Painkiller Jane: Just wont die
On paper I’m a whole list of things, not all of them desirable… well, most of them probably less than desirable… Actually, lets face it, I’m quite a schmuck. But if I’m anything, I’m a persistent schmuck! Actually, I’m a persistent schmuck with a high tolerance for crappy television. In fact, that could actually be my superpower: The ability to endure stunted writing, spasmodic camera work and half assed acting.
I should probably be working for FOX.
It’s been a while since any show, that I’ve made a commitment to watch, has managed to break me. The last, that I can recall, was that horrific abomination from a year or so back called ‘Surface’ — good lord that was a stinker — and I was right to stop watching that one too, it only lasted another couple of episodes after I’d pulled the plug on it. There are a couple pushing the limits of my abilities at the moment (I’m looking at YOU Torchwood!) but none more so than SciFi’s Painkiller Jane (PKJ).
For those who’ve not yet seen the series; it’s based on a comic series originally published by EVENT, now by Dynamite Entertainment. The series focuses on a lead character who heals rapidly, this is essentially where the comic and the television show part company. In the show, the character Jane Vasko (her name, the only other hang over from the comic), is a member of a squad of special agents employed with the task of tracking down ‘neuros’ – your garden variety mutants with funky powers… the downside being that the mutation which gives these people their powers, also removes their power to determine right from wrong. Jane herself is apparently not a neuro, however where her powers of regeneration come from remains unexplained – with the exception of the suggestion that she may have some kind of variation on the condition shared by the neuros that the team track.
Sometimes persisting with these shows, beyond the capacity of a mere human, does have it’s rewards. Blade: The Series was one that, after some teething problems (pun intended, cause that’s how I roll!) found its feet and actually looked like it was going to end up being a pretty good series. Unfortunately it wasn’t picked up for a second season, but I can’t say that SPIKE didn’t give it a fair shot. PKJ on the other hand has just aired it’s thirteenth episode (one more than Blade managed) and it is still struggling to get a foothold: The plots are rushed, the characters two dimensional and there’s no constant thread to hold the episodes together.
Don’t get me wrong, I really want to like this show. It has the potential to be far more than ‘Heroes Lite’ however it just keeps missing opportunities to step up a notch. The dynamic between the main characters is flimsy, in thirteen episodes the writers (and creators) Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti haven’t been able to do what Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett managed in about 2 minutes for the film ALIENS. And when you consider that this is a show about a character who can’t die, then the only real drama must come from us (the viewer) actually caring about the people surrounding her, and if we don’t care about them then the show is doomed.
At first I thought that the pace of the show was an attempt to make up for the missed opportunity to use characters established in the 2005 TV movie. But at this point the go nowhere set ups and inconsistent personalities (this week team leader Andre is cranky and snappy for no apparent reason, and nobody mentions it!?) need to be tightened up if the show is going to last. The writers need to clean up shop, spend less time on Jane’s apparently nameless boyfriend, either ditch Adrian Holmes’ character (Steve Ford) or actually bring him into the fold properly. Relax the banter between the members of the team, so far everything is overly forced and characters are coming off, dare I say it, cartoony.
Most importantly they need to introduce an over-arcing story, something that makes me want to keep coming back to watch the next episode… and not just because I’m flexing my own superpower, but because I have to know if Villain #A will be back to cause trouble and if Jane and her team are going to meet the challenge WITHOUT me having to shout “AS IF YOU’D DO THAT!!!” at the TV half a dozen times an episode. And don’t push me people, because I’ll do it!