At the beginning of “The I-Land,” 10 strangers wake up on an unknown island with no recollection of how they got there or who they were before they woke up. They soon figure out each of their first names by looking at the tags on their shirts.
Little information is given out about each of the characters. Their priorities are also seemingly out of line with what would be expected of people who randomly wash ashore on a deserted island. Like ABC’s hit series “Lost,” the result of the plane crash on the island leaves people in hysterics — passengers are confused and crying, but immediately began figuring out how to survive. In “The I-Land,” half the gang decides to go swim and lounge in the sun, while the other half tries to figure out why they’re there.
In the first half, every clue that the group found on the island is always deemed as a “weird coincidence.” When Taylor (Kota Eberhardt) finds a book in the sand called “The Mysterious Island,” she throws it away without consulting the others and never opens it. The group later comes across a sign nailed into the island that reads, “Find Your Way Back.” Only a few people actually believe the sign could mean something while everyone else ignores it.
In the third episode, every question that the audience has gets answered. The show is set years into the future. The 10 stranded people are all prisoners, and the island is a simulation to see if they can be “redeemed” from their past crimes. If redeemed, they have the opportunity to leave prison and live a normal life.
The entirety of the simulation is government-run and located in a correctional facility in Texas. Government workers are in control of what happens during the simulations, factors such as the weather, similarly to the game-makers in Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.”
After episode 3, the show delves into the past crime of each character and begins establishing more set relationships between them. The tension then begins to focus on each person as an individual. The show gets less interesting after this reveal, because all of the big questions the viewer initially has are answered too quickly.
It’s hard to tell who plays the antagonist. In the opening scene, Chase (Natalie Martinez) and KC (Kate Bosworth) both get into an argument with each other about how to properly hold a knife. From that moment, the two instantly despise each other and carry that anger out for the rest of the show. The antagonist roles bounce between the two of them because of KC has a direct personality and Chase has a tendency to hide valuable information she finds about the island from everyone.
Not only are the antagonists unclear inside the simulation, but there’s also dissension between the workers who are in charge of simulation operations. The prison warden (Bruce McGill) and Dr. Wyss, the psychiatrist partly responsible for assessing prisoners’ cases (Dalia Davis), constantly play a game of tag to see which of them can hide more secrets. At first, they both come across as genuine people but ultimately start convincing others that they each have a plethora of undiscovered secrets.
“The I-Land” makes a poor attempt to carry a mysterious sci-fi series. The series makes attempts to be successful but ultimately ruins them by giving away too much information too fast, the unrealistic setting and the unclear protagonist and antagonist.
Contact Joanna Sommer at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.