1 out of 5
Created by: José Alvarenga Jr., Marcal Aquino and Fernando Bonassi
1. When you watch a 10-episode series and seriously consider quitting on the 9th episode
2. When you can predict dialogue, character arcs, and whole plotlines after a few minutes
3. Characters interact with one another that makes you feel like you missed an episode
4. When one of your first questions – all giant logic gaps / leaps aside – is “have these writers and directors never actually seen another TV show or movie?”
These are signs that what you’re watching is crap.
I barely have the patience to properly deride the crapfest that is Supermax. Take any one of your least favorite people-in-an-enclosed-space setups and pull out every conceivable annoying cliche – mostly variations on completely pointless power struggles that apparently occur within 5 minutes of confining people – and then toss in a couple of casual rapes and assaults in the meantime. Top with “social commentary” of using reality TV as a framing device, and sprinkle with “character development” via everyone’s hidden secrets, and then mostly forget those two elements, except to provide fodder for yelling at / raping one another.
This is fucking trash. Escalating tension for TV: sure, but leave some degree of believability before having everyone descend into primalism. And the Lost formula of dropping hints of shady pasts (this is a purposeful part of the participants’ inclusion in the reality show) is all fine and good, but the creators seemingly only had enough material to actually write one or two backgrounds, with the rest not really seeming all that bad or, uh, maybe just wholesale guessed at by the other cast members as – again – fodder for getting people to yell at one another.
What’s a shame is that there’s a valid setup here, which supports the first episode being the only okay one: a Survivor-type reality show that locks people in a maximum security prison to survive for a cash prize, with privileges like hot water and being in charge of food rations doled out to winners of challenges. The way that first episode is shot, and the purposeful cheese of the blown out characters (e.g. the religious one; the sex addict; the cop-on-the-edge; etc.) shows awareness of the genre, and there’s hope for the series when we see all these people interacting away from the cameras, showing iotas of humanity. Communications with the in-show show-runners go silent after the first challenge and some automated processes – like opening up the pantry door – fail; tension sets in. That totally works. And I was able to deal with the sudden “I’m the boss” b.s. that sets in, to some degree, but then it’s just a landslide of godawfully uninteresting characters – who seem to form deep bonds in contrast to their telegraphed personalities in a snap, because it’s convenient for making faux-sides that can be paired off for more yelling sessions – and bizarre interactions in which everyone apparently loses their faculties for decisions and so must run them by “captain,” i.e. the cop guy. There’s also zero awareness of space and time. The “space” should have been easy – it’s a fucking locked room – and yet the prison never really feels like a connected environment. Like, there’s a staircase… somewhere? and there are some senseless corridor / cave areas that they treat like huge areas but that end up looking rather limited… And time, in Supermax, flips from day to night to day whenever it wants, hunger and sleepiness setting in at similarly random times. Ah: time travel; that was probably some underlying plot point I missed.
There’s an explanatory twist later on that’s sort of underwhelming for the way it normalizes things, but then thank goodness for shite creatives who came along with another twist that’s incredibly stupid and makes you wish for underwhelming instead. They double down on this with an “origin” episode that puts a timeline on things that… yeah, I dunno. The whole thing is bad. Did I say that yet?
I appreciate Shudder’s curated streaming service. I do not want them to stop offering content of this nature. And to be fair, wiki lists the series as 12 eps, but Shudder has 10, so maybe there was some editing accounting for what I criticized, but I still think Supermax would be a top contender on the shit list.