Mermaid-centric TV series Siren premiered in 2018 with a 10-episode first season, and its story is a mish-mash of drama, fantasy, sci-fi and horror. It's set in the small fishing town of Bristol Cove, which has a founding history related to merfolk, though most think that merely myth. That changes when a group of Bristol Cove fishermen capture what they think is a mermaid, and said mermaid's sister, Ryn, travels onto land to rescue her.
Ryn (Eline Powell) is the main mermaid of the show, and after some false starts bonds deeply with the two main human characters: Ben Pownall and Maddie Bishop, a pair of marine conservationists who also happen to be dating. Small-town dynamics play a big part in this show, with Ben's business-oriented family being behind the overfishing that's threatening the merfolk, and Maddie's father being the sheriff that's investigating Ryn's mysterious arrival. There's also Ryn's sister, Donna (Sibongile Mlambo), who's been captured by the military and is understandably terrified and mad at humans. There are other important characters as well, and the changing dynamics between them: trust and mistrust, fascination and hate, all drive the story forward.
Although the general conceit is familiar (a mermaid traveling onto land for a purpose, leading to a culture clash and threats from those that would do her harm) this show is far less whimsical than most. The stakes are high and it's pretty packed from episode to episode, with close calls and a web of antagonistic relationships tripping everything up. At the center of it all is Eline's wonderful performance as the otherworldly Ryn, supported Sibongile's equally passionate Donna (both characters' names are borrowed from the human world). They're predators, dangerous and powerful, but they have relationships that are as complicated as humans', and they are just as fallible.
In this take on merfolk, their transformations are agonizingly painful and shown in bloody close-up. They literally shed their tails when dry, and need to return to the sea after a time, otherwise they grow sick. Their community is matriarchal and based on physical domination, and they have customs and social rituals, some of them similar to humans. This series is not interested in having its merfolk be classically beautiful; their beauty is sharp-edged and monstrous. Hence the underwater scenes are more eerie and functional, and the tails appear to be mostly CGI.
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