Buckle up, put on your shades, crank the music loud… and… reload the machine turret mounted on the hood? That’s right, it’s the post-apocalyptic insanity of Twisted Metal in the form of a 10-episode series on Peacock. Starring Anthony Mackie as John Doe with his partner Stephanie Beatriz as Quiet, they embark on a psychotic journey across the Divided States of America in search of a package. This duo endure a spectacle of unique challenges all too familiar with those who played the series on the PlayStation consoles since it’s initial release in 1995. Does Peacock have an unexpected hit on there hands?
[Warning: Spoilers for Twisted Metal season 1 are below!]
It’s the end of the world as we’ve known it?
While I maintain hungry for more information on the Fallout series from Prime Video, the recurring trope of a world after nuclear blasts had my interest. Twisted Metal managed to be that hidden gem you picked out because your usual spot is closed for some reason. And it happens to serve that plate with just enough to hold me over. I did enjoy the variations on civilization in this show, with ‘milkmen’ making deliveries between massively walled off cities with pristine interiors. Tough work pays well and John is good at what he does, as this profession doesn’t produce many retirees. These jobs are extremely dangerous since every threat imaginable exists in a lawless, crumbling and chaotic society.
Even then, some manage to find a way to use the chaos to put the power in their hands such as Thomas Haden Church’s Agent Stone. In his finest, unwrinkled blues Agent Stone commands a cavalry of so-called ‘lawmen’ that enact their word upon any ‘lawbreakers’ which is open to their crooked interpretations.
Of course, those who usurp there power tend to be sociopathic which Stone absolutely is. While he and his cronies antagonize everyone with their checkpoints and “law and order”, there’s another huge threat – Sweet Tooth. The most popular character in the game series is physically portrayed by Samoa Joe, comically voicing him is TV veteran Will Arnett.
Turning back time for maximum effect!
In multiple episodes, they open with flashbacks that do a great job in pushing a grand revelation within a few minutes. They are spread throughout the season and do really well in contrasting the initial panic and bringing it back to the present for bigger impact.
The ones with Agent Stone show the most and provide the clarity in his backstory of how he rose to power. It doesn’t deviate too far from the story. Equally it utilizes that time to also show the descent into madness for the citizens forced to fight to survive.
The flashbacks aren’t reserved just to times before the world went to hell, other gruesome scenes show how Quiet and her brother Loud (Richard Cabral) navigated their way into the first episode. These also feed the audience absolute sympathy for both of them, and a bit of disgust towards mankind as a whole. Just wait til you *hear* it for yourself.
Lastly, and most importantly is Anthony Mackie’s John Doe himself. With the name of the described for those who wake up with no memory, it’s exactly that. He woke up in the midst of chaos with severe amnesia, thrust into the new world, and immediately learned to fend for himself. His love for “EV3L1N”, his car that has saved his life repeatedly.
Twisted Metal full season is go on Peacock July 27th
Interestingly, Peacock chose to do a full release of the series which might be a grand mistake. The journey obviously adds to the overall arc for our milkmen and women, but its the individual stories that shine.
One that I particularly cared for was episode 8, “EV3LIN” that had us spending close time with the Holy Men. These deranged cultists operate what I found easily as the funniest group. Lead by The Father, whom I won’t reveal for the fun surprise in store. So, not having a weekly release could ultimately have cost them a really good chance at being a recurring topic. Many episodes end with great little cliffhangers that made me eager to see through resolution into following episodes.
The show is fully unapologetic in it’s violence, language and themes. It crafts together two tragic stories between John and Quiet while still providing thrills throughout each and every episode. One light hesitation I have about the series is how the ending, “SHNGRLA” is more focused on setting up another season that resolving it’s own.
Another moment is another big “aha” cameo with another setup of it’s own, opening up at least three major threads to explore. It left the story feeling a bit incomplete since the current strikes keep productions from moving forward indefinitely.
The best of the worst of Twisted Metal season 1
You always need a guy to hate, and in this show it’s Agent Stone. His backstory shines quite the light on his present day demeanor. It also speaks to the sheer luck that can propose itself as an opportunity, as he uses whispers of his grandeur exploits to amass supporters. In reality, he’s nothing beyond a rent-a-cop with a power trip. Yet, tales of his takedowns of mafias spread and this inspires others to take arms in his name.
Stone’s reach is so large that we first meet him at Hoover Dam where he finds out that John has a map to get around his blockade patrols. Later on, they encounter Stone again in Topeka as they carry on towards Chicago to retrieve their package. He has no shortage of men and armory with impressive vehicles that’ll make original fans do double takes and pauses for references.
Meanwhile, we have Sweet Tooth being the maniac that he always is. His insanity also holds a flashback episode where we see the exact moment where he snaps mentally. It left my jaw on the floor and by that point I had seen some vivid decapitations. The ice cream truck makes an appearance and yes, so does the flaming head at the most opportune moment.
For the players
It’s hard to pinpoint how the original players will feel about this title since the gameplay was just arena-based. While there cut-scenes in Twisted Metal game series, the gameplay remained in the vehicle at all times. There are some incredibly neat Easter eggs, like the original cover falling on the windshield of John’s car as he passes an EB Games (talk about a blast from the past!).
Perhaps my favorite has to be when John takes back over EV3LIN and calls out a cheat code that most should remember. Other elements such as famous vehicles and other contestants do make their appearances throughout the season. Not as much time is spent in combat in vehicles as some may expect but it seems like that story will be told as well eventually.
Yet the moments we do get are well choreographed and had explosive stunts on par with movie productions. They clearly saved the budget for one big blowout, but the handling of it’s entirety is a highlight, especially paired with the song off the CD found by Quiet. The vehicle details themselves were equally fantastic with the rust and totally conventional armor caging.
The main attraction(s) in Twisted Metal: John and Quiet
The relationship held between John and Quiet is so authentically annoying that you just love it instantly. The attraction is so strongly there and yet they fight it in the most stubborn rom-com type of way. So when they get raw about themselves to one another it did bring a tear to my eye. Even with all the gore and violence padded around the tender moments, they packed strong punches that rivaled the fist fights that followed.
Seeing two people find their purpose amongst themselves and yet through one another carried them just as far as the car did. From an initially hesitation collaboration (Sweet Tooth was on there way to kill them), to a friendship turned romance, the development between them was brilliantly towed across their roads.
Final thoughts on Twisted Metal season 1
Overall I genuinely enjoyed this first season of the series and it might have snuck it’s way up to the higher half of television series for the year. Having zero expectations going into this show completely blew my mind. The soundtracks, set designs and costumes were all so top notch that I can’t wait to see them in better detail on a bigger screen.
Hopefully fans give the series a chance even if it’s not a spectacle of trucks turning into fireball blazes of glory. There were so many interesting side characters I found hard to find just one to pick out to describe but episodes 4 and 7 (“WHZDARE”, “NUTH0UZ”) had most of them. The world-building through flashbacks was one of my favorite parts and I do hope to see more of that eventually.
Twisted Metal season 1 premieres on Peacock with all 10 episodes on July 27th! Will you be watching? Did you play the game? Let us know on Twitter or on our Discord!