To save their lives, and their fortune.
From Dusk Til Dawn does not initially appear as a solid candidate for adaptation as a television series. The Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration (with contributions from famed effects guy Howard Berger) moves like a firecracker from the first moment when the Gecko brothers kidnap a family to cross the border, until their final confrontation that destroys the Titty Twister. The quick pace doesn’t scream “expand into a bunch of episodes.” Then there’s the adult material, from Tarantino’s signature dialogue (including Cheech Marin’s infamous barking monologue), to the raw sexuality of Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium and the gore effects that regularly soak the screen in red.
But there is a moment that suggests a television series might be okay. In the film’s final moments we see a matte shot out behind the wreckage of the Twister. It appears that the building is connected to an ancient set of Mesoamerican ruins, which connects the film’s vampires to the larger ancient mythology.
It was the possibility of exploring this larger mythology that drew Robert Rodriguez when he was looking to fill out the line-up of his new El Rey Network. Despite this interest, it still took the series almost two seasons to cover the narrative material of the film by destroying the Titty Twister. But the final few episodes of season two demonstrated that the show could have some life beyond the film and also establishes the flashbacks that make the third season possible.
The third season opens six months in the past as two demons rise from the ruins of the Twister. Meanwhile, the Geckos are told they’re going to become bagmen for the remaining Lords. They’re none too pleased, but the appearance of the demons stops them from rebelling too much. The Fuller family struggles with their involvement in the supernatural world.
The most obvious triumph of this third season is choosing an appropriate antagonist. In this case, it’s Amaru, a mind-controlling ancient entity that takes over Kate in a flashback in the second episode. Fans of Angel and Supernatural will recognize the basic idea – a familiar actress returns possessed by an evil force – but From Dusk Til Dawn puts a nice spin on it by having Kate slowly being revealed as being controlled.
This season’s other smart move is to have the Gecko brothers once again at odds with their mission. One of the strengths of the film is that the Geckos are bad guys who don’t want to hurt anybody in particular, but who can do the right thing when the chips (or fangs?) are down. Making them bagmen for the Lords in this season is a smart move. It gives them an authority to butt up against, which really helps sell their otherwise-dark characters.
This season continues the show’s commitment to decent Blu-ray releases. The 10 episodes are spread across three discs, giving plenty of room for the 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfers. The Titty Twister may have been destroyed, but the show is still interested in neon-drenched haunts, and the color scheme of these transfer is true to the diversity of the show. Detail is pretty strong throughout, especially in exteriors. Darker scenes can get a bit lost in low contrast, but overall the image looks good. The set’s DTS-HD 5.1 is possibly even more impressive. Dialogue is clean and clear from the front, while the surrounds get used frequently to establish atmosphere. Frequently the track is aggressive, with plenty of low-end rumble during action sequences.
Robert Rodriguez’s hands are all over From Dusk Til Dawn, but nowhere is that more apparent than his commitment to solid home video releases. Where many shows are content to give a featurette or two, From Dusk Til Dawn goes pretty all out with the special features. Things kick off with commentaries on episodes one, nine, and ten with executive producers, a director, and an actor showing up in various combinations. The featurettes that cover a couple of characters and a couple of monsters. They only total about eight minutes, but they’re fine overviews. There’s also eight minutes of “inside the episodes” material that gives brief overviews of the episodes. There’s also a wrap-up featurette, and a reel featuring the season’s best kills. Brief featurettes also look at a fight sequence and Sex Machine. There’s a “catch up” featurette that takes about 10 minutes to walk viewers through the first two seasons. It’s a handy thing to have for a show with this many characters and new mythological elements. There’s also a set of brief favorite weird character. There’s also a deleted scene from the season’s ninth episode.
As of press time, it looks like the third season of From Dusk Til Dawn will likely be the last. Though no formal cancellation has happened, the actors haven’t had their contracts renewed, and no announcement about the show’s renewal has been made. That’s a kind of fitting end for a show like From Dusk Til Dawn, one that never quite found its groove in the transition from film to television. The initial stretching out of the film’s narrative to over a season of TV was a bit too much. And by the time the show really started to go where the film couldn’t, it may have already been too late. This season is fine – it features fine performances, some good storylines, and a fine conclusion – but at the end of 30 episodes it’s hard to know what we’ve really accomplished. The promise of that matte-painted underground ruin is largely unfulfilled. And perhaps more importantly, I think some of the mythological elements would have worked even better if they hadn’t been tied so tightly to the story of the Gecko brothers.
From Dusk Til Dawn was fine while it lasted. This third season doesn’t up the stakes enough to make it essential viewing for new-comers, but if you’ve enjoyed the story so far you’ll enjoy the journeys the characters make this season. Add in another solid Blu-ray release and you’ve got an easy rental recommendation for fans.
A little bloodless, but not guilty.