30 June 2007 | liquidcelluloid-1
If any promise was made by "Eureka" to trend the Sci-Fi Channel out of its non-stop output of trash, "Painkiller Jane" reverses that with a vengeance
Network: Sci-Fi; Genre: Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi; Content Rating: TV-PG (violence, language); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1-4);
Season Reviewed: season 1
Of all the show's I've watched this year so far, few are quite as punishing as "Painkiller Jane". To call it a "mess" or "sloppy" would not begin to do it justice.
Jane Vasko (Kristanna Loken) is an agent for a secret crime fighting agency that hunts "Neuros" defined by Jane in the opening as "people who can do strange things with their mind". A Neuro is basically a catch-all that allows the show to do anything it wants. The show trots in villains who can see the future, can start fires, are banshees, machine controlling killers and, hell, maybe even ghosts. There are no set rules or consistent behavior to the Neuros, or if there are the show plays pretty fast and loose with them. The Sci-fi Channel should know one thing, if anything about their base: that sci-fi fans love keeping up with the rules of a new world.
Led by this complete lack of focus with the Neuros, the show slips and slides all over the road trying to plug itself into every genre and sci-fi story it can think of - possibly in the name of versatility, possibly because it has no personality of it's own. When a show can pull this off successfully you've got some wildly inventive TV heaven, but when it can't you've got a mess. A show without a backbone or its own original voice.
The superhero catch: Jane has an ability herself. She can heal, quickly, from anything. Even a fatal fall or a hit from a train. The show doesn't have the budget that, say, NBC's "Heroes" does (which includes a character with the exact same power) to allow us to really see Jane's bone-crunching skills in action. So most of the "stunts" are pieced together from a series of confusing shots leaving the viewer to decipher what the hell just happened and squashing any potential thrill or intensity from the show. The fundamental flaw with "Jane" is that while this may be based on a comic book of the same name, from Wolverine to Clair Bennett we've seen this ability ad nauseum and it is a hard thing to get excited about anymore.
On top of it all, Loken plays Jane as deadpan and emotionally cold as her cyborg villain in "Terminator 3". The woman either cannot act at all or somebody forgot to tell her than Jane should have emotions. But Loken is a gorgeous woman playing to a sci-fi crowd and the show makes the mistake of treating her like one of the boys. Knowing how silly it was and who it was playing to "Dark Angel" had the foresight to put Jessica Alba in skimpy clothes and have her go into heat every time sweeps rolled around. "Jane" has our main character covered up, trapped in a boring love life and musing over narration about how you never really know somebody
or something equally basic. It is as if the show is on a mission to keep her as sexless and dull as possible on every level. Will she get together with the bald emotionally distant jerk on the team? Even that might help. Come on, let's give the internet something to talk about.
If it didn't look like garbage or was written with one inane, confounding line following another, everything in "Jane" from the characters to the show's world is half (or never) explored or explained. For to do that might require the show to think something out or express itself in a voice that is something other than cheap, manufactured, assembly line stories. Could Jane be a Neuro herself? If not that would be quite a coincidence. I'm sure answers will come, but I for one, won't be sticking around any more to get them.
If any promise was made by "Eureka" to trend the Sci-Fi Channel out of its non-stop output of trash, "Painkiller Jane" reverses that with a vengeance.
½ / 4