done in the hope of impressing the rest of the world that having moral sense is not a prerequisite for running a country efficiently straight into the ground (something which the rest of the world knew already).
But they have an Achilles Heel, a flaw in their plan for global dominion via reunion with Satan who still has quite a soft spot for them. The flaw lies in the fact that apart from running amuck and shooting people they haven’t thought things through any further and are right out of ideas. This is mainly because Nazism has no real experience of taking things further than the running amuck stage before everybody gets fed up with them and sends them back to the hell from whence they came. But this again is fairly traditional in the modern world so nobody notices and the Nazis are consequently appeased by given them control of the police and armed forces.
Back at the sinister Capitol Hill from whence the Dark Lord controls his armies of trolls and drones, there is much jubilation at the “Flowering of Democracy” in the Ukraine, which is demonic tongue for “dominion over everything”. The character played by McCain is feted and the sorcerers of the pharmacopia prepare the potions by which to induce in everyone an hallucinogenic state in which everything will look perfectly normal.
It is at this point, so far as anyone can tell, that the Great Bear of the Evil Empire Next Door wakes up from a long hibernation. He sees the undead and the not-actually-undead-but-quite-evil Oligarchs form an alliance that prepares to sacrifice millions of people to Satan so as to get him to give them some high-interest loans with which to buy a few luxuries such as toilet paper and armour-piercing bullets. In response The Bear prepares to do nothing in particular and let the Evil Empire run up some more bills, as he has received a tip-off from a small secret circle of ten million bloggers that the Evil Empire is actually bankrupt – well, even more bankrupt than the other Evil Empires against which it vies for global dominion.
Meanwhile, the Crimeans who inhabit the lands to the south and east are unhappy about the way the undead are acting, particularly when the aforementioned undead pass laws that forbid them from talking – at least not in a language they can understand. They get on the phone to the Great Bear that runs the Evil Empire next door and ask him for instructions. The Great Bear is not in a very good mood, having been disturbed by all the commotion on his doorstep and having been slagged off and blamed for everything. He therefore decides to play straight into the hands of The West by sending lots of troops into Crimea using troops that were already there.
In response to this highly predictable reaction that nobody could possibly have foreseen, there is a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the general direction of The West, who consider it Morally Wrong for anyone but themselves to use armies – or even have them in the first place.
From that point, the series does manage to convey a fair sense of mounting tension mainly because – and this is a serious hole in the plot in our view – there’s nobody around who is interested in calming things down a bit. But on the other hand, very few movies or series would work and no plot would develop beyond the first ten minutes if all the characters did the sensible thing (such as moving away from the danger instead of towards it, which is the natural response of people in the real world).
There is also a further sub-plot in which the Evil Empire (the one run by Satan) doesn’t have any money and is running the whole operation on IOUs while the Great Bear and the Descendants of Mao have been cunningly stockpiling gold . . .
You’ll have to watch the next exciting episode to see how things work out but if you haven’t been watching – or have been watching but switched to another channel to watch a game show, which makes about as much sense but is at least a bit less stupid – be warned!
This series has a plot that is so convoluted and so implausible you’ll be left with the feeling you’d like to lynch the guy who wrote the script – and the financiers who backed it (again, a bit like Lost). It also contains some dreadful acting, especially by McCain and a particularly wooden performance by Ricky Gervais (“Die, Please”, “Whoops! Holocaust!” and “The Muppets”) who plays the bloke with an unpronounceable name who is the leader of the undead zombies whilst believing he is a reincarnation of Hitler determined to make the same mistakes all over again.
One does wish sometimes that the makers of such series were a bit less jaded and could come up with something more believable and a lot more original. After all, we’ve seen it all before.