“The three main characters share a polyamorous relationship that has been done right, avoiding fanservice or a toxic love triangle.”
Episodes Reviewed: S01E01 - S02E08
Creators: Eric Wald 👨🏼🇺🇸 and Dean White 👨🏼🇺🇸
Writers: Eric Wald 👨🏼🇺🇸 (21 eps), Dean White 👨🏼🇺🇸 (21 eps), Elias Benavidez 👨🏽🇺🇸 (17 eps), Liz Maccie 👩🏼🇺🇸 (17 eps), Cole Fowler 👨🏼🇺🇸 (16 eps), and various
User-submitted review by Beatriz 👩🏼🇵🇹
Freeform’s Siren makes for dark viewing. Literally, the fantastical drama builds its world with gray skies and darkened seas, providing a backdrop against gruesome murders and other plots through which characters develop. It does take a few episodes for them to settle in, but luckily, lead protagonist Ryn—a predator-of-the-sea mermaid played by Eline Powell—feels fully conceived from the get-go. She fascinates through inhuman behavior like eating rodents (yum!) or peering at the world through twitchy, fish-like movements. The mystery of why she came to shore provides the show’s hook, while tensions between the sirens and humans of the fictional seaside town of Bristol Cove drive the show’s momentum.
Honestly, the scripts, execution, and acting of Siren isn’t anything to write home about, on par with campy shows from other teen networks like the CW. But the way writers turn myths on their head keeps viewers engaged episode after episode.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Ryn and marine biologist Maddie (Fola Evans-Akingbola) comprise two of the show’s main characters, and they're as complex the plot-driven Siren allows them to be. Considering her arrival into brand new surroundings, Ryn could have come off as the wide-eyed girl who needs men to show her the ways of the world, but thankfully avoids that trope. Instead, her confusion at the human world quickly develops into comprehension, as she picks up speech from watching Sesame Street or through the coaching of Maddie and her boyfriend and fellow marine biologist, Ben (Alex Roe). Ryn’s motivations and desires evolve over the course of the show, further lending her strength and agency.
Maddie, on the other hand, feels more consistent and stable. Her life does comes into the spotlight during the second season, however, giving her ample screen time and ensuring that she never feels like a third wheel with Ryn and Ben.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast after that veers male, lending an overall result of men receiving more screen time and character development. This is a shame, especially considering that the siren society detailed within the show follows a matriarchal power structure. A whole world of possibilities could have been explored from that angle.
Of the three leads, Maddie is the only person of color (POC) played by Evans-Akingbola, who is English and Nigerian. The supporting cast fares a bit better by numbers, but some get killed off and others have minimal roles. At any rate, even the POC who enjoy more narrative space are treated with shallow “colorblindness”. Namely, Siren may cast non-white actors but never actually pauses to take advantage of the way race interplays with identity, missing an opportunity to deepen the backstories of its non-white characters who live in the predominately white town of Bristol Cove.
While no exact labels are given, viewers can safely assume that Ryn and Maddie are bisexual or at least queer. Both share a polyamorous relationship with Ben, where the three clearly love each other in all senses of the word.
It's a pity that sexual fluidity isn’t developed more among the other sirens, who are mostly women and who probably enter same-sex relationships. But for now, the Ryn-Maddie-Ben threesome has been done right, avoiding fanservice or a toxic love triangle.
Ben’s mother Elaine (Sarah-Jane Redmond) joins the supporting cast as a wheelchair user. Her character is treated with the utmost respect, and she’s a powerful woman in her own right while showing the difficulties of her situation, having been paralyzed in a car accident years prior. Worryingly, a future development could involve the harnessing of sirens’ powers to “fix her”—a major disability trope—but how that will be handled is anyone's guess at this point.
On a related note, Redmond doesn’t actually use a wheelchair in real life. With this casting decision, Siren continues the exclusionary trend in Hollywood of prioritizing able-bodied actors for roles that could be going to disabled actors who are hungry for representation.
Mediaversity Grade: C+ 3.50/5
With its elements of mythology and gore, Siren lives in a niche space that may not appeal to everyone. But between its positive messaging about climate change, its engaging drama, and an effectively spooky world, Siren is on its way to developing some interesting lore of its own.