Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: Gemini Division

NBC/Universal's new webseries Gemini Division starring Rosario Dawson premieres today with its first two, 5-minute episodes. The series follows Anna Diaz (Dawson), an undercover cop who is on a romantic holiday with her boyfriend Nick Korda (Justin Hartley, "Smallville"). Nick has proposed to Anna, and all seems happy until Anna notices a mysterious stranger (Kevin Alejandro, "Ugly Betty") is following them. Add to that a "seizure" suffered by her boyfriend, presumably caused by his heart condition (he has a pacemaker) and some strange goo found in the tub after Nick has taken a shower and Anna is unsettled, to say the least, at the end of Episode 2.

"Gemini Division" is a product of Electric Farm Entertainment, which was also behind Afterworld, a webseries which ran 130 episodes (!) last year.

Due to the recent success of Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog", certain comparisons and contrasts are sure to be made, but I don't think it is completely fair to compare the two enterprises, at least at this stage. "Dr. Horrible" is only a few shades off from traditional tv storytelling -- the episodes ran 13-15 in length and there was a built in fanbase attracted to the property from Whedon's other beloved properties.

Rosario Dawson is probably the biggest draw for this show, and she is used heavily. From the website descriptions it appears her character Anna will be drawn into a murder mystery, but what is more interesting is how this series, which will run 50 episodes (at about 4-5 minutes a pop), plans to integrate with other websites and an overall ARG (Alternate Reality Game) to be played by those who sign up on the site. Participants will follow clues, presumably to assist Anna in solving the mystery.

From a purely story standpoint, the first two episodes are interesting, but not gripping. The FX are very weak, but having spoken to some people connected to the series, I was urged to wait until episode 10 before passing final judgement, as the effects become dramatically better at that point. It looks like two new episodes will premiere on the website weekly, at least for the near future.

I enjoyed the conceit of this 'near-futuristic' PDA/iPhone/Windows Mobile device (Microsoft must be a huge sponsor for all of the product placement) which Anna uses to communicate with someone, we aren't sure who (maybe us?) in her transmissions. What separates from the first person "Lonelygirl15" storytelling style is the integration of 'videos' Anna has recorded which she drops into the transmissions. It's a neat device, and one I hope gets used to better effect. We, as the audience, are also clued into certain things, thanks to what appear to be some nifty abilities of this futuristic device; for example, when Anna aims the PDA at Nick as he is suffering some kind of seizure, the PDA tells us his heart rate and blood pressure are normal. Interesting, particularly when he blames the episode on his heart later on.

I do think the series provides an interesting template for other webseries to follow. The question now will be, can it generate enough interest and a following to make it a successful template. Only time will tell. I'll certainly be sticking with the series for awhile, as it does show some promise and for the 5 minutes spent watching, is intriguing.

Trailer for Gemini Division:

Making of Gemini Division video:


TimTodd said...

Thanks Shawna. Very nice writeup. I have read a lot of blog articles but you have information I haven't seen elsewhere.

Very cool! I am also curious about the NBC embeds that I keep seeing all over the place. I love those. Do you know where the direct source is? I have looked on NBC's site and searched around, but haven't found the source.

I did find Hulu's embeds but they weren't as nice quality as NBC's. Look forward to readin more of what you write. So much to look forward to in the show!

Tim Todd

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