Every week, I talk about something I’d reading, doing, watching, or loving.
This week, I love THE RIFTWORLD CHRONICLES.
Every week, I talk about something I’d reading, doing, watching, and of course, loving.
This week, I love THE RIFTWORLD CHRONICLES.
Sad as I am that it’s only 8 episodes, so far, this Meta Fantasy Webseries starring Erin Karpluk (Being Erica), and Tahmoh Penikett (Strange Empire), is great. It’s funny, but it’s not trying too hard, and it’s an homage to Table Top RPGs that is both genuine and touching, but also self-awarely wry.
There is none of that Big Bang Theory “we’re inviting you to laugh WITH the nerds but actually we’re all really laughing AT them” nonsense here.
And it’s working, because Riftworld is wracking in the webseries festival nominations.
This webseries, created for Punchline, the Original Digital Content side of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), is one of the great examples of why Canada’s creator’s guilds (ACTRA, WGC, DGA) are smart in embracing the webseries as a new and dynamic method of telling stories.
I love webseries because indie creators get a chance to shine, and when institutions like the CBC, and funding bodies, throw not only great money but great production support behind an indie creator’s idea, magic happens.
About Riftworld Chronicles
From the website:
A struggling journalist teams up with a dimension-traveling wizard who is stuck in our world without his magic powers. She helps him on his quest to return home in exchange for the rights to his story. When a rift between the realms opens up and fantastical foes invade, they are forced to solve the mystery of what binds their worlds, and their fates, together.
Why I Love It
Okay, well, as is totally obvious by, like, MY ENTIRE BIBLIOGRAPHY, (hellooo The Untold Tale & Accidental Turn Series), I love self-reflective meta narratives that play with the conventions and tropes of a genre.
The show also subtly inverts the assumed stereotypes of the characters, which I really like.
Al is the warrior-mage with biceps on his biceps, but he’s clever, he listens, and best of all, he engages seriously and respectfully with every female character he encounters. My favorite scene involves Al earnestly requesting a potion from an alchemist to help return the magical vigor that he’s lost, and nodding along and to-the-letter following the advice this WoC character provides. (Of course, she’s the barista in a tea shop, and she’s talking about her hubby’s impotence.)
Kim is a modern gal who is focused on her career and getting up the ladder, but she is also very concerned with social issues centered around feminism, racism, and social injustice. She’s girly, but womanly; self-assured and clever, but gets verbal diarrhea when she’s nervous or passionate; she can be callous and do selfish things, but after they’ve happened she realizes her mistake, regrets it, and tries her best to rectify it honestly. I like seeing someone so self-assured, yet so self-flagellating and someone who is imperfect yet trying to do better. She is a strongly written character instead of just a strong female character who is an unrealistically perfect automaton.
Sure, Kim’s brother Wes (Munro Chambers, Degrassi) is a D&D playing, video-game mainlining, pot-smoking dork, but he’s also lovable, thoughtful, compassionate, and generous.
There is also fantastic Costume Porn. Seriously. It’s dirty, which is the one thing that always, as a costumer, makes me ball up my fists when I watch When Calls the Heart or The Murdoch Mysteries. Even the cleanest petticoat hem is going to get dusty when you walk through dirt streets. And the textures on Al’s outfit are glorious, as is the way that his cloak is multi-functional. It reminds me of a traditional Great Kilt in that sense.
The performances are also great.
As Alar of Caer Caladh, Tahmoah could have gone hammy or over-the-top, but he has grounded Al in a very honest sort of compassion and understanding. I see in Al a man who was earnestly engaged in the magical arts and became a warrior-mage only out of necessity. He definitely prefers to talk it out than fight, use his head over his fists, but also recognizes that some causes are hopeless and violence has to happen. Tahmoah’s comedic timing is great, and he doesn’t over-sell any of the jokes, which is gold. And his faux-fantasy accent, that weird sort-of-British thing that began in the Golden Age of Hollywood and Peter Jackson enforced, is spot-on.
As Kim, Erin is channeling her turn as Erica in the time-travel self-help drama Being Erica (which my parents adored, BTW, used to call in “Being Jessica” because they said Erica was exactly me, and that the show was like watching my whole life from the inside). But Kim is not Erica – they share the same sort of *blink blink okaaaay* approach to the weirdness that has suddenly entered their lives, but Kim is sassy, a conscious feminist and advocate, but still the kind of person who wants so much to save the world that she puts her foot in her mouth in the midst of her passion.
What I love about Kim is the internal conflict she suffers when she’s asked to lie to Al and profile him for a piece on Mental Health centers, when he thinks she’s finally believing him and helping out. She is caught between sexual desire (cause wow, that costume highlights all the best parts of Tahmoah) and knowing that Al isn’t capable of informed and sober consent if he is suffering from a mental health issue. She wants to help him achieve his quest, but she also wants to help him get the medical help she’s sure he needs, and she wants to help herself by doing this editorial piece, but she also knows that the magazine she works for now is going to BuzzFeed-ify whatever she delivers and strip away all the important discussions that Kim is trying to engage her readership in about the social issues around mental health.
It’s a conflicting, confusing balance and that I can read all of that in Kim from Erin’s performance proves what a gem Erin is.
Sure, some of the writing is a bit of a stretch (like, why would Al immediately assume the first human he sees in a sky-rise glass-and-chrome office is the nobility or the ruler of the crystal palace and not a servant, which would be way more likely), but all of these little narrative leaps are forgivable because they keep the plot moving forward.
In the end, I give it 8.5/10, and really look forward to them showing us the Evil Sister (in the hopes that this trope is also inverted in a clever, interesting way. I’m so sick of the Evil Slut trope.) Hey, if it hasn’t been cast yet, may I suggest Adrienne Kress? She does a great evil laugh.
So, go watch THE RIFTWORLD CHRONICLES and have your heart warmed, your nerd side gratified, your funny bone tickled, and enjoy the female-gaze-oriented costume porn.