If the maiden season of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” served a clear purpose – giving a signature, recognizable franchise to the fledgling El Rey Network – it’s hard to make much of a case for an encore. Yes, the show continues with a mix of characters old and new, but whatever novelty there was has worn off, leaving little worth digesting for all but true genre connoisseurs and diehard fans of director Robert Rodriguez and/or the cultish original. Some fresh star power (Esai Morales, Danny Trejo) can’t escape the sense this show has been kept alive past its expiration date.
Granted, there was room for skepticism in certain quarters (including this one) whether the 1996 movie, a staple on latenight cable, cried out to be adapted and expanded into series form in the first place, cashing in on the equity in a title that had already spawned cheapo sequels. But doubling down on the exercise is more a tribute to the needs of the network (in which Rodriguez is a partner) than to the lingering value of the story.
As it stands, this second season advances on twin, parallel tracks that must inevitably intersect in a grand family reunion. The criminal Gecko brothers Richie (Zane Holtz) and Seth (D.J. Cotrona) were scarred in different ways by their adventure at that supernatural, south-of-the-border strip club, and have gone on the lam – with Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza Gonzalez), the club’s resident Mayan goddess; and Kate (Madison Davenport), respectively.
Of course, dark powers, embodied by Morales, want to bring Santanico back into the fold of culebras, the snake-like creatures that subsist on human blood. That throws some major and macabre obstacles into the characters’ paths, even as Santanico plots revenge.
Rodriguez and company certainly know their way around the genre, and there’s plenty of colorful violence with blood spurting in every direction. Mostly, though, this second season feels like a caper series, with the brothers separately plotting heists of one kind or another, and Seth handicapped by Kate’s relative lack of experience in that regard.
The actors appear to be having a good time – unfettered as they are to chew on the scenery as well as some of their peers, the latter presented with lusty abandon thanks to “The Walking Dead” makeup ace Greg Nicotero.
The problem is that aside from a narrow fan base, there’s scant reason to care about them, and from the performances to the relatively modest scale, the cocktail feels too diluted. With the benefit of hindsight, a complete reboot might have been in order – something like the syndicated “Friday the 13th” series – but that’s water under the bridge (or blood under the fangs).
Granted, beyond pairing George Clooney on the cusp of stardom with Quentin Tarantino – not to mention Salma Hayek and that snake – the original movie was most notable as a mash-up of genres, at least until all hell broke loose. Yet while the series can charitably be viewed as a savvy commercial move seizing on ’80s and ’90s nostalgia, creatively speaking, this is one of those ideas – much like the show’s vampires – that doesn’t fare quite as well when exposed to the bright light of day.