What if everything you knew was a lie?
In the 2018 Netflix Original series “Tidelands,” protagonist Cal McTeer, played by Charlotte Best, struggles to understand her new reality when she realizes she is a Tidelander, a human-siren hybrid who was abandoned at birth. According to ancient-origins.net, in Greek mythology, the Sirens are “beautiful but dangerous creatures” that “are known for seducing sailors with their sweet voices, and, by doing so, lure them to their deaths.”
Summoning the siren
The show begins with Cal’s release from prison. At age 14, Cal was found guilty of manslaughter when she set a fire that killed a police officer. Now 24 years old, Cal returns to her home, Orphelin Bay, to obtain the money left to her in her late father’s will so she can rebuild her life.
Cal’s return is bittersweet. After finding out that her mother, who harbors hatred toward Cal, used Cal’s portion of the money to purchase a bar, Cal decides to help her older brother Augie, played by Aaron Jakubenko, with the family business: drug smuggling. It is on Cal’s first delivery with Augie that she meets Dylan and Leandra, who part of a larger group of people known as “Tidelanders; they live in a place called L’Attente, also located in Orphelin Bay. The Tidelanders, led by a woman named Adrielle Cuthbert, are Augie’s suppliers. According to Augie, the Tidelanders are the reason why Orphelin Bay has flourished for as long as it has, and that the McTeer family has served them for five generations.
Cal’s return summons old grievances, as a few days after her arrival, she is taken by two masked men and thrown into the ocean to drown. As she sinks, Cal realizes that she can breathe underwater. She finds her way back to the surface and begins to question who she really is. Her suspicions are confirmed by Bill, Cal’s late father’s comrade, who tells Cal that she is, in fact, a Tidelander, a human-siren hybrid. This fact was kept from Cal by her late father because Cal’s father wanted to protect her.
Cal’s world falls apart around her as the truth of her upbringing and the hidden agenda of those who run her hometown are revealed. It is up to Cal to choose where she belongs, and who she wishes to protect, especially as a new, formidable presence begins its descent upon Orphelin Bay.
Sweet as a siren’s call
“Tidelands” is an interesting watch for Greek mythology and drama fans alike. Although the show centers around Cal’s struggle to find herself, the series raises questions regarding self-identity, family and the foundations of loyalty.
The Tidelanders, the community of human-siren hybrids that live at L’Attente, offer an analysis of the human condition. As children of sirens, their superiority complexes are hampered by their human nature. Although Adrielle, their leader, asserts that the Tidelanders are better than humans, humanity is very much a part of their makeup, therefore challenging the idea that the Tidelanders are truly the superior race. If humans are imperfect, they too are imperfect.
The Tidelanders also face abadonment issues, as their mothers, the sirens, left them as babies to live on land with humans. The desire to understand the reason behind their abandonment is a driving point for many Tidelanders in their journey to find out who they truly are.
Coexistence with the Tidelanders presents a unique problem for the humans. For the McTeers, the Tidelanders are the center of Orphelin Bay and the reason for the town’s success. Although members of Augie’s team suggest breaking ties with the Tidelanders, humans cannot fully survive without them. Likewise, the Tidelanders cannot fully survive without the humans. This symbiotic-like relationship between the two create a passive-aggressive environment that becomes increasingly hostile as trust is broken within the two communities.
Power and dominance are also highlighted through Adrielle’s obsession with the sirens and her ability to rule the Tidelanders as their queen. Adrielle’s actions through the series cause some of her people to lose faith in her. Led by questionable intentions, Adrielle becomes tyrannical, further causing a divide among fellow Tidelanders and humans.
How much is too much?
Is there such a thing as “too much sex”? This show answers that question with a resounding “yes.”
Reliance on sexual acts and themes take away from the storyline that “Tidelands” has established. Sex is consistent, though not as prominent as other themes, throughout the show. This could be for a handful of reasons. One has to do with the creature at the center of the series: the siren. As previously mentioned, sirens are seductive and known to allure and kill sailors. Combining this aspect of the siren with humanity’s sexual desires, the Tidelanders have a heightened sense of arousal, thereby causing them to partake in sexual intercourse with both humans and other Tidelanders.
Another reason why sex is heavily utilized in the show is to convey the emotional and mental turmoil several characters face throughout the series. While some instances of sex and other intimate expressions are the result of the love between characters, most sexual encounters in the show are preceded by arguments or displays of vulnerability. The sex scenes that proceed these moments seem to be an attempt to keep the series as scandalous as possible. This does little for the show; most of the sexual encounters shown do not encourage character development nor propel the plot in a meaningful way. Many of the characters seem to be aware that sex is only a temporary fix for their overarching issues but continue anyway. Like the characters in the show, the viewers can be left unsatisfied.
Violence finds its home
“Tidelands” features a fair amount of violence and graphic depictions, including, but not limited to, the mutilation of adults and children, displays of blood loss and slashing of body parts. The violence begins in the first episode and increases in frequency as the series progresses. The violence depicted may cause disgust and shock among audiences. As a haemophobic, an individual with a fear of blood, certain sequences were difficult to watch.
This said, however, Netflix lists the show as “Mature” (MA). Netflix measures “the frequency and impact of mature content in a TV show or movie” to decide whether it constitutes an MA rating. Those who are easily disturbed or faint-hearted should keep this in mind before watching the show.
While it can be argued that the violence can be toned down or removed altogether, the acts of violence are necessary for the story to continue; they also reflect the underlying themes of the series, such as power lust, revenge, and dominance. With scenes evocative of the violence in other Netflix Originals such as “Hemlock Grove” and brutality similar to “American Horror Story,” those who enjoy some blood splatter with their drama will like this aspect of the show.
Rising of the tides
“Tidelands” provides a fresh twist on the human-hybrid troupe, highlighting the struggle of self-identity, loyalty, and finding one’s place in the world. Although containing violent, graphic imagery and sexual content, the show can be a compelling watch due to the use of Greek mythology in its storyline. The first season contains eight episodes, so the show can be completed in one sitting. Overall, “Tidelands” is an enjoyable show that offers respite from the holiday-themed media that is often featured around Christmas time.
Rating: 3.5 torches