Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels
Buffy Summers thinks she has problems slaying vampires (and being dead Ė temporarily), but in comparison to Sara Pezzini, she has it easy. Prophecy says that Saraís powers are fated to fail her when she needs them the most.
Sara is the lead character in TNTís new fantasy-tinged action series, Witchblade. The title refers to an ancient gauntlet that can only be worn by the right woman. From time immemorial, the Witchblade has provided defense (armor), weapons (a sword can emerge in the wearerís hand at will) and mystical abilities making the owner nearly invincible Ė until it chooses otherwise. The series explains Joan of Arcís crusade to save France as being Witchblade blessed and cursed. Joan was able to rally an army and beat back the English. When it failed her, she was burned at the stake, accused of witchcraft when the voices she heard really came from the blade.
Sara can use all the help she can get. "Pez," as her fellow homicide cops call her, was seeking in vain proof that mob hitman Gallo killed both her policeman father and her best friend Maria. A shoot out in a museum accidentally put the Witchblade on her wrist and saved her both then and in a later bloodbath that began with Galloís murder of her partner, Danny (William Yun Lee). All of this and Galloís eventual end, were detailed in TNTís pilot film which aired last August and has been repeated several times in preparation for the series debut.
Saraís problems only seem to have gotten worse in the series. Sheís taking heat from her new captain for the inconsistencies in her report on Gallo. Her former captain, who was also her fatherís partner, reveals that Sara was really adopted. She isnít sure if she can trust her new partner, Jake McCartey (David Chokachi), especially since he wonít explain his information sources. She also keeps seeing her old partner, Danny, but she canít tell if heís a ghost, evidence that sheís losing her mind or if heís a Witchblade-created hallucination.
The only person who might be able to clarify things is multi-millionaire Kenneth Irons (Anthony Cistaro), but he canít be trusted. Irons has long been obsessed with the power of the Witchblade but since it will not accept a male wearer, he must instead find a way to control Sara if he wishes to harness its powers.
The wild card is Ironís henchman, Ian Nottingham (Eric Etebari). A mysterious, ruthless and sometimes imaginative killer, he appears to be Ironsí loyal minion. Yet the comments he makes to Sara imply that he will act on his own and that his agenda could differ greatly from Irons.
The first episode does a decent job of bringing new viewers up to speed quickly with re-treading material from the pilot. In some ways, itís more Nottinghamís episode as Saraís latest case ties into a shadowy military experiment and Nottinghamís past.
The series is well made, though the story twists can be a bit dense at times. The tone is dark and fast-paced without Buffyís flippancy to provide counterpoint.
Butler is utterly credible as the driven, butt-kicking cop carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Sheís all woman in the best sense of the phrase while more than holding her own in each episodeís fever pitched (and sometimes Matrix-inspired) action. My only complaint is the similarity of her facial expressions when showing shock, horror and surprise.
The supporting cast is good and each has his own mystery to spice the pot. Iím especially glad they kept around Lee as the sassy, blunt but life-challenged Danny.
The two prime roles besides Sara belong to Irons and Notthingham, and both are disturbingly appealing. Cistaro as Irons is politician slick. Sara knows she canít depend on him, but she also canít help wondering how close she can get to the answers without being burned. Etebari is darkly handsome, enigmatic yet strangely familiar. Is he a villain with a few shreds of compassion and decency left or an angel disguised as a devil?
Witchblade is the worthy inheritor to Angelís 9 p.m. timeslot albeit on TNT rather than its network sibling. Both shows are dark adventures with tormented heroes. My only complaint is that it conflicts with Foxís Dark Angel for those who planned to catch up on it during the summer.
Witchblade definitely has an intriguing premise and the potential for a long, rich run. TNTís poor track record in developing original series is worrisome but if the rumored shared broadcast window with The WB pans out, it could help the series greatly. Witchblade only needs the most minor of tweaks to settle into a long energetic run.
Witchblade airs 9 and 11 p.m. ET/PT Tuesdays on TNT.
Review © Beth Hannan Rimmels. Accompanying photographs © TNT/TBS, Inc. Photo credit for Yancy Butler photographs: Bruce Macaulay. Photo credit for Etebari/Cistaro photograph: Frank Ockenfels.