Zen ep 3

Best of three, anyone? 

A reasonable pace, a mystery that wasn’t completely clichéd and some laugh-out-loud moments; it was definitely third time lucky for Zen, although this was still a long way away from brilliant. 

Centring around the kidnap of Ruggiero Miletti, a wealthy industrialist (I don’t quite know exactly what that means but it involves connections to the Minister, obviously), there were some nice twists and turns and I enjoyed this a lot more than episodes 1 and 2, but Zen’s relationship with Tanya remained unconvincing and awkward, and took up a great deal too much time.  The man had more chemistry with Georgio and with Moscati than with his supposed secret girlfriend. 

In spite of that, though, the one-dimensional Tanya still wasn’t quite as ridiculous as the moody Miletti children.  Despite being, I assume, in their twenties, the combination of hair, make-up and pouting meant they came across as parodically sulky emo types who should have been wandering along school corridors playing depressing tunes on their iPods.  Throw in the weirdly incestuous vibe between them and the combination of creepy and comical was just bizarre. 

Less bizarre, but much more annoying, was the new Chief of Detectives, whose principal passion seemed to be an almost insane hatred of Zen.  There didn’t seem to be any real basis for his obsession with bringing our man down, just a load of ranting and stereotype, with characterisation so thin it made even Fabri look like a well-rounded kind of guy.  Er….well done?

The main disappointment this week, though, was Zen himself.  So many people queuing up to tell us he was incorruptible in weeks 1 and 2, and yet this week he became a thief, an extortionist and a liar, just like the rest of them.  In a good cause?  Maybe, but disappointing none the less.  I guess the point was that the only way to get ahead is to play the system and that no one is immune from that, no matter what their reputation is, but it would have taken a better show to make that point properly and with a bit more focus on the emotional consequences for Zen himself, who, frankly, didn’t seem all that bothered.

It’s not clear whether there will be a second series, and whether we’ll learn about those consequences, but I’m not all that bothered either.  I stuck with this first run partly out of an “I’ve started so I’ll finish” mentality, and partly due to the hiatus but I think Unpopcult and Zen will be parting ways here.

Zen ep 2

Faster doesn’t always mean better, then.

This week’s Zen moved at about twenty times the slow crawl of the first one.  Thank goodness for that.  Unfortunately though, without the soporific effect of last week’s languid pace to dull the senses, the flaws in this week’s story, characterisation and dialogue came crashing to the fore instead.  Oops.

The actual mystery was a fairly well-worn one; a man ‘commits suicide,’ only he doesn’t and ooh gosh, could there be a super-secret shadowy organisation and massive conspiracy to contend with?  Hey, it’s not original, but it started off all right.  Sadly though, as the episode wore on, the story was badly let down by some nonsensical plotting and a frankly risible resolution.   Not to mention some appallingly bad scenes.  And I mean appallingly bad. 

In fairness, the twist towards the end as to the identity of AOC and MOC was beautifully, movingly done, but that only made what had come before seem even sillier and more over the top. 

The mystery though, wasn’t the worst of it.  The relationships between Zen and all the women were a much bigger problem. 

Despite Rufus Sewell doing all he could with the material, Zen’s romance with Tanya seemed incredibly corny and all their scenes together were horribly cringeworthy and stupid, so stupid.  And as if we needed further cheesy rubbish, the introduction of a femme fatale prosecutor, also hot for our man, was handled with all the subtlety of Benny Hill. 

Even Zen’s scenes with his mother were poorly done; stilted, uncomfortable, and faintly embarrassing.  But, of course, a major contribution to all this week’s problems was the clichéd dialogue and the tendency of the writers to state the obvious, rather than trust the audience to work it out.  Stop getting characters to say Zen has integrity, for instance.  Show us, instead.   Argh.

Zen ep 1

It’s the tail end of the holidays, so things have been very slow on the tv front this past week.  So slow I even gave the new series of Primeval a go (short review: it was pretty bad) and so slow I fell asleep on the sofa last night when I was supposed to start watching Zen. 

Undeterred, I managed to catch up with it this morning – and everything just slowed down even more.  The first in a three-part series based on Michael Dibdin’s novels about an apparently incorruptible Italian detective (or so the characters KEPT saying),  it looked absolutely gorgeous.  Wonderfully Euro-retro, right from the chic 70’s style titles to the impeccably tailored black suits and beautiful cinematography, it was all incredibly elegant and tasteful.  As was Aurelio Zen himself, perfectly played by the beguiling Rufus Sewell with an equally exquisite (if entirely one-dimensional) love interest in the form of Caterina Murino to match. 

All this style and refinement was almost overwhelming, to be honest, sitting watching in my big cardie and pj’s.  It seemed to have overwhelmed the show as well, as, so focused was it on the sublime aesthetics, that it didn’t really move very fast.  Or indeed, very far.  There wasn’t much to Zen – a plot that wasn’t particularly complicated, characterisation that was fairly perfunctory, and some lovely Italian countryside – but with great elegance comes great languidness; it seemed to take forever.  And forever is nice enough when it looks so pretty, but it’s also a bit dull.  Lovingly made, decently acted, and utterly ravishing .  But quite, quite dull.  Unless the next episode is significantly faster, I can’t see me making it through the series.