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The Rook review: Starz's new series lacks the magic of the book it adapts

The World by Daniel O & # 39; Malley's 2012 novel The Rook is a strange place. The Checquy – a secret wing of British intelligence consisting of elite bureaucrats, people with supernatural powers and at least one vampire – protects the United Kingdom from harpy attacks, excavated buried dragon eggs, and treats neighbors complaining of loud chanting that happens next door. The bulk of the book is intended for the organization's struggle against a group of Belgian mad scientists who previously invaded England with an army of monsters made by the manipulation of meat and bone.

Unfortunately, none of this taste has made it to Starz's adaptation of The Rook debuting on June 30. While it is understandable that the network did not want to spend the money needed to capture the book's " But in Black but imagination" they feel away from the excellent absurdity that made it a compelling reading. What remains is just another show about how the world would be as if some people had great powers.

The show's version of Checquy is only intended to monitor people with Extreme Variant Abilities (dubbed EVA), recruit them in the organization and fight the trafficking that captures them and sell them to the highest bidder. This is not a new idea: The X-Men 's Weapon X project encompassed the same foundation, Young Justice has a similar plotlin and a metahuman trading ring played an important role in season 4 of CWs Flash . The twist here is that Cheququyen seems to be as bad as the metahuman hunting wings. The geese sell children with powers, but the chequy takes them from their families and uses unethical means to improve their abilities to make them useful assets.

"Both sides are bad" method is intended to create an impossible situation for the protagonist Myfanwy Thomas (Emma Greenwell), who wakes up surrounded by dead vultures without the memory of who she is or what happened to her. She discovers that she is a high quality member of Cheququy – a Rook, according to her tradition of giving people chess – based titles – and she learns that she cannot trust anyone. It's a good neo-noir setting, but The Rook lacks the sharp writing or nuanced characters needed to do that genre work.

O & # 39; Malley's book is a fantasy of power where Myfanwys's amnesia strips her of all her doubts and trauma, and lets her unlock her real potential. Myfanwy was an ultra-competent organizer who when she learned that she would lose her memory, put her new self up with all the information and resources she would need.

Photo: Starz

But in the exhibition, Myfanwy was and remains a neurotic, anxious mess that must list most things out himself. She has recently been buried under extra portions of trauma and mental illness. Showrunners Lisa Zwerling and Karyn Usher may have wanted to avoid relying on voiceover story because Myfanwy reads letters from herself, but the close-ups of her browsing through Google searches, reading conspiracy theory message cards, and scanning edited medical files is just like matt .

Almost everybody's Malley's book follows Myfanwys's perspective, but Zwerling and Usher have taken an ensemble approach without making any of the character-building necessary to do so. Chequay King Linda Farrier (Joely Richardson of Nip / Tuck and Red Sparrow ) and Queen Conrad Grantchester (Adrian Lester) jockeying for power by holding information and using the secrets they have as leverage but their intrigue and power games feel clumsy and hollow, easy to trace back to their source or override. It's also hard to care for who's coming out on the top, because they don't seem to have any distinguishable character traits, except they are manipulative and dedicated to their jobs.

Zwerling and Usher have trimmed away some of the extraordinary Cheququy members from the book, but they have elevated the little character Monica Reed (Olivia Munn of X-Men: Apocalypse ) to become a super strong agent from US counterpart to Cheququy. When Monica arrives in the UK, she tracks her former partner and lover, she talks about requiring everyone to respect her and giving her all the resources she needs, and doing almost nothing to motivate herself, besides making incredibly transparent attempts at empathy and flattering. She spends most of the first four episodes in the eight episode series completely disconnected from the rest of the lead role, making her feel even more unnecessary.

Photo: Starz

The Rook s one standout character and performance comes from Gestalt, a Checquy agent who is a consciousness spread across the bodies of two identical twins (Jon Fletcher) and two fraternal (Catherine Steadman and Ronan Raftery). While the authors rely a little on bulky twin troops, such as the siblings talking in consensus or ending each other's sentences, they also give even more troubled moments, as Myfanwy begins a conversation with a version, goes down the hall and then continues her chat with another sibling. A scene that shows Gestalt's morning routine provides a fascinating perversion of the visual stone images used to show intimacy, as siblings help each other dress and sit down at the breakfast table without speaking. They are together, but fundamentally alone.

Visually, The Rook is as bland as Myfanwys's wardrobe, which extends from beige to gray. The directors are far too fond of drone pictures showing the London skyline and their busy streets. They are trying to create a sense of place, but their world feels meaningless because all characters are devoted to a single crisis in the first half, making it remarkably unclear what the jaw is doing on a day-to-day basis. This is also a show about people with superpowers, with basically no special effects. Instead, uncomfortable close-ups are used on Conrad's eyes or Myfanwy hands to show that they use forces that have no visual effect until the people who attack the keel. There is very little action, apart from some chase scenes, but one that involves Gestalt's various bodies working in concert to protect Myfanwy further establishes that character as the best part of the show.

Photo: Starz

O & # 39; Malley's book is far from perfect. The prose extends toward the man's gaze, as Myfanwy regularly spends time judging the women's appeal and comparing them to their own perceived shortcomings. But while the show's lack of inner monologue has equalized this element, it has been replaced by terrible attempts to use sexual influence to lighten up the otherwise gloomy script. When Monica is asked, she responds to an otherwise emotionally tense scene, if she has a picture of her partner, "I suppose you mean his face?"

In conclusion The Rook feels like a missed opportunity, so far from the source material that it lost its identity, while not building a new one that justifies its existence. Shows such as Alphas and Sense8 did a much better job with stories of people with superpowers trying to find their way around the world – these series have better writing, nuanced characters and concrete ideas of what their character's abilities mean to human experience. But it was still not enough to save either show from cancellation. The Rook novel has some exciting twists to pull, but if Starz's show pulls one out of its pocket, it's probably led to the same fate.

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