As a station, AMC has brought some of the biggest shows and mind-blowing moments to the world for over a decade. We’re talking about shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Preacher, The Walking Dead, and the recently ended Better Call Saul. Each one of these series provided not just excellent television and characters, but incredible worlds that audiences immersed themselves in. So it’s not surprising that AMC+ is forging a similar path in the streaming service race. Shows like Moonhaven, an addictively entertaining science fiction show and the upcoming Interview with the Vampire seem to confirm that AMC+ originals will be no less excellent with the same type of quality. So does AMC+’s Pantheon continue that pattern?
Pantheon is AMC’s first animated adult television show, jumping on board the adult animated show trend that has taken over the past couple of years. With a strong cast featuring many big names, such as Daniel Dae Kim and Taylor Schilling, and a premise that seems interesting at its core, Pantheon has all the makings for a fantastic show. Pantheon serves as an animated experiment for the streaming service, however perhaps an acquired taste that takes time to find its footing.
[Warning: light spoilers from the double episode premiere of Pantheon on AMC+ are below!]
Pantheon’s story so far
Pantheon follows the story of teenage Maddie (Katie Chang), who presents as moody and depressed as the show opens. She’s bullied by the resident mean girls, shown as models of beauty compared to average, normal Maddie. A trope that is seen frequently in Hollywood and one that I deeply wish we could move past. However, these mean girls don’t just make fun of her hair for being short or her fox backpack, instead they are bullying Maddie to kill herself just for existing. Not just once, but over and over again, a plot point that shocked me with the bluntness of its presentation.
Maddie is also dealing with the death of her father David (Daniel Dae Kim), a loss that seems to haunt her. It feels like his death can be felt in every corner of Maddie’s and her mother Ellen’s (Rosemarie Dewitt) life, with her mother’s wishes to move on. However, not everything is what it appears, as a mysterious person begins contacting Maddie through emojis, claiming to be her deceased father.
Two other stories are unraveling as well, woven throughout Maddie’s and her father’s consciousnesses story. The first centers on the company Logorhythms, a company that feels eerily similar to Apple with a deceased CEO, Stephen Holstrom (William Hurt), now run by Julius Pope (Chris Diamantopoulos), a questionable individual making even worse decisions in a push for power. This company has evil written all over them, even if good people like Peter Waxman (Ron Livingston) are doing their best to save the world.
There is also the story of Caspian (Paul Dano), another awkward teenager who is investigating the wrongdoings of Logorhythms. He also seems to have a difficult home life with an abusive dad (Aaron Eckhart) and checked-out mother (Taylor Schilling). While his story isn’t fully integrated yet in the first two episodes, it only seems a matter of time until we see Caspian helping Maddie on this new journey.
The good and the bad of AMC+’s Pantheon
I think there’s a very good reason that the premiere of Pantheon is a two-parter because the first episode alone was not enough to catch my attention. The majority of that first episode establishes characters and environments and not enough time exploring the mystery which is the selling point of Pantheon.
There are moments in the first episode when audiences get glimpses of Logorhythms and their experimentation with uploaded consciousness. This central mystery is more front and center in the second episode, which I believe will be the episode that draws the general population in to watch more Pantheon.
The art style is another aspect that is an acquired taste, which I believe will divide audiences. It reminded me of early Dragon Ball or Sailor Moon. There’s an old-school feel to the show that at first didn’t appeal to me. Although as the show continued on, the art style bothered me less and less. However, if you aren’t a fan of old-school anime, there is a chance that this show won’t appeal to you as much. But if you stick around for the story, the art may grow on you as it did me.
I cannot praise the voice cast enough, a cast that houses so many incredible actors. When you have names like Paul Dano and Daniel Dae Kim attached to the show, there is no way audiences aren’t in for a treat. The voice cast alone elevates this show to a new level and hopefully a reason that will bring more people back each week for the next episode.
The show is very interesting and I think Pantheon will be exceptional once it has time to fully embrace the story that it wishes to tell. The beginning of the series is definitely a bit of a slow start, by the middle of episode two I was invested in the mystery and needed to know more about this electrical afterlife that David now lives in and the danger uploaded consciousness poses on a grander scale.
Final thoughts on Pantheon
Having only seen the first two episodes of AMC+’s Pantheon, I feel like it is currently a mixed bag. Am I going to watch more of it? Absolutely. However, would I be okay if I didn’t? Of course.
The first two episodes didn’t feel groundbreaking in ways I have been by so many other AMC shows, which could be one of the reasons that I was slightly disappointed with Pantheon. It didn’t feel of the same caliber as Mad Men or Breaking Bad. That being said, I think there is a world of potential in AMC+’s Pantheon, and am excited to see where the first season is headed.
AMC+’s Pantheon airs on the streaming service with a two-episode premiere on September 1. Will you be checking out this newest AMC show? Let us know what you thought on Twitter! Check out Ayla Ruby’s recent review on Moonhaven, also streaming on AMC+.