Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gaby's Revenge Full Season Review (2016)

The thing which impressed me the most about the web series Gaby's Revenge is the ease with which it develops emotional connections. Like a neural network where nodes connect to other nodes and create a dense mesh so does this series place its characters in a living, breathing universe, where every action has a reaction.

Inside of it, the things people experience are not plot devices that simply take place and then disappear. Instead, like in the real world, they interact with each other, expanding a single event into a complex and tragic story of violence, family, and loyalty.

The creator of the series, Jonathan Vargas, pushes a clear vision for the episodes. The series consists of five individual episodes and they all differ greatly in tone, length, and exposition of the key plot elements.

The series begins simply by showing Gaby, a haunted contract killer who works, as the series puts it, as a freelancer for both the mob and the government agencies. She is under a huge amount of stress, especially because of a job that went haywire, so she decides to visit her family and try to get some bearing on her chaotic and exceedingly dangerous life. Gaby arrives at her family home, where she is greeted by her mother and her sister Angie.

However, the happy reunion is tainted by the news that her sister is struggling because of a false rumor started about her. Enraged by it, Gaby slowly but surely enters a mental place where only exceedingly bad things can happen and soon enough, they do. When I wrote the review of the pilot episode, I wished for darker things and I sure got them, but also something more important than that.

There are two main drives that power the show through the episodes. First one is the simple need to see how the story ends and how the events will lead back to one another. But, more than this, there is an emotional interconnectedness that I mentioned at the beginning. With it, Vargas manages to provide the viewers with a single character, paint him or her with a single brush, but then, later on, provide a new perspective on the same person. A bully can become a loving brother, a kingpin can turn out to be a rational man, and an assassin’s handler can be a surrogate parent. Like the very specific MagChop art the series features in its pilot, at first, the connections are random and irrelevant, as if they are simply splattered on the canvas. But as you immerse yourself in it, the art form begins to take shape.

All of this takes place in a very subtle manner and it doesn’t devalue the main plot or take anything away from it. It uses the noir setup and the thriller elements to tell a drama about pain, hurt, and suffering dealt out to those who don’t deserve it, but still are left with the gaping wounds, no matter if they’re physical or emotional. In some better reality, they victims would not get to suffer and would just relinquish this life, but in our world, Vargas tells us, people live one, struggling with the person’s they have to become because of those wounds. The whole acting cast, especially Amanda Ortega, carries this difficult setup with a lot of styles and their presence never breaks the pace that the series sets.

On some level, Vargas must have understood this while he made the series, which is why he utilizes the action elements with constraint and precision. From a cinematic perspective, this could have been the spot where some heavy stylization could have been used to make the viewing an even more smooth experience. Action scenes and limited production potential often are a big challenge, even for some big film companies. Here, an approach like the one used in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey could make the series an even stronger neo-noir piece.

But, this is a minor observation and doesn’t really impact the current show. The main appeals of Gaby’s Revenge lie in the character development and their backstories which slowly fall into place, creating a sad but heartfelt painting of ordinary people in situations where there’s no good choice. The series shows that Vargas can grapple with plots that are both serious and complex; hopefully, he’ll get a shot at something bigger in the same thriller-like genre.